Tag: mental health

The Bell Jar’s Influence: Anniversary Edition

The first line in The Bell Jar is a hook: “It was a… sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.” The person speaking is Esther Greenwood, a smart, straight-A, dark-humored and, as the story goes on, depressed protagonist.

The book was published in London on January 14th, 1963 under a pseudonym Victoria Lucas, one month before the actual author, Sylvia Plath, committed suicide. People had to wait almost a decade for its publication in The United States. It is the only novel Plath ever wrote.

image via vintag.es

The story itself is a coming of age tale about a college girl who is figuring out what she wants and who she wants to be. She wins a contest to write for a “girl’s” magazine called Ladies’ Day in New York. She takes the opportunity and moves to New York for the summer along with a group of other young women, and they all live in a hotel/dormitory called the Amazon. This is where the book begins. The experience is less than Esther expected it to be. Her editors give her uninspiring pep talks, and her friends lead her into dangerous situations where she is almost, at one point, raped. She feels lonely most of the time. Upon getting stuck in a room where one of her friends, Doreen, is getting close with Lenny Shepherd, a man they met by happenstance one night on the town, Esther says:

“There’s something demoralizing about watching two people get more and more crazy about each other, especially when you are the only extra person in the room. It’s like watching Paris from an express caboose heading in the opposite direction – every second the city gets smaller and smaller, only you feel it’s really you getting smaller and smaller and lonelier and lonelier, rushing away from all those lights and that excitement at about a million miles an hour.”

It is with similes like this one where we get a deep look into Esther’s intelligence and ability to discern the truth about what it means to be young and still forging your identity.

 

A lot of the novel is about forging identity, but Esther’s identity is so tied up with her depression that she has trouble separating the one from the other. After New York, she heads back home to Boston and spirals downward until she finds a crawlspace to hide in, and tries to commit suicide. This lands her in a sanitarium. She is eventually sent to a private hospital in the countryside paid for by the woman who sponsored her scholarship, Philomena Guinea. It is there where Esther is really attended to for her illness. She is given insulin, analysis, freedom to go into town with improvement in mood, and is treated with electric shock therapy; all of it leads her back to wellness. How do we know she’s well? She says, just before her dismissal, “There ought, I thought, to be a ritual for being born twice – patched, retreaded and approved for the road.”

This novel also gave Sylvia Plath a way to confront sexism and convention. Throughout the pages, Esther mentions how many times her mother has at one point told her to learn shorthand. “The trouble was, I hated the idea of serving men in any way. I wanted to dictate my own thrilling letters.” Esther doesn’t know how to cook, either. She doesn’t know how to dance. She can’t sing a note. “The one thing I was good at was winning scholarships and prizes…” In other words, Esther succeeds at competing with men.

image via sylviaplathinfo.blogspot.com

Plath’s writing style can be interpreted as dark, but also as darkly comic, elegiac, honest, and nostalgic. “When I was nineteen, pureness was the great issue.” This is both a joke and an admittance. After Esther finds out Buddy Willard, her boyfriend, has already had sex, she is filled with resentment over the hypocrisy he embodies but also feels a competitive edge. She rejects his proposal. He is a fraud in her eyes now, and it brings her a step closer to knowing something about herself: she cannot succumb to promises of chastity until marriage. Esther ends up losing her virginity to some guy named Irwin she meets on the steps of the Harvard Library. It leads to a slight hemorrhaging mishap that lands her in the Emergency room; what she loses in blood she gains in experience and independence. She is even fitted for a diaphragm with the encouragement of her female doctor. “I was my own woman.”

 

Esther also ponders a life of wifely duties with children and husband as her primary purpose in life and she grows deeply afraid. “I knew that in spite of all the roses and kisses and restaurant dinners a man showered a woman before he married her, what he secretly wanted when the wedding service ended was for her to flatten out underneath his feet like Mrs. Willard’s kitchen mat.”  While this characterization of family life may be exaggerated, Plath is pointing out the inherent gender inequality and unfair expectations society has for women.

