Rebecca Shannonhouse is a freelance writer and editor. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, USA Today, and other publications. She lives in New York City.
This somewhat uneven collection by freelance writer Shannonhouse focuses not on the experience of mental illness but rather on descriptions of those experiences (both first-and secondhand) written by women, making the subject matter fairly unique. The time span of the 21 brief selections is impressive (1436-1999); however, almost two-thirds of the writings are from the last half of the 20th century. The wide range of work includes arresting first-person descriptions of mental illness and the equally riveting 1843 testimony of Dorothea Dix on the conditions of Massaschusetts insane assylums. Unfortunately, this collection also includes material such as four rather benign letters by Zelda Fitzgerald (published here for the first time) in which she describes "picnic suppers' and "idyllic days" spent at Highland Hospital. Although sufficient for casual reading, a topic this intriguing deserves more thorough treatment. Recommend for larger public and academic collections.-Angela M. Weiler, SUNY Libs., Morrisville
"A stirring anthology of the best and most searing writings that brightly illuminate the dark side of so many women's lives."--Kirkus Reviews
"A startling, stunning, wise, heartbreaking, and most useful collection . . . a book for soulful and literary people of all genders, everywhere." --Phyllis Chesler, Ph.D., author of Women and Madness and Letters to a Young Feminist "The wide range of work includes arresting first-person descriptions of mental illness." --Library Journal "A rich mosaic of historical, social, and political perspectives on mental illness . . . Ms. Shannonhouse has performed a profound service in bringing these women's voices--outraged and compassionate, strong and stricken--to our attention." --Carl Sherman, author of How to Go to Therapy