Things That Helped (Jessica Friedmann, Scribe)
Canberra-based writer Jessica Friedmann makes an impressive debut with her essay collection Things That Helped. Having lived with depression her entire life, Friedmann has learnt to find comfort in cherished ‘things’. Each essay focusses on a different thing that has helped, such as a ballet film, a song and a painting. Parallels can be drawn with Ruth Quibell’s essay collection The Promise of Things, which also wove memoir and critical theory into her history of ‘things’. Quibell’s book, however, stopped short of revealing too much about her psychological state while Friedmann is deeply intimate with her reader. In Friedmann’s essays, the personal is very much political. Friedmann views the world through a lens of intersectionality, and she has a sharp eye for how gender, race and class shapes the family unit. She cleverly weaves eco-feminist and psychoanalytic theory into her memoir without alienating readers who are unfamiliar with these fields. Her language is deeply visceral, and therefore hugely affecting, when describing the feeling of pregnancy, motherhood and mental illness. Like Fiona Wright in her memoir about hunger, Small Acts of Disappearance, Friedmann doesn’t offer a conventional recovery narrative, but by experimenting with language and melding personal story and theory, Friedmann’s book makes readers feel and think.
Emily Laidlaw is a writer and editor