Books for Big Brains: Jessica Friedman’s Things That Helped

Every so often the Big Brains Boss, Bri Lee, is sent a new book that’s written by, or about, women. We’ve decided to take advantage of this by publishing short, succinct reviews that give you the lowdown on the quality content found within each book’s pages. These reviews will form part of an ongoing series: Books for Big Brains.

How could it get any better, you ask? Well, we want to send YOU the books for FREE. If you’d like to be among the first to get your hands on the latest publications, all you have to do is provide us with your opinion on the book you’re sent in the form of a 200-300 word review. Sound like a sweet deal? Get in touch with us!

This review of Jessica Friedman’s Things That Helped is brought to you by beautiful and brilliant Issue #2 contributor, Grace McCarter. Issue #2 is now SOLD OUT, but if you missed the chance to nab yourself a copy, you can read Grace’s gorgeous piece written especially for our blog in the lead-up to the launch here. Want to avoid missing out next time? Pre-order a copy of Hot Chicks with Big Brains Issue #3!

“The baby whacks my kidneys with impatience when I sit at the table at night, trying in vain to capture the spontaneity and basic firmness of those first clear lines. Why bother, the kicks seemed to say, why bother to make anything but me.”

The amount of good books in the world waiting to be read can be overwhelming, and choosing which one is next can feel like a formidable task in the face of that. Sometimes, to be honest, I decide what to read based on what I’m ready to hear.

Jessica Friedman’s feminist, autotheoretical text, Things That Helped (Scribe, 2017) is anything but a conventional recovery narrative. It was a challenge for me, but also an immeasurable relief.

This is a book you want to read in bits over a week or two – one to close at the end of each part so that the essay can roll around in the back of your mind and unfurl steadily in the heat of your thoughts like a bundled chrysanthemum tea flower.

Friedman’s experiences of postpartum depression bind together what Kara Nicholson has perfectly described as ‘a series of captivating digressions’. Each essay takes a topic as its heart: intergenerational trauma, ballet, and critical theory, to name just a few. At times, it feels like Friedman is talking about everything in the book at once; she has a way of weaving the various elements of her subject matter (which, incidentally, include weaving too) so tightly and artfully together that you almost can’t see how they ever would have existed on their own.

I haven’t read a collection of essays that has affected me so since Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things To Me (Haymarket Books, 2014). While I’d recommend this book to almost anyone, I’d particularly recommend it to those who, like me, jumped on the Solnit train and are looking for some more discerning and beautifully executed feminist criticism to get excited about — not that there’s any shortage. It’s incredible to read Friedman engaging with so many voices without having them, even for a minute, drown out her own.

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

RRP: $29.99 (available from Scribe Publications and Avid Reader among others)


Want to review a book for us as part of Books for Big Brains? Get in touch with us by emailing Emma Kate Lewis at emma@hotchickwithbigbrains.com.

Words and Image by Grace McCarter

Intro and Edits by Emma Kate Lewis

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