Things That Helped is a memoir in essays, detailing Australian writer Jessica Friedmann’s recovery from postpartum depression. In each essay, she focuses on a separate totemic object—from photo red lips to the trans musician Anohni—to tell a story that is both deeply personal and culturally resonant. Drawing on critical theory, popular culture, and her own experience, Friedmann’s wide-ranging essays touch on class, race, gender, and sexuality, as well as motherhood, creativity, and mental illness. Occasionally confrontational, but always powerfully moving and beautifully observed, Things That Helped charts her return into the world: a slow and complex process of reassembling what depression fractured, and sometimes broke.
"To read these essays is to observe a keen intelligence at work both coolly analyzing the social forces and gender expectations that inform our understanding of this condition, while grappling with powerful feelings that bewilder and appall [Friedmann]."—Fiona Capp, The Sydney Morning Herald
"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
"[A] deeply affective debut . . . 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 . . . Her style of politicised personal writing is refreshing, and this book is further proof that these cultural institutions are vital in unearthing new, intellectually stimulating voices."—Emily Laidlaw, The Weekend Australian
"A necessary and compelling collection of essays . . . In reading Friedmann, one thing is clear: she is an extraordinary thinker, a precise and complex writer, a tireless seeker of le mot juste . . . Watching a keen mind wrestle is one of the pleasures of reading nonfiction, and this book is a prime example . . . Despite the horror she narrates, her prose rarely strays from a calm, thoughtful tone. And this is the genius of Things That Helped: it’s bringing light to an aspect of women’s lives that publishing has thus far turned away from, and it’s doing so with such beauty, with such precision and skill, that these struggles can no longer be ignored."—Katharine Coldiron, Proximity
"By carefully and deliberately describing the pain, dissociation, discomfort, alienation, and other forms of havoc she experienced after birthing her son, Friedmann legitimates and recognizes the physical, psychological, and political features of postpartum depression."—Booklist
Reviews from Goodreads
IN THE BEGINNING there was the river, wending its way around the top of the suburb, then snaking out protectively toward the south. The water was deep and cold and full of silt, and in the months after I had my baby I would...