Image via Lagan Online

The bell jar itself symbolizes Esther’s mental illness in all its stifling, alienating inescapability: ”…wherever I sat—on the deck of a ship or a street café in Paris or Bangkok—I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.” The bell jar warps reality, but there isn’t much difference, at times, between the distortion and the truth, as Esther discovers. On the day she is due to leave the hospital, Belsize, where she lived during her hospital stay, she wonders “what was there about us, in Belsize, so different from the girls playing bridge and gossiping and studying in the college to which I would return? Those girls, too, sat under bell jars of a sort.”n

If you’re curious as to how closely this novel relates back to Sylvia Plath, she did indeed have a guest editorship at a magazine called Mademoiselle. Philomena Guinea is based on a real woman, her literary patron named Olivia Higgins Prout, and Plath did try to commit suicide, and was sent to a hospital as a result. She even had Electroconvulsive Therapy just like Esther.

 

In 1979, there was a film adaptation starring Marilyn Hassett and Julie Harris. It did not do well with audiences or critics. There is a Showtime tv series (originally slated to be a film) starring Dakota Fanning based on the book supposedly in the works.

image via storenvy

The response to the book was positive, but Sylvia’s mother didn’t want it to be published in the United States because of the comparisons people made between Esther’s family and her own. It finally made it here in 1971, and fans did hyper-focus on the autobiographical similarities, though the NY Times gave it a positive review. The New Yorker’s review was mixed. In the end, it became one of the most influential novels of the 20th century.

Featured image via Deskgram


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‘All the Bright Places’ is Coming to Netflix

All the Bright Places, is finally coming to our screens! The 2015 novel of the same name was written by Jennifer Niven, and optioned for a film in 2014, before the book’s release. Now it’s finally slated to hit Netflix next year.

Image result for all the bright places
 Image via Amazon

The novel follows two teenagers, Violet Markey and Theodore Finch, who have reached a dark point in their lives, and struggle to cope with their mental illnesses. They find themselves on the roof of their school and meet for the first time. Violet is coping with the death of her older sister, Eleanor, who died in a car accident. Violet feels responsible for her death and hasn’t been in a car since the accident. Finch is depressed and has constant thoughts of suicide. His family doesn’t understand his depression so he feels alone until he meets Violet, who he talks off the ledge, and vice versa.

This then leads them to make a pact – to find all the bright places, all the wonderful exciting things in the world, and in themselves.

 

The film will star Elle Fanning as Violet and Justice Smith as Theodore. It will be available to stream on Netflix on February 28, 2020.

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Image via IMDB

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Top 5 YA Novels That Deal with Mental Health

Our minds can be the scariest place, sharing our feelings can feel like a burden, and getting out of bed can be harder than hitting the snooze button for an extra five minutes. Mental health is real, and it’s something everyone is talking and writing about now. These five amazing books are some of the best books out there that tackle this topic.

 

 

5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

 

image via amazon

 

This book follows Charlie, a boy who is coping with the recent suicide of his best friend and starting high school. He is also still coping with the death of his beloved Aunt Helen, who died when he was seven. Charlie loved her so much he blocked out the abuse she inflicted upon him and focused on the guilt he feels towards her death. He suffers from PTSD, but during his first year of high school he befriends two step siblings who show him the ropes of high school, love, music, and friendship. Throughout the year Charlie does his best to repress his inner sadness, but it eventually comes to light when his friends leave for college and he is alone again. What I love most about this book is how important friendship is and how good friends can help you even in your darkest times.

 

4. Eliza and her Monsters

 

Eliza and Her Monsters by [Zappia, Francesca]

image via amazon

Online Eliza is the creator of the popular web comic Monstrous Sea, but in real life she is shy and awkward. That is until she befriends the new boy at school, Wallace, who forces her to live a life outside of her online comic, and that is when Eliza realizes her depression and anxiety. Wallace points out that her web comic deals with depression and Eliza being clueless to that fact starts to take a deeper look at herself, the world she created, and Wallace, who struggles with depression as well. What is unique about this story is Eliza not being aware of her depression until it is pointed out to her, and I thought that was interesting because usually people realize if they’re struggling with being sad all the time, but Eliza was so focused on her comic she didn’t realize it until she stepped back from her online world.

