The opening of Life of the Mind Interrupted: Essays on Mental Health and Disability in Higher Education (Raven Books) says, “This is a book about mental illness and academia. But this is also a book about so much more than that: it’s about grief and friendship, and collegiality, and accessibility, and tragedy.” Never has an opening line encapsulated a book so perfectly.
Katie Rose Pryal’s book was eye-opening. She has included a handy guide to vocabulary and as someone who is “normate,” many of the experiences detailed in Pryal’s essays were not anything I’d ever experienced firsthand.
The words in Pryal’s collection will echo in my memory for a long time. Particularly, the essay on “ostriching” and talking around other people’s pain, or pretending it doesn’t exist. Pryal’s words about speaking plainly in the face of tragedy hit home. In the face of tragedy, people don’t know what to say, so they often choose to say nothing. That ‘nothing’ is isolating and lonely and makes the person suffering feel invisible.
Pryal writes with a refreshing and raw honesty. She gently reminds us that a truly compassionate and caring society does not come about by simply clearing the lowest legal bar set in both academia and industry. That disabled persons, particularly those with invisible disabilities such as mental illnesses, need more than the lip service so often delivered in an attempt to be “inclusive.” That real inclusivity is listening, understanding, and sometimes feels uncomfortable or difficult.
Pryal encourages all of us to rethink our views on mental health, stereotypes, and what accessibility truly means. The essays enclosed in this book expose prejudice and lack of awareness regarding mental health and disability. She draws on her own experience, extensive reading and studies on mental health, and essays written by others to illustrate her points.
One of my favorite quotes from the book is as follows: “The mountains of paperwork institutions require before granting any sort of accommodations are a manifestation of deep suspicion of disabled people.” As a professional in a competitive industry (pharmaceuticals), I can attest to the validity of this.
The advice and practical information given in Life of the Mind Interrupted makes this book a must read, not just for those in academia.
Life of the Mind Interrupted is now available for purchase.
About Katie Rose Pryal
Katie is a novelist and essayist in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She is the author of the Hollywood Lights Series, which includes the #1 Amazon bestselling Entanglement (2015), Love and Entropy (2015), Chasing Chaos (2016), How to Stay (2017), and Fallout Girl (2018), all from Blue Crow Books. With Raven Books, she is the author of Life of the Mind Interrupted: Essays on Mental Health and Disability in Higher Education (2017).
Katie is a columnist for Catapult and Women in Higher Education, and she is the founder and co-editor-in-chief of Disability Acts magazine (disabilityacts.com). She also contributes to The Establishment, The Chronicle of Higher Education and other national venues. She earned her master’s degree in creative writing from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins, where she attended on a fellowship. Katie has published many books on writing, including How Writing Works with Oxford University Press. A professor of writing for more than a decade, she now works as a writing coach and developmental editor when she’s not writing her next book.