Amy Berkowitz

Tender Points

is a narrative fractured by trauma. Named after the diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia, the book-length lyric essay explores sexual violence, chronic pain, and patriarchy through lived experience and pop culture.

Originally published in 2015 by Timeless, Infinite Light, Tender Points is now available from Nightboat Books. The new Nightboat edition includes an afterword about how writing and reading from the book changed my life by connecting me with other chronically ill people and survivors. Tender Points is also available as an e-book from Emily Books

Interested in teaching Tender Points? Check out the teaching guide we made. It also works nicely as a book group guide. If you’re teaching Tender Points and would like to invite me to virtually visit your class, feel free to reach out

“TENDER POINTS does precisely what people are always saying can’t be done—it combines a moving, distilled, literary journey with advocacy and even pedagogy, here about trauma, chronic pain, patriarchy, and more… This is firm, high-stakes speech speaking truth to power, radiating beauty and fierceness from its inspiring insistence and persistence.” —Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts

“Any feminist punk, nerd, arty woman who is struggling with ‘mystery’ illness should read TENDER POINTS. It’s the heaviest book in the best way, the kind that provides motivation.”  —Sini Anderson, director of The Punk Singer and So Sick

“An exquisite, lyrical exploration of chronic pain, TENDER POINTS is a standout.” —The Kenyon Review

 “Amy Berkowitz is a poet, which lends itself seamlessly to her careful, cutting memoir about fibromyalgia, trauma and identity. In this short, lyrical work the author takes an unflinching eye toward dark moments, bringing about understanding and resilience underneath.”  —The Huffington Post

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“I was entranced and moved by Amy Berkowitz’s TENDER POINTS. It’s a difficult book to describe (in a good way), a kind of personal detective story about trauma and the body that interrogates chronic pain literature and ’90s cartoons, noise music and Anne Carson, medical listserv comment boards and video art. It’s urgent, haunting, meticulously crafted, darkly comic, and it has the strangest, smartest structure of anything I’ve read this year. Truly unclassifiable. —Brian Gittis, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux (FSG’s Favorite Books of 2016)

“TENDER POINTS is short and tough, a personal but unsentimental chronicle of trauma and chronic pain, delivered in a series of blunt, intimate fragments.”  —Longreads

“TENDER POINTS is a stunning work of feminist literary nonfiction about trauma and chronic pain. I read it without stopping.”  
Johanna Fateman, co-editor of Last Days at Hot Slit

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More praise

“Amy Berkowitz poses only perfectly built, unanswerable questions in this evocative lyric essay on illness, memory, and the terror and joy of becoming oneself.”  —Katie Assef, Diesel Books, Oakland, CA

“This year, the public dialogue on consent and rape was perhaps more audible in mainstream media than ever before. But few personal contributions to that discussion are as complex and thought-provoking as Amy Berkowitz’ book of poetic prose, TENDER POINTS… a searingly honest story about the aggravating dangers of being a woman in a world in which men consistently attempt to claim authority over your body.” —East Bay Express

“TENDER POINTS has a particular place in my heart… I had years of therapy behind me, but it was only in reading this book that I allowed myself to consider my history of trauma, a history deeply connected to the story of all women.” —Julie Delporte, author of This Woman’s Work

“In TENDER POINTS, Amy Berkowitz wields short form prose like a hammer, carefully but forcefully pounding away at layers of personal experience to uncover her resilient core in spite of our culture’s hypocrisy about authority, power, and pain… In this short but expansive book which reads sometimes like poetry, sometimes like philosophy, and always like resistance, Berkowitz encourages us to become authoritative about our own experiences. With necessary rage and introspection, she urges us to understand our personal, physical, and emotional pain not only as our own, but as incompletely distinct from that of culture at large.” —Full Stop

“The fragments of TENDER POINTS are a sequence of thrusts, parries, offenses, rigged by different modes and temporalities. Taken together, these fragments marshal their own negation of cohesion, linearity, the doctor’s diagnostic truth. I read the venue that is TENDER POINTS not as an immobile or passive point of entry, but as a dynamic, crafted instrument that blasts Berkowitz’s story in high definition.” —Entropy

“A movement toward regarding chronic pain, trauma, patriarchy not as the ghosts they are often painted as, but as things visceral, immediate, constant. Berkowitz writes from a place of undeniable poetics and strength.”  —John Rossiter, Skylight Books, Los Angeles, CA

“Amy Berkowitz has written a powerful, thought-provoking, and occasionally darkly funny book on trauma and chronic pain. Would recommend to anyone who loves Bluets, The Empathy Exams, or Heroines by Kate Zambreno.”  —Leigh Stein, author of The Fallback Plan


  • Read an excerpt on the VIDA blog.

  • Read my thoughts on writing about gender and illness on the Uprooted Anthology website.

Add it on Goodreads:  Tender Points