 

 

3. TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWn

 

image via amazon

Aza, a sixteen-year-old girl and her best friend Daisy try to solve the mystery of her missing neighbor, billionaire CEO, Russell Pickett. There just so happens to be a huge reward of one hundred thousand dollars involved, and fearless Daisy is ready for the case and recruits Aza to join. Together, they befriend Davis, Russell’s son, and individually, Aza deals with her OCD and anxiety, which makes it hard for her to get out of her head most of the time, but she is trying her best to be a good daughter, friend, and maybe even detective. The main take away from this story is how Aza may have OCD and anxiety, but regardless she still struggles with the universal issue we all struggle with and that is accepting who we are.

2. MADE YOU UP

image via amazon

Alex can’t decide what is real and what isn’t real, and she struggles with this every day. After an incident at her previous school she starts fresh at a new school and she begins to make friends, go to parties and she even falls in love. However, she still can’t separate her delusions from reality, and it could cause another incident to occur and hurt the people closest to her. This is another story where the power of friendship is great, and how much Alex leans on her friends and her family for support. It is important to have those bonds and connections so people don’t have to feel alone, but even in a room full of people someone can feel alone and Alex does, because she isn’t always clear as to what is clear and what isn’t.

 

1. Thirteen Reasons why

 

image via amazon

Hannah Baker is live and in stereo, she has recorded the thirteen reasons why she has committed suicide. Each reason is linked to a person and each person she holds responsible for her death and she wants them to know it. Each person has to listen to all the tapes and then pass them along to the next person on the list, and although most people don’t agree with this aspect of the book, the most important take away from this novel is how powerful people are and how people don’t realize the part they play in other people’s lives. How a small interaction can make such a difference, how one rude remark can ruin a person’s day, and just how important it is to always be a kind.

 

 

Featured Image via Changeyourmindni.org

Improve Your Lifestyle With Our Top Nonfiction Picks!

Each week, Bookstr scans bestseller lists across the Internet to learn what people are reading, buying, gifting, and talking about most — just to make sure you’re out there living your absolute best life. This week’s nonfiction picks center around the topic of self-development books, which showcase how you can improve your health, quality of life, and more with these great reads. Listen: we’re all trying to keep it together. But, with the right tools, staying on our game doesn’t have to be such a daunting task. Let’s dive into our picks and take a look!

 

A swirling nebula of space and stars

Image via Amazon

5. The Science of Self-empowerment by Gregg Braden

The Science of Self-Empowerment by Gregg Braden is about applying the advanced sense of awareness and spirituality that monks, nuns, and mystics have to our daily lives! Incorporating both scientific and philosophical perspectives, this book helps one achieve a form of spirituality that encourages true growth. Using real-world science to ground its claims, this self-help book that will find you rising to new heights and maybe even centering yourself like the worlds most spiritually-oriented people do.

 

A woman leaning against a wall with a smile

Image via Amazon

4. Do it Scared by Ruth Soukup 

Do It Scared by Ruth Soukup is for anyone who feels like they’re stuck in a rut or not taking the chances they really want to. The book helps you identify the source of your fears and tackle them with detailed, hands-on exercises. It lets you not only develop a plan but also, and perhaps more importantly, have the means and method to push yourself toward achieving your goals. This book contains the message that life is about taking chances and will absolutely help you take the first steps toward a better existence.

 

A man stands on a rock casting his hand into the darkness

Image via amazon

3. Turning Dreams into Reality by Yuval Tabib

Turning Dreams Into Reality by Yuval Tabib is based on experiences of the author and how Tabib made their dreams ‘truly’ come true. It’s hard work, but this book has a lot of answers that will make your existential problem-solving a more enjoyable experience. Drawing on theories from physics and Quantum Theory, this book has the answers to make you bend the world around you rather than let it control your life. Though actually achieving your dreams is certainly never an easy feat, purchasing this book certainly will be! Go out and go for it.

 

Paper origami birds fly off into the sky

Image via Amazon 

2. Life Admin by Elizabeth Emes 

Life Admin by Elizabeth Emes is about managing one’s life and keeping precious moments from slipping by. The author, Elizabeth Emes, is a working mother with two children who realizes one day that her life is being overwhelmed by all that she has to do. In a moment of epiphany, it dawns on her that she needs to take better control of her own time, and so she offers all her struggling readers tips of how she learned to manage it. This book explores labor and how it chokes our lives while also showing us how to reduce labor… or at least reduce its negative impact on our lives.

