A Fish Growing Lungs: Essays

Alysia Li-Ying Sawchyn. urrow, $16 trade paper (170p) ISBN 978-1-941681-66-4
Rumpus editor Sawchyn probes how personal struggles shape identity in her insightful debut. In linked essays, she untangles her diagnosis with bipolar I at age 18—a diagnosis she discovered seven years later was false. This misdiagnosis drives the book’s narrative, with Sawchyn trying to figure out how to recover from a disorder that never was, while balancing very real tribulations, including addiction and deeply dysfunctional relationships. 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. In explaining that she considered fabricating outlandish stories to explain away scars from cutting, she writes that “what these stories have in common, of course, is that I am not the subject in the story who is responsible for the damage. I am the object, the body that is acted upon.” At this and other points, Sawchyn considers the act of telling stories about oneself and how this process can be misleading. The result is a refreshingly open-ended collection that provides a model of how essay writing can be used for self-exploration. (June)
Reviewed on : 02/19/2020
Release date: 06/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 164 pages - 978-1-941681-14-5
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