We’re thrilled to share that our May Book Club selection is Alysia Sawchyn’s debut essay collection A Fish Growing Lungs, forthcoming from Burrow Press on June 9, but available to Rumpus Book Club members in just a few weeks!
At age eighteen Alysia Sawchyn was diagnosed with bipolar I. Seven years later she learned she had been misdiagnosed. A Fish Growing Lungs takes the form of linked essays that reflect on Sawchyn’s diagnosis and its unraveling, the process of withdrawal and recovery, and the search for identity as she emerges from a difficult past into a cautiously hopeful present.
Sawchyn captures the precariousness of life under the watchful eye of doctors, friends, and family, in which saying or doing the wrong thing could lead to involuntary confinement. This scrutiny is compounded by the stigmas of mental illness and the societal expectations placed on the bodies of women and women of color. And yet, amid juggling medications, doubting her diagnosis, and struggling with addiction and cutting, there is also joy, friendship, love, and Slayer concerts. Drawing from life experience, literature, music, medical journals, films, and recovery communities, each essay illuminates the richness of self-knowledge that comes from the act of writing itself.
“In this probing and emotionally intelligent book, Alysia Sawchyn uses all the tools in an essayist’s belt to reject the easy binaries we see in many personal narratives: wellness/disorder, injury/recovery, or past/future. A Fish Growing Lungs works instead to show how the majority of living occurs in grayer spaces where multiple modes of being are not just possible; they are inevitable.” – Elena Passarello, author of Animals Strike Curious Poses
“It’s when Sawchyn plays with form that her narrative voice is strongest; an index of mental illness–related terms seesaws in tone between playful and weighty, while, in a series of fragments, Sawchyn recounts drug use in language verging on, but never succumbing to, addiction clichés… a refreshingly open-ended collection that provides a model of how essay writing can be used for self-exploration.” – Publishers Weekly
Subscribe to the Rumpus Book Club by April 15 to join us in reading A Fish Growing Lungs, culminating in an exclusive online discussion with author Alysia Sawchyn about the collection!