 

A laughing woman being happy

Image via Amazon

1. Own your Everyday by Jordan Lee Dooley

Own Your Everyday by Jordan Lee Dooley is about sharing her life experiences. She’s accidentally started a small business; embarrassed herself onstage during talks; and, like most of us, has wasted time caught up in her own anxiety. She’s had a broad range of life experiences, both good and bad, and she’s become an inspiration to young people (especially women) the world over. Now, she shares tips for overcoming obstacles and redefining success, all based on concrete stories of her own experiences.

 

 

 

Featured Image Via Amazon.

Clocks

5 Books to Remind You It’s Never Too Late

It’s easy to forget that time isn’t running out. It’s passing, obviously, but that really isn’t the same thing. There’s a long list of things we collectively think time is running out to accomplish—love, success, meaning.  This month, we’ve selected five books to remind you that you’re fully capable of challenging yourself in ways you have never been challenged (That’s the good kind of challenge, by the way. The personal development kind. It’s not the kind of challenge where you try and see how much frozen pizza you can eat without literally dying, which is to say, more than would be helpful. Spoken from experience.)  Whether their dream was professional, personal, or more abstract (think ‘to touch the lives of others’), these authors will remind you that happiness doesn’t come with a time limit.

Here are five new and upcoming releases to remind you that it’s not too late (yes, not even now).

 

1. Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory

'Let Your Mind Run' Deena Kastor

 

From an Olympic medalist runner and the record-holder in the women’s marathon and half-marathon, a vividly inspirational memoir on using positive psychology and brain science to achieve unparalleled athletic success 

The day Deena Kastor became a truly elite runner was the day she realized that she had to ignore her talent–it had taken her so far, but only conquering the mental piece could unlock higher levels of achievement. In Let Your Mind Run, the vaunted Olympic medalist and marathon and half-marathon record holder, will reveal how she incorporated the benefits of positive psychology into her already-dedicated running practice, setting her on a course to conquer women’s distance running. Blending both narrative running insights and deep-dive brain science, this book will appeal to and motivate steadfast athletes, determined runners, and tough-as-nails coaches, and beyond.
This memoir, written by perhaps the most famous American woman active in the competitive world of distance running, will appeal to the pragmatic athletic population, and jointly to fans of engaging sports narratives, inspirational memoirs, and uplifiting biographies.

 

2. Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Loneliest Horse Race

 

'Rough Magic' Lara Prior Palmer

 

For fans of Helen Macdonald’s H Is for Hawk, this is the extraordinary debut memoir of a young woman who traveled to Mongolia to compete in the world’s longest, toughest horse race, and emerged as its youngest and first-ever female winner.

At the age of nineteen, Lara Prior-Palmer discovered a website devoted to “the world’s longest, toughest horse race”—an annual competition of endurance and skill that involves dozens of riders racing a series of twenty-five wild ponies across 1,000 kilometers of Mongolian grassland. On a whim, she decided to enter the race. As she boarded a plane to East Asia, she was utterly unprepared for what awaited her.

Riders often spend years preparing to compete in the Mongol Derby, a course that recreates the horse messenger system developed by Genghis Khan, and many fail to finish. Prior-Palmer had no formal training. She was driven by her own restlessness, stubbornness, and a lifelong love of horses. She raced for ten days through extreme heat and terrifying storms, catching a few hours of sleep where she could at the homes of nomadic families.

Battling bouts of illness and dehydration, exhaustion and bruising falls, she decided she had nothing to lose. Each dawn she rode out again on a fresh horse, scrambling up mountains, swimming through rivers, crossing woodlands and wetlands, arid dunes and open steppe, as American television crews chased her in their Jeeps.

Told with terrific suspense and style, in a voice full of poetry and soul, Rough Magic captures the extraordinary story of one young woman who forged ahead, against all odds, to become the first female winner of this breathtaking race.

 

3. I Miss You When You Blink: Essays

 

'I Miss You When You Blink' Mary Laura Philpott

 

Acclaimed essayist and bookseller Mary Laura Philpott presents a charmingly relatable and wise memoir-in-essays about what happened after she checked off all the boxes on her successful life’s to-do list and realized she might need to reinvent the list—and herself. 

