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The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  12,439 ratings  ·  1,520 reviews
An intimate, moving book written with the immediacy and directness of one who still struggles with the effects of mental and chronic illness, The Collected Schizophrenias cuts right to the core. Schizophrenia is not a single unifying diagnosis, and Esmé Weijun Wang writes not just to her fellow members of the "collected schizophrenias" but to those who wish to understand i ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published February 5th 2019 by Graywolf Press
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Petra X is always insecure about her love life
Considering that the author had been through the mill herself with many diagnoses for her psychotic states, none quite fitting, until "schizoaffective disorder" and described them in detail, I expected a book that would engender emotion and empathy in me, if not identification. What I got was a cold, dispassionate look at schizophrenia and associated psychoses from many different angles and treatments, including weirdly, astrology, told by an author I couldn't empathise with at all.

This is not a
Mar 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
One of the most courageous books I have ever read. In The Collected Schizophrenias, Esmé Weijun Wang writes about her experience with schizoaffective disorder and Lyme disease. Compared to mental illnesses like anxiety and depression, schizophrenia is still so stigmatized, so it is rare and beautiful to read a candid perspective like Wang's. These essays span a wide range of topics relevant to health and illness, ranging from how the mentally ill are institutionalized in a way that removes their ...more
May 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, poc-author
This collection of essays is extraordinary. Through exploring her own experiences with schizophrenia, Wang is able to do a great job of looking at society's views of mental illness and the lack of information and understanding around schizophrenia. That combined with her great explanations of what some of her episodes, her family history, the way it impacts the people around her and more. I want to re-read it immediately.

Watch my full review here:
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
The book reads like a memoir. It possesses a mastery of tone that’s deeply satisfying. I think I may have found a substitute—not a replacement!—for Dr. Oliver Sacks, who was a dreamy writer on subjects neurological. Author Esmé Weijun Wang’s perspective though is that of a patient. She suffers from schizoaffective disorder, which I have just learned has a manic aspect. She has been involuntarily institutionalized three times, and her last psychotic episode in 2013 lasted 7 months. How she comes ...more
Apr 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Admittedly as a psychiatrist, poetry MFA, and patient myself, my standards for illness narratives are high. But I found myself frustrated throughout these essays by Wang metaphorically putting on makeup by buffering her own experience with mental illness from the reader with giant blocks of DSM quotes, cultural references, and religious research. There were moments when she acknowledged that recollecting periods of psychotic experience can be difficult, if not impossible. But I came away from th ...more
Feb 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Esmeralda Weijun Wang wants to be a high functioning individual while she contends with her multiple diagnoses. To understand her ability to concentrate long enough, organize her thoughts to allow her to write these essays, and to seek costly medical and alternative type medical care is to come to the conclusion that she is financially very well off. She is not homeless, going hungry, under or unemployed,lacking facilities for hygiene, etc. As part of her high functioning “mask” she applies Tom ...more
Julie Ehlers
Jul 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Early on in The Collected Schizophrenias, Esmé Weijun Wang points out that, as a culture, we seem to focus more on how schizophrenia makes us (i.e., non-afflicted people) feel than on how people with schizophrenia themselves might feel. I immediately recognized the truth of this sentiment. Isn't it the case that the whole thing freaks us out a bit? Isn't it the case that we tend to assume people with schizophrenic disorders might not know what is best for them? Wang thankfully turns this entire ...more
Oct 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely, perfectly loved this book. The first essay took me a while because Wang gets fairly technical in her introduction to her personality disorder in a way that wasn't easily accessible to me - but this basis is indeed needed. It grounds her book into a reality that helped me to put things into perspective in a way that I found highly effective and helpful. Esmé Weijun Wang has Schizoaffective Disorder and discusses her life and her illness through her own personal lense but always taki ...more
Lisa  (not getting friends updates) Vegan
Words that came to my mind when reading this book: Superb. Important. Smart. Interesting. Honest. Thought provoking. Empathy building.

This is a memoir in essays by a woman relating her experience living with schizoaffective disorder, both internal and in the world experiences. She also writes about other ailments and other aspects of her life and her relationships.

