Hysterical: A Memoir

Hachette. Sept. 2022. 256p. ISBN 9780306827372. $29. MEMOIR
It is no secret that the medical field ignores, underfunds, and looks away from issues that affect women. It also tends to layer new words on old allegations that women’s symptoms are manifestations of hysteria instead of attempting to understand them. Bassist, who edits the “Funny Women” column on The Rumpus, has bravely used the story of her body as it has been overwritten by insufficient, inefficient medical discourses to offer answers for women who feel as if they inhabit “a body that didn’t make sense to science, a psyche that didn’t make sense to mankind in general.” Like Tillie Olson, Susan Bordo, and so many feminist theorists before her, Bassist explores the silencing acts that keep women small. She also explores the ways in which finding a voice requires women to take up space in ways that transgress expectations by insisting on the female body’s inherent rightness—something society still does not believe.

CORRECTION: This review originally stated that Bassist writes The Rumpus’s “Funny Women” column, but in actuality she edits the column. LJ regrets the error.

VERDICT Disruptive, tender, and beautiful, this book is a reversal of women’s apologies and a demand for more.
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