Mary Laura Philpott thought she’d cracked the code: Always be right, and you’ll always be happy.

But once she’d completed her life’s to-do list (job, spouse, house, babies—check!), she found that instead of feeling content and successful, she felt anxious. Lost. Stuck in a daily grind of overflowing calendars, grueling small talk, and sprawling traffic. She’d done everything “right,” but she felt all wrong. What’s the worse failure, she wondered: smiling and staying the course, or blowing it all up and running away? And are those the only options?

In this memoir-in-essays full of spot-on observations about home, work, and creative life, Philpott takes on the conflicting pressures of modern adulthood with wit and heart. She offers up her own stories to show that identity crises don’t happen just once or only at midlife; reassures us that small, recurring personal re-inventions are both normal and necessary; and advises that if you’re going to faint, you should get low to the ground first. Most of all, Philpott shows that when you stop feeling satisfied with your life, you don’t have to burn it all down and set off on a transcontinental hike (unless you want to, of course). You can call upon your many selves to figure out who you are, who you’re not, and where you belong. Who among us isn’t trying to do that?

Like a pep talk from a sister, I Miss You When I Blink is the funny, poignant, and deeply affecting book you’ll want to share with all your friends, as you learn what Philpott has figured out along the way: that multiple things can be true of us at once—and that sometimes doing things wrong is the way to do life right.

 

4. Save Me The Plums: My Gourmet Memoir

 

'Save Me the Plums' Ruth Reichl

 

Trailblazing food writer and beloved restaurant critic Ruth Reichl took the risk (and the job) of a lifetime when she entered the glamorous, high-stakes world of magazine publishing. Now, for the first time, she chronicles her groundbreaking tenure as editor in chief of Gourmet, during which she spearheaded a revolution in the way we think about food.

When Condé Nast offered Ruth Reichl the top position at America’s oldest epicurean magazine, she declined. She was a writer, not a manager, and had no inclination to be anyone’s boss. And yet . . . Reichl had been reading Gourmet since she was eight; it had inspired her career. How could she say no?

This is the story of a former Berkeley hippie entering the corporate world and worrying about losing her soul. It is the story of the moment restaurants became an important part of popular culture, a time when the rise of the farm-to-table movement changed, forever, the way we eat. Readers will meet legendary chefs like David Chang and Eric Ripert, idiosyncratic writers like David Foster Wallace, and a colorful group of editors and art directors who, under Reichl’s leadership, transformed stately Gourmet into a cutting-edge publication. This was the golden age of print media–the last spendthrift gasp before the Internet turned the magazine world upside down.

Complete with recipes, Save Me the Plums is a personal journey of a woman coming to terms with being in charge and making a mark, following a passion and holding on to her dreams–even when she ends up in a place she never expected to be.

 

5. The Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story

 

'A Nurse's Story' Christie Watson

 

A moving, lyrical, beautifully-written portrait of a nurse and the lives she has touched.

Christie Watson spent twenty years as a nurse, and in this intimate, poignant, and remarkably powerful book, she opens the doors of the hospital and shares its secrets. She takes us by her side down hospital corridors to visit the wards and meet her unforgettable patients.

In the neonatal unit, premature babies fight for their lives, hovering at the very edge of survival, like tiny Emmanuel, wrapped up in a sandwich bag. On the cancer wards, the nurses administer chemotherapy and, long after the medicine stops working, something more important–which Watson learns to recognize when her own father is dying of cancer. In the pediatric intensive care unit, the nurses wash the hair of a little girl to remove the smell of smoke from the house fire. The emergency room is overcrowded as ever, with waves of alcohol and drug addicted patients as well as patients like Betty, a widow suffering chest pain, frail and alone. And the stories of the geriatric ward–Gladys and older patients like her–show the plight of the most vulnerable members of our society.

Through the smallest of actions, nurses provide vital care and kindness. All of us will experience illness in our lifetime, and we will all depend on the support and dignity that nurses offer us; yet the women and men who form the vanguard of our health care remain unsung. In this age of fear, hate, and division, Christie Watson has written a book that reminds us of all that we share, and of the urgency of compassion.

 

All In-text Images Via Amazon.

Featured Image Via Bustle.