The writing and storytelling are great. I love her writing and will check out her other books.

This book is a mix of autobiography,
Oct 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Reading this excellent collection of essays was something rather stunning.

Shocking, personal, informative, and -- let's face it -- scarier than anything else I've read in this, the month of October.

Of course, the fact that it is factual and revelatory and so very, very personal should be the highest selling point, but more than that, it shines a light on the spectrum of what we call Schizophrenia, entirely.

Let's break it down. I knew from getting my degree in Psychology that people are not schi
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, owned

I appreciated how each essay in this collection was focused on a different aspect of mental health, advocacy, the healthcare system, etc. but all still through the lens of the author's own experience. Considering many of these essays were one-offs for different publications, they fit together quite nicely into a collection that tells a greater story. At times I do wish she had gone a bit deeper with the subject matter and her critical analysis of whatever topic she is discussing, but her w
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook, essays
There aren't enough first person accounts of mental illness and even fewer books that combine the author's own experience with an analytical approach. Wang has unusual insight into her own illness and uses her sharp intellect to discuss mental illness from the perspective of a researcher. She takes a pragmatic approach - looking at any solutions that might help herself and others. Wang is quite accomplished and has found a way to work around her devastating "schizophrenias." She does have a rema ...more
Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
"I'm still trying to figure out what 'okay' is, particularly whether there exists a normal version of myself beneath the disorder... I was taught to say I am a person with schizoaffective disorder. 'Person-first language' suggests there is a person in there somewhere without delusions and the rambling and the catatonia.
But what if there isn't?"

From 'Yale Will Not Save You' (essay) in THE COLLECTED SCHIZOPHRENIAS by Esmé Weijun Wang / 2019 by @graywolfpress

In 13 essays, Wang shares glimpses of he
Kate Olson
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Stunning. TCS is the most moving account of living with mental illness that I have read to date, and I think that's because it's not trying to convince anyone of anything. Wang wrote essays about her condition and journey, and within these essays, she constantly admits that she is writing about herself and no one else. Her accounts of struggles are hers and not representative of a group of others afflicted with schizoaffective disorder, and even within her writing about chronic Lymes she never s ...more
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Harrowing. Intense. Illuminating. Powerful.
In The Collected Schizofrenias, Esmé tells the story of her life with mental illness and Lyme disease. This feels like an intimate and honest look at what living with schizophrenia can be like. From psychosis to not being taken seriously by medical professionals, each page of this book offers insight into a world that isn't discussed enough. This will be a powerful nonfiction read in 2019.
Samantha Colwell
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
A well-written, yet aloof look into the schizophrenias. I’m listening to the audiobook right now and cringing through it. Though Esme is obviously an intelligent and eloquent author, I find myself rolling my eyes too frequently at her glaring privilege. I thought I was being harsh, but I’m glad to know after perusing some other reviews that I’m not alone.

How often Esme talks about people pitying her for her suffering while she describes her Marc Jacobs perfume is too privileged a window into th
too much of this book is the author desperately trying to prove how she is a "good crazy person". she loves to talk about the expensive clothes she wears and how she never leaves the house without lipstick. she is condescending toward other disabled people, shown in how she had to "dumb down" her speech for her peers, but left it unchanged when speaking to doctors. she does not examine the privilege she has in any real way and the entire book felt very surface level. I have to assume the praise ...more
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Well, I loved #esmeweijunwang ‘s #thecollectedschizophrenias very much. A series of essays about schizoaffective disorder in the healthcare system, in popular culture, and in the public imagination, the book is also a meditation on Wang’s own diagnosis of, and experiences of the same illness. I love love love that Wang is so actively engaged with her own experiences, and so surrounded by love - I wish this for everyone who shares her diagnosis. I was grateful for Wang’s description of her illnes ...more
Katie Long
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
A collection of essays about Esme Weijun Wang’s experience living with, among other illnesses, schizoaffective disorder. It’s rare to read about schizophrenia from someone who lives with it, rather than someone who treats or studies these conditions. Her take on the way that patients with schizophrenia are often left out of decisions about their own treatment (which often prioritizes the safety of those around them, rather than the patient herself), is certainly debatable, but is an invaluable p ...more
Paris (parisperusing)
*Goodreads apparently didn't save my review the first time, so here goes it…

If it takes me longer than four days to finish a book of this size, it's because I'm just not into it.

