Review | (Don’t) Call Me Crazy, edited by Kelly Jensen

33803157(Don’t) Call Me Crazy is a powerful collection of own voices accounts of mental illness. The contributors include actors, visual artists and a veritable who’s who of young adult fiction, and I’m glad young readers will have such people showing them that they’re not alone in their experiences.

I love that in most of the pieces, mental illness is simply something that the writer or artist deals with. Unlike the usual portrayal in pop culture, it isn’t necessarily linked to some huge traumatic event and can simply be as inexplicable a condition as suddenly getting a cold.

Some of the stories that stood out to me:

  • Hannah Bae, who grew up dealing with her father’s anger issues and her mother’s paranoia, and who immersed herself in school and then in work for survival. I loved how her Korean American identity, her parents’ Korean upbringing, and the Korean dramas they watched all played a role in her story, and how Hannah’s therapist, who is helping her come to terms with her parents and her guilt at leaving them, is also Korean-American.
  • I loved all the comic panels, but Gemma Correll’s illustrations on anxiety really hit home and Yumi Sakugawa’s pages on letting go of self-hate are just beautiful and calming.
  • Shaun David Hutchinson saying that depression is a part of him but doesn’t define him, and that his boyfriend and his boss bringing up his mental illness during an argument / after an emotional confession is a form of silencing because it reduces his responses to just his illness
  • S. Jae-Jones who realizes a friendship is over when the guy conflates her with the manic pixie dream girl trope, when she knows real-life mania is so much more than the trope portrays
  • Meredith Russo, who sought treatment at a psych ward for hallucinations, but ended up with suicidal ideations because the staff insisted on misgendering her and refusing her access to a razor to shave
  • Reid Ewing who did multiple plastic surgeries, partly because of feeling like his looks weren’t good enough, but also partly because the surgeries often led to complications that needed to be fixed
  • Ashley Holstrom coming to accept her trichotillomania, Christine Hefferman’s fear of the devil, and Stephanie Kuehn’s overwhelming and irrational anger at particular sounds like her father eating

I just realized I’ve listed about a third of the works by now as highlights, and the thing is, the book spans such a broad and diverse range of experiences that the various parts are bound to impact different readers in different ways.

Conversations around mental health are important, because these normalize people’s experiences, and more to the point, they give people the power and security in naming whatever it is they’re going through.

I’m glad these contributors chose to share their stories, and that thousands of young readers will have access to the experiences that have been shared. I hope this book makes it into the right hands, and finds the readers who take in one or more of the stories and realize, finally, that they aren’t alone.

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Thank you to Thomas Allen Ltd. for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

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