These days, we’re hearing more honest discussion about mental health than ever before. Though there’s still a long way to go toward breaking down the stigma surrounding mental illness, public attitudes about conditions like depression, anxiety, and others have gradually begun to shift from scrutiny to understanding. This year, several women are helping to continue that conversation by releasing insightful nonfiction works about their own mental health journeys.
These books, all hitting shelves in the first half of 2020, provide candid glimpses into what it’s like to struggle with mental illness and how its impact can extend into the various corners of your life.
Tara Schuster is a professional success by any definition. After helping to launch Key & Peele to superstardom, she now serves as Comedy Central’s Vice President of Talent and Development. What people didn’t know is that as she steadily climbed the ranks at work, she was also waging a personal battle with anxiety and depression. In this smart and compelling memoir, Schuster recalls her tumultuous journey with humor, delivering sage advice on how to find your way back to joy along the way.
Jen Gotch’s lifestyle brand, ban.do, is centered on the concept of pushing you to be your best while also acknowledging that life isn’t always pretty. So it’s no surprise that Gotch brings the same blend of optimism and candor to her funny new memoir, which chronicles her path from her childhood in Florida to becoming the creator and CCO of a multimillion-dollar business. From battling bipolar disorder and misdiagnosed ADD as a child to combating anxiety throughout her life, Gotch’s honest reflections on her mental health are both relatable and empowering, showcasing that it’s perfectly fine to not always feel perfectly fine.
Centered by her experience as the daughter of Korean immigrants, Cathy Park Hong’s astute and provocative debut essay collection serves as both a memoir and an exploration of racial consciousness in the United States. Throughout the book, Hong meditates on the “minor feelings” of shame and despondency she struggled with while growing up, fueled by misconceptions around her Asian American identity. Mixing personal stories with cultural critique, Hong delivers sharp insights into how race affects everything from friendships to mental health.
Journalist Anna Mehler Paperny uses her reporter’s eye to deliver an unflinching and commanding look at one of the most persistent and under-treated conditions of our time. Part memoir, part investigative report, Paperny shares a frank and unreserved account of her own experience with attempted suicide while also delivering a well-researched exploration of depression and the system that doesn’t seem to know how to handle it. Told with intimate understanding and heartwrenching humor, the book sheds some much-needed light on the far-reaching impacts of this unpredictable mental illness.
In her electrifying collection of essays, Mikki Kendall dissects how mainstream feminism often overlooks the hardships of marginalized women. Combining stories of her own experience with incisive cultural commentary, Hood Feminism lays out a persuasive and eye-opening argument as to why education, poverty, medical care, and, yes, mental health are all feminist issues. Anyone who labels themselves a feminist, and wants to expand their understanding of a still-maturing movement, should consider picking up this thought-provoking debut.