12 Female Authors Who Wrote Stories About Mental Health
A comprehensive list of mental health stories written by female authors.
12 Female Authors Who Wrote Stories About Mental Health
Mental Health is often depicted inaccurately or outlandish in books, television, and film. For women, a caricature is present; the "crazy" one, unable to function in society. While mental illness ranges drastically from person to person, reading stories about mental disorders from female authors is a refreshing option for readers, especially women.
And I'm not saying that men can't write fantastic novels about multi-faceted characters grappling with mental disorders. But, to view a female character from the perspective of a female author (often times writers who have experienced similar, if not other mental disorders) makes the story that much more engaging.
Below you will find mental health stories written by female authors. From memoirs to classic pieces of literature, there's something for everyone.
1. The Bell Jar
Sylvia Plath, no stranger to mental health disorders, tells the story of Esther Greenwood, a talented and successful young women who succumbs to insanity. Plath describes the deterioration of a young women with poise and honesty, leaving The Bell Jar a classic novel about the female psyche.
2. Girl, Interrupted
Eighteen-year-old, Susanna Kaysen was sent to a psychiatric hospital after one session with a psychartist. What followed was a two year stint at McLean Hospital, the same institution that housed Sylvia Plath, Ray Charles, and James Taylor. In Kaysen's memoir she discusses her own diagnosis and treatment of other female patients in 1967 America. The story brings in to question what we define as "sane" and how women are often written off as "insane" without reason.
3. The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories
Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote many short stories but The Yellow Wallpaper was revolutionary in 1892. The tale of a wife's "descent into madness" was a rare story to be told yet Gilman portrayed depression and mental health on a large stage, one that hadn't been publicized before.
4. The Haunting of Hill House
If you haven't tuned into Netflix's newest endeavor, The Haunting of Hill House I would say run do not walk to your television screens. If you want to supplement your binging with this classic novel, by all means join me. Originally published in 1959, Shirley Jackson terrified readers with her description of terror at the hands of haunted Hill House. Characters battle inner demons as well as paranormal activity, making this novel multifaceted in every way.
5. Where'd You Go, Bernadette
The story of Bernadette Fox, the vivacious matriarch of the Fox family, is that of great importance. As author, Maria Semple creates a character that is seemingly happy and revolutionary, she still battles demons internally. Her agoraphobia is so bad, she outsources errands to a virtual assistant. Her subsequent disappearance lands her 15-year-old daughter, Bee on an adventure all her own.
6. The Last Time I Wore A Dress
Author, Daphne Scholinski details her time in a mental institute, where she was taught how to act like a girl upon being diagnosed with "gender identity disorder." Scholinski uses humor and irony when retelling the trials and tribulations she went through as a 15-year-old-girl.
7. White Oleander
Ingrid, a beautiful and brilliant poet is imprisoned for murder and her daughter, Astrid is sent to live with various women through the foster care system of California. There are many mental health themes interwoven between characters, all ultimately affecting Astrid. White Oleander is as heartbreaking as it is eyeopening and author, Janet Fitch does a remarkable job of highlighting the pain mental health issues leave on everyone closely involved.
8. The Awakening
Quite possibly one of the most classic stories about mental health written by a female author. Kate Chopin's The Awakening was first published in 1899 where the story certainly created waves over the depiction of feminist ideals and unorthodox views on motherhood. Seen as "a landmark work on early feminism" Chopin paved the way for imperfect female protagonists.
9. Skin Game
In her autobiography, Caroline Kettlewell details the pain and suffering she endured that led to self harm and mutilation. Skin Game details the psychological and emotional turmoil of cutting and how two million Americans, mostly female, cope with the disorder. Honest and raw, this memoir is an important fixture for women battling with similar issues.
10. Loud in the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl
Stacy Pershall details her childhood and eventual bipolar and borderline personality disorders which put her through an intense struggled with the mental health care system. Thanks to Pershall's detailed descriptions, readers will better understand the debilitating mental health disorders that the author faced and her struggle for acceptance.
11. Musical Chairs
Musical Chairs tells the story of a family's history with mental health and the ramifications of said diagnosis. Author, Jen Knox recounts her past which was filled with alcoholism, estrangement, and mental illness. The impact of family and identity is the most powerful theme in Knox's story and highlights the complicated relationships we are sometimes not in control of.
12. Woman on the Edge of Time
Marge Piercy's "speculative fiction" dives into believing women and their stories. Connie Ramos loses everything; her child, husband, and dignity. After being committed to a mental institution against her will she is contacted by someone from the year, 2137. A world of sexual and racial equality waits for her but she has to navigate what is real, what isn't, and the people who are willing to help or hurt her.
Let's Keep the Conversation Going...
What're your favorite stories about mental health written by women? We want to know!