[An] utterly unique book of essays: a deep, illuminating, and explosively written dive into a life of living with mental illness.”Entertainment Weekly
“Intimate, urgent, and powerful. . . . Wang writes generously about the manifestations of schizophrenia in her life . . . and lends her keen analysis to the big, ethical questions about how we treat those whose experience of the world differs from ours.”BuzzFeed
“In a voice both laboratorial and poetic, Wang examines her own diagnosis, as well as her PTSD and Lyme disease, with a gentleness and frankness that mesmerizes and demystifies.”The Week
“Wang is a brilliant writer. . . . This intimate essay collection grapples with her diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder and all the sorrow and searching that comes with it. Always artful and illuminating, never facile.”Vulture
“Wang’s clear-eyed look into a complicated reality makes this is an essential read for anyone who better wants to understand why we treat each otherand ourselvesso harshly at any display of weakness; it’s a book of compassion and brilliance, an unflinching look at a topic that has long repelled too many of us.”NYLON
“Wang writes brilliantly and beautifully about lives lived with mental illness.”The Millions
“[The Collected Schizophrenias] organizes the confusion, terror and complexity of [Wang’s] experience into an imperfectly cohesive, profoundly illuminating whole.”Shelf Awareness
“Penetrating and revelatory.”Publishers Weekly, starred review
“This mesmerizing collection of essays has achieved the rarest of raritiesa meaningful and expansive language for a subject that has been long bound by both deep revulsion and intense fascination.”Jenny Zhang
“A brilliant guide to the complexities of thinking about illness, and mental illness, in particular. It will bring hope to others searching to understand their own diagnoses.”Meghan O’Rourke
“A masterful braiding of the achingly personal and the incisively researched. . . . This book is a vital, illuminating window onto the world we all already live in, but find all too easy to ignore.”Alexandra Kleeman
“You won't find any pity-baiting, sensationalism, or false positivity here; Wang is so candidly aware that I’d trust her over my own diary.”Tony Tulathimutte
“Esmé Weijun Wang offers us an all-access pass to her beautiful, unquiet mind. . . Rarely has a book about living with mental illness felt so immediate, raw, and powerful.”Dani Shapiro
“The Collected Schizophrenias is at once generous and brilliantly nuanced, rigorous and bold. It had me rethinking what it is to be well or ill.”R. O. Kwon
"Esmé Weijun Wang sends out revelatory dispatches from an under-mapped land, shot like arrows in all directions from a taut bow of a mind. . . . Her work changes the way we think about illness – which is to say that it changes us."Whiting Award Selection Committee
A collection of autobiographical essays on schizophrenia, which "shirks reality in favor of its own internal logic."
In addition to a detailed history of the treatment of mental illness in America, informed by her time as a researcher at Stanford, Wang (The Border of Paradise, 2016) keenly investigates the lived experience of "the schizophrenias." Covering a variety of issues—including the practice of involuntary committal and life in a psychiatric institution, the difficulties of navigating college with a mental disorder, the public discourse on suicide, the financial problems caused by a chronic illness and an uncaring insurance industry—the author consistently demonstrates her precise attunement to not only the stories buried in official statistics and dry historical sources, but also to the broader implications of her own personal experiences. Unfortunately, Wang's prose is often clinical when it needs to be harrowing or affective when it needs to be precise, and the transition from the macro view to the micro is occasionally inelegant. What makes these essays worthwhile is their attention to both the broad historical and cultural implications of their subject matter and the personal, first-person perspective that is so often lost in historical accounts. The author is an adroit researcher and an exacting describer, but the two halves often fail to mesh effectively, as when she writes that "with chronic illness, life persists astride illness unless the illness spikes to acuity; at that point, surviving from one second to the next is the greatest ambition." Such sentences attempt to swerve from direct exposition to personal reflection yet do not fully manage the transition, leaving a highly personal anecdote dressed in too-clinical description. Still, the book remains a necessary antidote to the often ignorant and fearmongering depictions of mental illness in popular culture.
Better integration of the two thematic halves and prose that was more lively and varied would have made the collection truly great, but even so it remains quite powerful and certainly useful for fellow sufferers.