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Beautiful Wreck: Sex, Lies & Suicide

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Twenty-five year old Stephanie Schroeder arrived in New York City in 1990 with edgy good looks, attitude to burn and undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Her unflinching memoir chronicles her trajectory through the worlds of queer political activism, corporate America, intimate partner violence, unwilling parenthood, erotic discovery, 9/11...and three attempted suicides. Repeatedly falling through the cracks of the U.S. healthcare system, Schroeder became her own advocate, found help and began a healthier life. Readers will find both entertainment and inspiration in the rollercoaster twists and turns of this "beautiful wreck" of a memoir.

152 pages, Paperback

First published September 10, 2012

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About the author

Stephanie Schroeder

4 books24 followers
Stephanie Schroeder is a writer in New York City. She is co-editor of "Headcase: Writers and Artists on Mental Health and Wellness" and author of "Beautiful Wreck: Sex, Lies and Suicide." Her work has been anthologized in the queer classic anthology, "That’s Revolting: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation," "Here Come the Brides: Reflections on Lesbian Love and Marriage", "Easy to Love, But Hard to Live With: Real People, Invisible Disabilities, True Stories." and several other collections. Schroeder has written for The Guardian, Curve Magazine, Lambda Literary Review, Brooklyn Magazine, and many other publications. Find out more about Schroeder on her website: http://stephanieschroeder.com

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5 stars
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7 (21%)
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Displaying 1 - 12 of 12 reviews
Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 9 books49 followers
June 24, 2014
This is a fierce and lovely book about queerness, mental disability, and living in the world.
Profile Image for Claire S. Gould.
2 reviews5 followers
January 8, 2013
I have a crisis, scheme, idea or depression.. subway riders viewing my grotesque facial grimaces + head twisting staring me in the face in my 37th year. I prefer death, nothing less than the face of hate, the fate of hate, the stench of death. Live = Death
Life = Death
Death = Freedom

The first few pages of Beautiful Wreck: Sex, Lies & Suicide set the tone for the memoir’s raw, real look at the struggles Stephanie Schroeder, a self-defined “queer feminist dyke writer, mental health advocate, and activist for social and economic justice,” faced with depression, intimate partner violence, bipolar disorder, Tourette Syndrome, and three suicide attempts.

As the narrative of Schroeder’s life progresses from her move to New York City in 1990 as a young activist from Wisconsin through the aftermath of her last suicide attempt in 2006, so flows her understanding of mental illnesses, much the way her afflictions shaped her experiences through this period of her life.

Never in a tone of self-pity or with an attempt to twist events to show herself in a more favorable light, Schroeder writes as a true survivor: as one who has suffered through and risen above the most adverse circumstances and literally lived to share the tale. Beautiful Wreck is not intended to be a self-help book (though additional resources can be found in the appendix), but her detailed descriptions of how it feels to have a Tourette’s-triggered outburst, a partner who physically and emotionally abuses you, and a type of depression that makes you consider ending it all informs those without those experiences and reminds those coping with similar issues that they are not alone.

After years of therapy, hard work, and advocating on behalf her health to finally find the right doctors and treatment, Schroder ends the narrative of her tumultous journey on a high note:

The most important thing I’ve learned is that I always have options. And I am free to leave an unsatisfactory situation, whether it be personal or professional any time I want or need. I also know I can be me, just me, Stephanie Schroeder, and not something or someone anyone else wants me to be.

I highly recommend this candid memoir, particularly for Schroder’s strong voice that successfully balances life’s darkest moments with humor.
Profile Image for Andrew.
677 reviews10 followers
September 15, 2012
I believe that a lot of people live more interesting lives than they give themselves credit for. Everyone is unique, and the things that make them so and the steps that lead up to where they are today can make a great story in the right hands. The problem is, most people don't think they've got anything that makes their lives all that special, and many to most people cannot tell a decent story.

Fortunately, Stephanie Schroeder does know that she's unique, and can tell an interesting story. Those things combine into the short memoir, "Beautiful Wreck: Sex, Lies & Suicide". Ms. Schroeder is very focused on the lesbian aspect of her life, and it wouldn't surprise anyone reading this review to quickly realize that I am not a lesbian (very rare among male heterosexuals). BUT the author realizes that her sexuality IS still only one aspect of her life, and shows how it interacts with everything else to point out that her dreams, desires, and basic day to day life really isn't all that different than mine, or yours, or ... (OK, I conceded that the details ARE kind of unique - but all of ours are!!)

Ms. Schroeder has written erotic fiction in the past, and applied some of that talent to her memoir. I have to admit that this made me a bit uncomfortable - I am not used to reading about the intimate bedroom details of someone's life. Perhaps had I not been focused on the fact that this was about real people rather than just erotic fantasy, I might have been more comfortable during these parts. (And perhaps if I had not been in a crowded airplane at 38,000 feet while reading it ...)

