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The art of anxiety: an analysis of female anxiety memoirs

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posted on 2021-05-22, 10:11 authored by Emily M. Varsava

[Introduction]: "While the objective well-being of women as measured by career achievement and reproductive rights has increased over the past 35 years, women’s anxiety levels continue to rise.Today, women are twice as likely as men to be anxious or depressed (World Health Organization 2020). Antonella Santuccione Chadha, co-founder and CEO of the Women’s Brain Project, suggests that this anxiety may be linked to women’s traditional roles as caregivers (“What’s Driving the Female Anxiety Epidemic?”), which places a burden on them to constantly perform and achieve success in both private and public spheres. While women’s anxiety has been studied from a health perspective, there is less known about how women cope with anxiety through writing memoir. My essay will analyze three memoirs to understand how memoir writing can help alleviate anxiety and delve into the factors that cause anxiety in the first place; specifically, I examine how personal writings about anxiety can help other women deal with their own anxiety. On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety by Andrea Petersen (2017) is a memoir fueled byjournalistic reportage and research in psychology, that provides insight into why women’s anxiety is rising. Her memoir provides insight into the pressures placed upon women to be perfect. First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety by Sarah Wilson (2017) provides potential solutions to the problems presented by Petersen. Wilson encourages women to reject perfectionism to focus on a personal sense of growth by working with anxiety, not against the illness. Lastly, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson (2015) offers an upbeat and humorous perspective on contemporary notions of success and anxiety. Lawson rejects perfectionism and urges her readers to embrace their imperfections.She accepts who she is, quirks and all. Although different in style, all three memoirs are written by women who, in their own way, has felt burdened by the expectation to achieve more."





Master of Arts


Literatures of Modernity

Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type


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