BOOK REVIEW: Rocking the Pink

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

There are breast cancer memoirs by poets and comedians, by younger women and older women, by pragmatists and romantics, by the faithful and atheists, by straight women and lesbians, by choir members and — now — at least one rock ’n’ roller. And Rocking the Pink: Finding Myself on the Other Side of Cancer is one of the more accomplished.

Rocking the Pink is written by San Diego attorney-turned-singer and songwriter Laura Roppé (rhymes with row-pay). Published by Seal Press, Rocking the Pink is as much a breast cancer survivor story as it is the coming of age tale of a very funny woman approaching 40, a gal who’d had it with business suits, unbecoming accoutrements and the conflict-ridden world of the law, and who was yearning for the rock-star dreams of her youth.

Implausible though it is, what prevents the book from being one of the heartfelt but common survivor tales by a privileged, apparently well-insured patient is that Roppé actually takes the leap from law into the uncertain and even more competitive world of popular music. Between that audacity and Roppé’s wicked sense of humor, Rocking the Pink is a truly unusual story, one that can provide entertaining and hopeful support to the multitude of folks actively battling cancer and to the plentiful hordes of wannabe rock stars.

Even more incredible than Roppé’s dramatic life turn is the timing of it all: Still working her day job, she had signed a record deal just days before receiving her preliminary diagnosis. She spent the subsequent months in treatment, finding one inspiration after another for new songs, determined not to go back to practicing law, and, like so many cancer patients, discovering some truths about herself and those she loves. And then she finished treatment, got a tattoo, went to England to film a music video, and proceeded to work on her new career as a singer-songwriter — and author — not so much like other cancer patients.

Rocking the Pink is also a sweet love letter to Roppé’s husband, Brad, and daughters, Sophie and Chloe, seemingly written to be sure her life was well documented in the event her treatment proved unsuccessful. The memoir recounts key moments of Roppé’s history — the anecdotes one stores, waiting to tell the kids when they’re old enough. It’s a book that those who know and love Roppé will treasure, not only for the precious memories but for the honesty and humor with which she crafts so many of them.

Again, Roppé’s humor is one of the book’s key strengths, as humor often is for the serious ill — typically, the darker the better and more comforting. While readers who take life too seriously might find it jolting, those for whom laughter is, or has been, a lifeline will appreciate Roppé’s comedic charms, no matter how prickly or profane.

And for Roppé’s fans, the book is a treasure of insight into her songwriting. Akin to fellow breast cancer survivor Melissa Etheridge’s autobiography, The Truth Is …: My Life in Love and Music, Roppé’s memoir is peppered with her own lyrics in contexts that reveal the emotion and intent behind her words — a real treat for anyone following her career.

Where that career leads Roppé is yet to be determined, but wherever it is, love and laughter wills surely be along for the ride.

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Crossposted at the North County Times.