Flowers

"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."--Felicity Plunkett, Sydney Review of Books

 

"In Things That Helped, Jessica Friedmann writes a beautifully lyrical and intellectually complex series of essays that bloom from the focus on one object, idea, or category. The essays are intersectional studies that weave in ecofeminism, cultural studies, and questions about race and gender. Though I am not a mother, I pined for this book after reading the excerpt published by LitHub: “Blood, Birth, and the Talismanic Power of Red Lipstick,” which left me dewy-eyed and jelly-legged on a subway platform, because Jessica Friedmann is able to celebrate and interrogate the vivid, grotesque, and sublime tissues of the female body."--Erin Bartnett, Electric Literature

 

"Writer and editor Jessica Friedmann’s first published collection is a memoir in essays that bridges the political with the deeply personal, detailing not just her own struggle with postpartum depression but the ways in which our cultural understandings of gender—and the misogyny which shapes them—have cast shame and scripted stigma onto mothers like her. In Things That Helped, released last year in Australia but debuting in the U.S. with its April release this year, she attempts to transform the dialogue around a challenge that one in seven mothers will face—pushing readers to see postpartum depression not as a defect, but as a standard part of motherhood."--Carmen Rios, Ms Magazine

 

"[T]he author offers acute analysis, blurring distinctions that are too common and simple: “Illness and health, movement and inertia; they are not dialectically opposed, but constantly approaching and retreating from one another, overlaying each other, coexisting.” Yet in the depths of her depression, the author felt that she had lost her grip on the lifeline of language, that motherhood had subsumed her, and that she would be incapable of resuming her roles as a writer and editor or balancing her own professional ambitions against her husband’s. She never succumbs to sentimentality in these pages even when it’s obvious how much she loves (or has learned to love) her son and how fortunate she feels for all that she has.

"Well-rendered essays that make readers think and feel deeply."--Kirkus Review

 

"This breathtaking writing is emblematic of Friedmann’s honesty, but the book is far more than a deep dive into despair. In fact, it is an often amusing look at relationships—collegial, familial, and intimate—and an exploration of the role that art, music, literature, writing, and walking can play in healing the hurts that assail all living beings.

"If you’re like me, tears will occasionally stream down your cheeks as you read; you’re also likely to bounce between anger and the desire to cheer as you meander through the 12 essays that comprise the book."--Eleanor J. Bader, ReWire.News

 

"[M]ost of the book’s power derives from Friedmann’s overwhelming skill as a writer and thinker. Fearlessly, she describes the intrusive impulses, terrors, and hopelessness that wracked her after giving birth to her son, Owen. Patiently, she digs under the lip of civil admiration surrounding women’s and mothers’ roles in culture, and draws out the savagery beneath. Brilliantly, she captures the intricate textures of entrenched depression."--Katharine Coldiron, Proximity

 

"To write lyrically about the lure of oblivion, of unwanted urges to hurt your infant son, of masochism and the temptation to self-harm – without romanticising or demonising these impulses – takes considerable subtlety and skill. Running beneath all these elegantly written essays, like a melancholy basso continuo, is Jessica Friedmann's struggle with post-natal depression and the way it alienates her from her self and those she loves."--Fiona Capp, Sydney Morning Herald, Pick of the Week

 

"In this collection of candid essays, Friedmann weaves thinking from the likes of Lacan, Kristeva and Cixous into her own lived experience of postnatal depression, to more broadly consider the onerous challenges of being female, a writer and a mother. While Things That Helped does not push at the boundaries to the same degree as the writings of Nelson and Kraus, it is more accessible in its structure." --Kara Nicholson, Readings

 

"Through adopting the lens of intersectionality, Friedmann avoids becoming a cliche. She demonstrates a solid understanding of the power structures surrounding motherhood, of which race is one. While depression has a strong physiological root cause, she is aware of the societal factors that also contribute. Despite the buffer of whiteness, she suffers due to the unpaid emotional labour of motherhood and the gendered stigma surrounding depression. Friedmann’s self-awareness is complemented by a grounding in psychoanalysis, but she strikes a good balance between memoir and theory and never lets the latter weigh down her essays." --Emily Laidlaw, The Australian

 

‘[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.’--Books and Publishing

 

"This is a book you want to read in bits over a week or two – one to close at the end of each part so that the essay can roll around in the back of your mind and unfurl steadily in the heat of your thoughts like a bundled chrysanthemum tea flower."--Grace McCarter, Hot Chicks With Big Brains

 

"Always careful not to alienate her readers, whether that be through clear and considered explanations about complex points of theory or by admitting her own privilege where it arises, Friedmann has produced an engrossing and fiercely intelligent work, easily digestible by all."--Ana Vucic, RMITV In Review

 

"While Friedmann’s focus is her post-natal depression, her essays radiate out across art, feminism, music, the environment, marriage and race. It is an enthralling journey through her expansive knowledge and sharp mind. This isn’t a 10-step recovery narrative. It is a 12-chapter chipping away at the edifice of depression, each chapter offering a thing that helped."--Justine Hyde, Hub and Spoke

 

""An impressive book, lyrical and erudite even as some of the topics Friedmann broaches are disturbing . . . She effortlessly mixes the personal and the political in this memoir. 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 candor, and she uses imagery to a startling effect." —Thuy On, The Big Issue

 

"My breath stops and slows and speeds up as Jessica writes of the birth of her son. I see it, red and raw, her breasts leaking, her stomach tearing. And I feel mine tear too even though, looking underneath the shirt I've plucked from the folds of my boyfriend's bed, my stomach is fine. Whole and mine."--Clare Rankine, Interlude