Book Review: The Collected Schizophrenias

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Photo Courtesy of NPR

By Jess Ward, Staff Writer

Mental illness is experienced by 43.8 million Americans every year, and yet, there seems to be a lack of discourse around the lives and minds of those who live with varying mental illnesses. The subject is taboo, stigmatized and neglected, which makes Esmé Weijun Wang’s The Collected Schizophrenias all the more powerful. Wang recounts her experiences as a woman living with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type, as she navigates the world and learns about herself and her brain.

Written as a series of essays, Wang walks the reader through her diagnosis, her time spent in mental health facilities and her observations of popular perceptions of mental illness. Holding nothing back, Wang is able to give a glimpse into the neuro-atypical and elicits not sympathy, but empathy. Wang doesn’t want pity or condescension, as so many who have mental illnesses receive, but rather seeks to create a greater understanding of her own mind and others like her. She describes her hallucinations, dedicating an entire essay to who she calls “John Doe,” a recurring hallucination of hers. Written with a dark humor and bravado, Wang has succeeded in creating a truly unique and personal work of art.

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