Meghan O'Rourke

Sarah Shatz

What's Wrong With Me? The Mysteries of Chronic Illness

Expected Publication Date: 
To be published by Riverhead Books

A blend of memoir and sociocultural criticism examining the rise of autoimmune disease in the United States and other industrialized nations, What’s Wrong With Me? will anatomize the shadowy experience of living with chronic illnesses that are poorly understood; it is both an account of the complexities of illness and a philosophical, literary, and sociological examination of questions that a phenomenon like autoimmunity poses.


Meghan O’Rourke was an editor for The New Yorker, the culture editor and literary critic for Slate, and poetry editor for The Paris Review. Her work has appeared in Slate, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, and Best American Poetry, among others. She is the author of the memoir The Long Goodbye and the poetry collections Once; Halflife, a finalist for the Patterson Poetry Prize and Britain’s Forward First Book Prize; and the just-published Sun in Days. She was awarded the inaugural May Sarton Poetry Prize, the Union League Prize for Poetry from the Poetry Foundation, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Radcliffe Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes, and a Front Page Award for her cultural criticism. She has taught at Princeton, The New School, and New York University.  She lives in Brooklyn, NY, and Marfa, TX.

The grant jury: In this high-risk, high-reward project, Meghan O’Rourke writes of her experiences at the frontier of medical knowledge as an explorer might. Even in a now well-established genre of illness memoir, O’Rourke’s voice stands out for its power and originality. As far-reaching and ambitious as it is deeply personal, the book probes the still poorly understood science and cultural experience of autoimmune disease. It is a shape-shifting fusion of memoir and reportage, written with wit and a poet’s grace.