What does it mean to be “mad” in contemporary American society? How do we categorize people’s reactions to extreme pressures, trauma, loneliness and serious mental illness? Importantly—who gets to determine these classifications, and why?
This book seeks to answer these questions through studying an increasingly popular media genre—memoirs of people with mental illnesses. Memoirs, like the ones examined in this book, often respond to stigmatizing tropes about “the mad” in popular culture and engage with concepts in mental health activism and research. This study breaks new academic ground and argues that the featured texts rethink the possibilities of community building and stigma politics. Drawing on literary analysis and sociological concepts, it understands these memoirs as complex, at times even contradictory, approaches to activism.