Author Sonya Huber Reads at Fisher’s 2023 Cavanaugh Lecture


On Wednesday, March 23rd, the English Department hosted their annual Cavanaugh Lecture series, where noteworthy academics and authors visit St. John Fisher University to share their work. For this year’s lecture, essayist, poet, journalist, and Fairfield University professor Sonya Huber met with the Fisher community to read selections from her work and conduct a Q&A session. 

Huber has been featured in such publications as The New York Times, the Washington Post Magazine, and Creative Nonfiction. For this event, she shared essays from her books Supremely Tiny Acts and Pain Woman Takes Your Keys, the latter of which was taught in English classes at Fisher this semester. Published in 2017, Pain Woman is a collection of essays that Huber wrote while undergoing a diagnosis process for Rheumatoid Arthritis. She described the initial project as a cathartic method. “I started to just put words on the page to try and figure out what was actually happening to me, and then to keep my sanity a little bit,” she said. Her background as a writer allowed this journaling exercise to develop into the essays we see today.

But she didn’t think one had to be a writer to be able to benefit from this process, especially for those with chronic pain. “I think because…pain is so invisible and it’s so inside you, and so it’s hard to feel–looking in the mirror, you can’t see any effects of it,” Huber said. “To have an external representation of your internal reality, for me it really helped just to kind of recognize what I was going through but also to sort of see how I was dealing with it over time, how it was affecting me.”

Upon reading or listening to Huber’s work, one will notice the unique mix of prose, poetry, and experimental narratives. This choice was intentional on her part. “I did it in such a wide range of styles and it’s kind of wacky,” she said. “I decided that it was gonna be weird because I didn’t want people to think, ‘Oh, gosh, this is a book about chronic pain, it’s gonna be a hard read.’ I mean, I think it kinda is a hard read, but I wanted to also have fun with the language, that was really important to me.”

When asked what she hopes her audience takes away from this event, Huber emphasized the importance of taking her story into consideration and being mindful of our assumptions about those around us. “There are so many people who have some kind of pain,” she said. “We often can’t see it, so we don’t know. And that it’s a disability, people are able to function and have normal lives, but at the same time that it does affect sort of every area of your life. That it’s something that many people manage that you might not be able to see on looking at them”

Huber’s book is currently on sale in the campus bookstore, but her work can be found in various literary journals and on her website.