Everything Is an Emergency: An OCD Story in Words & Pictures

Harper Perennial. Jun. 2020. 256p. ISBN 9780062950079. $19.95. Rated: Teen+. memoir
Cartoonist Katzenstein (The White Man’s Guide to White Male Writers of the Western Canon) begins this insightful memoir about his lifelong struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) with an overview of the many things he feared as a child before going on to explore how his parents’ divorce resulted in crippling anxiety and a need for control. In his early adolescence, he struggles with body image and develops a compulsion to pick up litter that ends only when he develops a terrible fear of contamination. Drawing and painting provide a respite from his looping thoughts and lead to an internship at MAD Magazine in college, and later to his breaking in as a cartoonist for The New Yorker. Forming lasting connections with friends and loved ones, however, remains complicated. Eventually, a combination of Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy and medication seems to provide him peace and hope for the future.
VERDICT Katzenstein is witty and fearlessly honest. The rapid pace at which his story unfolds can be a little disorienting at times, but ultimately it proves the right choice for conveying the experience of his daily life.

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