I wanted to binge on this book, I truly did, but my biggest grudge with TCS is that it is a book predicated more on reports and research than anecdotes. With a disorder as obscure as schizophrenia, along with the myriad of other important mental illnesses mentioned, any reader not privy to these disorders is going to nee
Jessica Woodbury
Sometimes you read a piece of personal nonfiction and learn a whole bunch of new things. But sometimes you also change the way you look at the world and other people. This is one of those books. My views on mental health have been shaped mostly by Anxiety and Depression and how they've impacted me and many people in my life. I haven't given Schizophrenia a lot of thought for many reasons, and as I read this book it seemed like Wang hit every single one of them. All the ways in which we have push ...more
Lucy Dacus
Mar 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Loved this. Crucial perspective, expressed wonderfully.
Feb 18, 2019 rated it liked it
This was tough to rate. Some of the essays were deeply informative and emotional. Some were just .... there. I wish this would have been more a memoir and not essays. It felt disconnected. I feel like three stars is a “mean” rating for someone who wrote a book and has a debilitating mental illness. That author should automatically get six stars because it takes guts and a tremendous amount of mind power to complete a work like this. But I’m sticking with my rating of three. Didn’t love it, didn’ ...more
Britta Böhler
I should have stopped reading once I realized that the author is besties with Porochista Khakpour whose memoir was one of my worst reads last year. ...more
Oct 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, non-fiction

A moving and interesting collection of essays on a subject I personally had never read about and that is cloaked in a bigger societal taboo.

Why you might not like it: It's nonfiction, for one. It is also difficult to read and I think it would especially be tricky for people who might find this kind of candid discussion of mental illness triggering. There were moments when her story very much overwhelmed me, so I would also say that being in the right headspace for a more serious, sometime sombe
Canadian Reader
Wang’s book is a collection of personal essays, most of which focus to some degree on the author’s experience of schizoaffective disorder. For me, the essays that deal with her psychosis and involuntary hospitalizations were the strongest. Wang is also interested in popular culture, particularly films, that relate to or shed light on her condition. While I was intrigued by her allusion to possible links between autoimmune malfunction and neurologic and psychiatric disease, her experience of chro ...more
Mar 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
I usually don't enjoy essay collections too much but I found this book so interesting! It is an essay collection but it all seems to flow together to tell her overall story so it read very similar to a novel to me. I really enjoyed it! I learned soooo much from this book. I really didn't know very much about Schizophenia before I read this; to be honest what little I thought I did know wasn't even really very accurate. I thought the author did an amazing job of describing her experience of livin ...more
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An outstanding collection of essays about living with schizoaffective disorder and later chronic Lyme disease. Wang provides a glimpse into an existence that is harrowing at times but also so rich and filled with life. She writes about living with a “slippery brain” (a term taken from the last essay, “Beyond the Hedges”) and how to tether herself to reality. A must-read out in February 2019.
Apr 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely gorgeous.

Full review to come!
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Esmé Weijun Wang is an award-winning mental health advocate and speaker, as well as a journalist and essayist. The Border of Paradise is her first novel. Just announced as the winner of the 2016 Graywolf Press Non-Fiction Prize for her book of essays, The Collected Schizophrenias. She lives in San Francisco.

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“Some people dislike diagnoses, disagreeably calling them, boxes and labels, but I've always found comfort in preexisting conditions; I like to know that I'm not pioneering an inexplicable experience.” 18 likes
“Among psychiatric researchers, having a job is considered one of the major characteristics of being a high-functioning person. ... Most critically, a capitalist society values productivity in its citizens above all else, and those with severe mental illness are much less likely to be productive in ways considered valuable: by adding to the cycle of production and profit.” 15 likes
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