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About the Book

Diagnosed with severe anxiety, PTSD, and OCD in her early twenties, Sarah Fawn Montgomery spent the next ten years seeking treatment and the language with which to describe the indescribable consequences of her mental illness. Faced with disbelief, intolerable side effects, and unexpected changes in her mental health as a result of treatment, Montgomery turned to American history and her own personal history—including her turbulent childhood and the violence she faced as a young woman—to make sense of the experience.

Blending memoir with literary journalism, Montgomery’s Quite Mad: An American Pharma Memoir examines America’s history of mental illness treatment—lobotomies to sterilization, the rest cure to Prozac—to challenge contemporary narratives about mental health. Questioning what it means to be a woman with highly stigmatized disorders, Montgomery also asks why mental illness continues to escalate in the United States despite so many "cures." Investigating the construction of mental illness as a "female" malady, Montgomery exposes the ways current attitudes towards women and their bodies influence madness as well as the ways madness has transformed to a chronic condition in our cultural imagination. Montgomery’s Quite Mad is one woman’s story, but it offers a beacon of hope and truth for the millions of individuals living with mental illness and issues a warning about the danger of diagnosis and the complex definition of sanity.


"An important and incredible debut work of nonfiction, a powerful consideration of our collective thinking about mental health, and a heartfelt unflinching memoir of her own personal fight against misunderstanding and overmedication."

— Steven Church, author of I’m Just Getting to the Disturbing Part

"Sarah Fawn Montgomery’s Quite Mad is a brilliant, kinetic story of living with anxiety disorder. She captures both her inner struggles and her outer ones, taking control of both herself and the clinicians who put patient needs last. An essential book."

— Susanne Paola Antonetta, author of A Mind Apart

"Quite Mad is the wakeup call that we need."

— The Paris Review

"Exemplifies a nuanced approach to life with mental illness."

— The Atlantic

"A wrenching account of a difficult upbringing and a chaotic brain that will leave readers marveling at the author's endurance . . . The author offers a gripping picture of the real pain and suffering of someone diagnosed with chronic mental illness."

— Kirkus Reviews

"Quite Mad, Sarah Fawn Montgomery’s mental illness memoir, is nothing short of mesmerizing—an ode to her years of struggling with anxiety, OCD, and PTSD, all of which she eventually accepted as a core part of her being . . . Nevertheless, the book contains quiet triumphs and self-discovery, shining with unyielding grace and humor. Montgomery’s writing is eloquent, making no attempt to mask her pain. She cites medical studies but also keeps things personal; the result is a stellar work of literary journalism."

— Foreword Reviews

"Instead of triumph, she offers a reprieve whose narrative designs feel . . . somehow closer to life."

— Brevity

"The dual identity of symptoms and personality is the crux of Montgomery’s book—a compassionate and intense investigation into the history of mental health and pharmaceuticals, all braided together in the personal memoir of the author." — Bellingham Review

"One hopes more books like Quite Mad will find a way through language to describe the visceral, hellish, hopeful, and even 'glittering' possibilities of mental illness that too many in this country still bear in isolated silence and shame." — Hippocampus

"Quite Mad is at once a well-organized history of mental illness, especially with regard to women, an examination of the role of the illness narrative, and a fascinating memoir of a woman’s struggle."

 Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine

"Taking my hand and leading me past the anxiety, Montgomery’s beautiful, lyrical writing kept pulling me in. And therein lies the magic of Quite Mad. The narrative, often uncomfortable, draws the reader in through Montgomery’s beautifully crafted writing."

— Punctuate

"Interspersed with this personal story is a fascinating look at the history of mental illness, with its categories and cures, and the ways that each era creates its own notions of health and illness, along with its own cures—from the rest cure to lobotomies to, in the last half of the twentieth century, the psychotropic medications that Montgomery found herself wrestling with."

— New Pages

"Should be read by everyone, not just those with mental illnesses."

— Sweet

“Montgomery shows us a path forward to not only destigmatizing mental illness but living with it.”


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