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Book Review: 'The Collected Schizophrenias' by Esmé Weijun Wang

A few weeks ago I received an email from a marketing staff member at Penguin publishers. "Would you like to receive an early release copy of Esmé Weijun Wang's The Collected Schizophrenias", she asked.

Well, if someone is offering me a book, let alone a book that examines mental health, then I am of course going to say yes! I was excited when Weijun Wang's book fell as promised onto my doormat having heard that it had quickly become a New York Times bestseller on its release in the US.

As excited as I was to get a free book for the first time in my life, I was more excited by what I found inside. Once I began reading, it felt like Weijun Wang was talking to me about her life, identity and experience of emotional suffering.

As someone who has felt so much loneliness in my life because of my borderline personality disorder, this book was like getting a cup of tea handed to you in a house with a broken boiler.

The Collected Schizophrenias is a startling and vitalising book containing a series of personal essays about the constellation of Weijun Wang's mental health conditions and medical diagnoses.

Weijun Wang takes us through a number of her diagnoses, how she constructs her identity, how it shifts, her changing relationship with reality and how she goes about her life. It is fascinating and surprising.

As you can tell from the battered corners of the book, I have carried it with me crammed into my backpack for the last couple weeks. It would have been unputdownable, however I had to take a break from it a few times because it did activate some difficult feelings in me.

Weijun Wang talks about how difficult it is to go through delusions, such as believing she is dead or that her loved ones have been replaced by robots, feeling suicidal, PTSD, sexual abuse and medical conditions. These are only some of the difficulties that she examines in her book.

The Collected Schizophrenias is an intimate, close-up look at one person's mental illness, and yet it examines so much more. These essays both zoom in and zoom out. Weijun Wang examines the psychiatric system, film portrayals of schizophrenia, autoimmune disorders, identity and spirituality.

I'm aware that this is just a snippet review. I'm coming off quetiapine (one of the medications Weijun Wang mentions in her work) and I am struggling myself a lot right now. I would totally recommend checking out The Collected Schizophrenias if you want to read something beautiful, moving and illuminating about mental illness and you can't stand schmalz and simplified happy ending.

This ticks all the boxes for me. I wish I could have a coffee with Weijun Wang. I hope she writes more about mental illness.


The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang, published by Penguin, is out in the UK 27/06/19.

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