Rachel Aviv’s “Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us”

September 16, 2022

Subscribe on Podcasts | Spotify | SoundCloud

Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher are joined by New Yorker staff writer Rachel Aviv to discuss her first book, Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us. The book collects the stories of people whose mental health crises subvert our usual understanding of diagnosis, treatment, and healing. It begins with Aviv herself, who was hospitalized at the age of six for anorexia, before she even knew the term for her illness. Each chapter is then dedicated to a different person: Bapu, an Indian Brahmin woman, who shortly after giving birth dedicates herself to religious asceticism and mysticism; Naomi, a Black woman, who in her psychosis, despairs of the very real racism and generational oppression that surrounds her; and Ray Osheroff and Laura Delano whose chapters both show the ways in which psychiatry is still grappling with medication and biology. Aviv explores how mental illness can defy psychiatric explanation, requiring a broader view of the economic, social and lived realities of the people who experience it.

Also, Raquel Gutierrez, author of Brown Neon, returns to recommend Dog Flowers by Danielle Geller.