Through the tide of hormones surging within my body, and the little runnels of blood, and the sour tang of my breasts, I lay awake, listening, and thinking of breath and of water. I had broken my relationship with sleep.
In this stunning collection, Jessica Friedmann navigates her journey through postpartum depression after the birth of her son. Drawing on critical theory, popular culture, and personal experience, her wide-ranging essays touch on class, race, gender, and sexuality, as well as motherhood, creativity, and mental illness.
Occasionally confronting, but always powerfully moving and beautifully observed, Things That Helped charts Jessica’s return into the world: a slow and complex process of reassembling what depression fractured, and sometimes broke.
‘Reveals the strange dichotomy between absence and excess of feeling … [Friedmann] writes with brutal originality.’
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‘[A]n impressive debut … Friedmann views the world through a lens of intersectionality, and she has a sharp eye for how gender, race, and class shapes the family unit … Her language is deeply visceral, and therefore hugely affecting, when describing the feeling of pregnancy, motherhood, and mental illness … [Things That Helped] makes readers feel and think.’
‘A brutally insightful and often heartbreaking study of the complexities of womanhood. Her transportive writing will break you open and fill you anew.’
Anna Spargo-Ryan, author of The Paper House
‘Jessica Friedmann has left safety behind and walked into something vast — a self, a world, on the verge of unravelling yet exhilarating and full of love. This book runs deep and wide. It’s alive with arresting images, with thoughts too big, sometimes too dangerous, to pin down.’
‘Deeply affective … The personal essay is a fertile genre and Friedmann’s use of the essay structure, over a more linear memoir style, is worth noting. In North America, especially, attention surrounds essayists such as Maggie Nelson and Eula Biss who similarly meld memoir and critical theory to explore topics that also appear in Friedmann’s book: gender, class, and motherhood.’
‘Friedmann’s deeply personal story takes the reader on captivating digressions, from the intergenerational trauma of Holocaust survivors, to the latest cross-cultural research on postnatal depression.’
‘To read these essays is to observe a keen intelligence at work both coolly analysing the social forces and gender expectations that inform our understanding of this condition, while grappling with powerful feelings that bewilder and appal her.’ PICK OF THE WEEK
‘[Friedmann] effortlessly mixes the personal and the political … Critical theory is blended into the book, but remains accessible and not intrusive. The intersection between selfhood, motherhood, and womanhood are all written about with visceral candour, and she uses imagery to startling effect.’
Thuy On, The Big Issue
‘While the occasion for this book is Friedmann’s experience of post-partum depression, Things That Helped points to the larger question of becoming a writer-mother, and the ways a traumatic splitting of the self might relate to a creative one, and how, in consciously reintegrating aspects of self, a powerful, self-aware and writerly subjectivity might emerge … There is an analogic intelligence at work, a sense of metaphor pushing behind each piece of the book, finding connections that weave each part of with others … There are skeins here, not a single narrative strand, and it is in their braiding that hopes of making and loving are recovered.’
Sydney Review of Books