Elizabeth Wurtzel opened a dialogue about clinical depression with her hocking 1994 memoir Prozac Nation. We’d had Styron’s Darkness Visible, and Plath’s The Bell Jar, but depression was still a much hidden subject and Wurtzel’s book brought depression to the forefront for a new generation.
Honest, deeply personal, and sometimes shocking, Prozac Nation broke down the walls of understanding on mental illness and highlighted an entire depressed nation, putting into scale the depth of the problem across the US and the world.
So it’s little wonder the world is in mourning this week as news reaches us that Elizabeth Wurtzel has died, aged 52 from complications arising from her metastatic breast cancer.
Prozac Nation became a cultural reference point when published in the mid-90s and became part of a new wave of confessional memoirs, where instead of reducing your life down to the best bits, you have a warts and all account of how it actually is.
Wurtzel carried the BRCA genetic mutation for breast cancer, radically increasing her risk of catching the disease but she was unaware until diagnosed. At the end of her life she became an advocate for BRCA testing and wrote of her experience in the NY Times.
While best known for Prozac Nation, Wurtzel wrote five nonfiction books during her life, and they all come highly recommended by us! My own personal favourite is Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women, and you may well have your own favourite.
Thanks Elizabeth for enlightening the world with your experience!