There is a great tradition of mental illness in fiction. The most memorable book on this topic is Charlotte Brontë’s, Jane Eyre. Since the first publication of Brontë’s classic novel in 1847, our understanding of mental health has changed, considerably. Women who have a mental health problem are not locked away in attics, or spoken about by other people with fear or contempt, in third person narrative. No longer is mental illness seen as a disease, curse or punishment.
Contemporary women have a voice, to tell their own stories. Stories that are honest, real and absorbing. I am an author who has written a romance book that delves into the subject of mental illness. My debut novel is called UnShatter Me. It was published by US Publisher, UrbanEdge in August 2015. UnShatter Me tells the riveting story of nineteen year old Alena Pavlis, a college student who is trying to heal from a traumatic childhood experience. The novel explores her deep-rooted issues, the challenges she faces with PTSD and the problems she has in her relationship with boyfriend and fellow student, Phillip Gregson. The book shows Alena’s momentous journey to recovery and how she tackles her past demons. It is a raw, gutsy story with a strong romantic thread running throughout.
Some people say I am brave for writing this type of book. I say, I am doing my part to raise awareness of a very important subject, that can sometimes be misrepresented in the media and press. In the literary world, authors have an opportunity to tell the true story of their hero or heroine, without negative stereotypes being played up or emphasised. We, as authors, give those with mental illness a real voice and platform to share their stories and experiences.
So far, I have read one book on mental illness that I found immensely compelling. This book is Prozac Nation, by Elizabeth Wurtzel. Prozac Nation is a really good read and I highly recommend it. Reading this book helped me to understand what having a serious mental health problem actually felt like. I got so deep into the psyche of the female protagonist and was so connected to her. As an aloof nineteen year old undergrad reading this book, I could totally relate to what the lead character was saying.
These are the five books on mental health that I would like to read this year:
1) She’s Come Undone, by Wally Lamb
2) Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength, by Chanequa Walker-Barnes
3) Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf; Maureen Howard
4) I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, by Joanne Greenberg
5) Girl, Interrupted, by Susanna Kaysen
It is important that authors like myself write books on mental health and mental illness, to raise awareness in today’s society and to allow those who do not ordinarily get a chance to speak, to do just that.
Here are my links if you want to know more about me:
My website: http://www.michelledianalowe.com
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/MichelleDianaLowe
Twitter Page: @michelle_d_lowe
My debut novel, UnShatter Me