Description

Writer Elissa Bassist shares her journey to reclaim her authentic voice in a culture that doesn't listen to women in this medical mystery, cultural criticism, and rallying cry.

Between 2016 and 2018, Elissa Bassist saw over twenty medical professionals for a variety of mysterious ailments. Bassist had what millions of American women had: pain that didn’t make sense to doctors, a body that didn’t make sense to science, a psyche that didn’t make sense to mankind. But then an acupuncturist suggested some of her physical pain could be caged fury finding expression, and that treating her voice would treat the problem. It did.

Growing up, Bassist's family, boyfriends, school, work, and television had the same expectation for a woman’s voice: less is more. She was called dramatic and insane for speaking her mind; she was accused of overreacting and playing victim for having unexplained physical pain; she was ignored or rebuked like women throughout history for using her voice “inappropriately” by expressing sadness or suffering or anger or joy.  

Because of this, she said “yes” when she meant “no”; she didn’t tweet #MeToo; and she never spoke without fear of being "too emotional." So, she felt rage, but like a good woman, repressed it. In Hysterical, Bassist explains how girls and women internalize and perpetuate directives about their voice, making it hard to emote or “just speak up” and “burn down the patriarchy.” But her silence hurt more than anything she could ever say. Hysterical is a memoir of a voice lost and found, and a primer on new ways to think about a woman’s voice, where it’s being squashed and where it needs amplification. Bassist breaks her own silences and calls on others to do the same—to unmute their voice, listen to it above all others, and use it again without regret.

What's Inside

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Praise

Hysterical is staggeringly good. I am speechless, which as a reader, is a rare thing for me. I really just have a bunch of blubbering accolades to shower on Elissa. This is one of the most intelligent, painful, ridiculous, awesome, relevant things I've ever read. I am impressed.”
 —Roxane Gay
"In her dazzling memoir, Elissa Bassist cuts right to the heart and delivers an intimate, unexpected, funny, and original yet universal story about voice and silence and illness. Hysterical is an impressive debut. Elissa Bassist wrote it like a motherfucker."—Cheryl Strayed
“Funny and furious and sharp and bursting with everything we’re urged to hold inside, Elissa Bassist’s Hysterical is a god damn delight.”—Rebecca Traister
“I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE Elissa's writing. That was five loves....Quite a special, strong, funny voice."—Joey Soloway, creator/writer/director/Emmy-award winner of Transparent
"One of the qualities I appreciated most about Hysterical is the way the author subtly and gracefully links her deeply personal life story to compelling questions about women’s sexuality, literature, history. We never notice her doing the connecting; the larger themes and analysis are seamlessly woven into the intimate story. She makes us think and care about not simply what happened to her, but about women’s bodies, our continued detachment from our own desire, our own complicity in the culture of sexual violence…This artful, moving work of creative nonfiction transcends the self, while keeping us rooted in the most intimate of stories.”
 —Danzy Senna, bestselling author of Caucasia and judge of the New School Chapbook Competition
"Disruptive, tender, and beautiful, this book is a reversal of women’s apologies and a demand for more."—Library Journal Starred Review

"A sharp examination of life in “a culture where men speak and women shut up"... [Bassist's] memoir stands as proof of an arduous process of healing. A fiery cultural critique."

Kirkus Review
"Bassist's resounding voice will echo in readers' heads long after they have finished the book. This book a reckoning with an unjust power system that hurts everyone."—Booklist
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