The book is not for prudes, or bigots (at least on the subject of sexuality). And, I wish the author had spent a little more time on her recovery from mental illness rather than just a brief "it was time to seek help, and in a couple of pages I did it, now I'm better". (Although the appendix DOES provide some good information on this front.) BUT ... I'm glad to have received a copy and the time spent with it was an investment, not a waste.

DISCLOSURE: This book (personalized by the author, no less) was provided free via the Goodreads FirstRead program.
Profile Image for Kristina.
545 reviews66 followers
September 21, 2012
Beautiful Wreck is a well written memoir about the life of a young lesbian woman living in New York City who is trying to deal with her own undiagnosed mental illness, domestic partner abuse (mental and physical), reluctant parenthood, unemployment, multiple suicide attempts, and falling through the healthcare cracks. The memoir is so well written that at one point I even remember driving somewhere in my car trying to remember “the name of that movie I saw recently” only to realize the scene playing in my head was one I had read in Beautiful Wreck.

After reading Stephanie’s memoir there is only one thing I wanted, and that was more. I wish there has been a little bit more about her struggle to recovery and the people who helped her through it. What moment made her stop and say, “I want to live,” and then work so hard to get to a healthier place in life? Overall, I loved reading her memoir and, although it is in no way a self-help book, I found it to be a confirmation that at the end of the many dark tunnels we walk through in life, there is a ray of hope for better and healthier days ahead.

Having personally dealt with a few of the same types of issues Stephanie has dealt with, it was easy to emotionally connect to her life. I was also thankful to get a glimpse into aspects of her life that I have never personally had to deal with. That is, in my opinion, one of the great things about memoirs, seeing the world through someone else’s eyes. Personally, I think the people who write memoirs are inherently strong people for being willing to share so many personal aspects of their lives with the world.

Thank you for sharing your story Stephanie.

I would recommend this to anyone who likes memoirs, people struggling with domestic abuse, people dealing with mental illness in themselves or loved ones, and people who have attempted suicide.

*I received this book through GoodReads First Reads
Profile Image for Molly.
18 reviews
June 1, 2014
I received this book in a Goodreads free giveaway. I enjoyed this book because it was personable. I know people who struggle with mental illnesses and I have never understood. Stephanie Schroeder's book helped me in that sense. It was an honest account of 15 years in her life, probably the darkest years. Great and easy read. I read it in one sitting!
Profile Image for Lisa .
78 reviews3 followers
October 26, 2012
This is a very raw and honest view into mental illness. Stephanie takes a risk by sharing her harrowing experiences with the world and we all can benefit from knowing it. This book is a great reminder that you shouldn't be afraid or ashamed to ask for help.
3 reviews1 follower
November 30, 2012
This was a page-turner from beginning to end. Honest, engaging, visceral writing!
Profile Image for Jennifer Myers.
Author 5 books
May 31, 2013
Excellent, honest and forthright memoir about the author's own experience dealing with and successfully managing her illness of bipolar disorder.
Profile Image for Kim.
119 reviews1 follower
August 1, 2019
Heart-wrenching, but ultimately inspiring memoir ... the author has had a lot of really painful things happen in her life — including abusive relationships, mental health issues, the 3 suicide attempts she chronicles in the book, and the numerous times our terribly dysfunctional ‘health care system’ has failed her. Through all this, she worked so hard to find ways to love herself, and stop tolerating crappy treatment (from therapists, partners, etc). And she has become an advocate for herself, and now others, as well as a powerful example of how perseverance and honesty can help find a way through the maze. CW: explicit sex, and descriptions of 9/11, abuse and suicidal thoughts/behavior. But - well worth the read.
Profile Image for Mish.
1 review18 followers
November 28, 2012
I enjoyed the author's writing style, but feel she didn't add much insight into the narration. She criticizes her partners, family and relationships with a heavy hand, but rarely turns that analysis on herself. I found myself thinking it was too self-indulgent; she paints herself as the brilliant-but-tortured victim of her circumstance without any accompanying sense of self-reflection. Then I remembered that I was reading a book entitled "Beautiful Wreck" - perhaps it was exactly the author's intent to show herself this way. Or perhaps maintaining a sense of privacy meant leaving these things out. In the end, I was entertained, and enjoyed following the course of twists and turns in each relationship, but wasn't left with any profound feeling about the book. It is what it is.
Profile Image for Carissa.
73 reviews
October 21, 2013
Beautiful Wreck is great in that it illustrates a story of mental illness that ends in a positive note; it lets people know that there is hope, even after years of depression/bi-polar disorder and three suicide attempts. However, the narrative didn't do much for me. It just was. The story didn't leave me with any profound thoughts or feeling about her story. Maybe it was the lack of introspection. Therapy is discussed a lot of in the book, but never goes into how it helped, what was talked about or any sort of specific realizations that came from it.
Profile Image for Margery Meadow.
11 reviews
January 1, 2015
How does someone survive such a tumultuous life? How did she achieve so much creatively and professionally while enduring--and causing--so much personal drama and distress? The story is compelling but left me unenlightened about what it's like to live with mania.
Displaying 1 - 12 of 12 reviews

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