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- Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of groundbreaking memoirs on addiction and mental health, has died of breast cancer complications. She was 52 years old.
- Her first book “Prozac Nation” was published in 1994 and detailed her personal struggle with depression and the titular medication. It became a New York Times best-seller.
- Wurtzel’s work was controversial, but helped revolutionize the memoir genre and make room for non-celebrities to share personal stories and raise awareness of mental health issues.
- Celebrities and fans are mourning her loss, and honoring the impact she made on society and their personal lives.
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Author of the groundbreaking memoir “Prozac Nation” Elizabeth Wurtzel died Thursday at age 52 of complications related to breast cancer.
Her work was a catalyst for inspiring new generations of memoirists, particularly those writing about mental health and addiction, according to the Washington Post.
Wurtzel’s first book, “Prozac Nation,” received mixed reviews when it was published in 1994. The New Year Times called her work “melodramatic,” but also compared her to Joan Didion and Sylvia Plath for delving into the “raw candor” of her emotional life. The book later became an enduring best-seller, even prompting a film adaptation starring Christina Ricci.
Later, Wurtzel wrote “Bitch” in 1998 and another memoir “More, Now, Again” in 2002.
She announced she had breast cancer in 2015 and underwent a double mastectomy, according to the Post. The cancer more recently metastasized to her brain and spread to the cerebrospinal fluid.
Following news of her passing, celebrities and fans alike took to social media to express the impact her work had on their lives, work, and understanding of the world.
“…she was kind and generous and filled spaces that might have otherwise been lonely with her warmth and humor and idiosyncratic voice. She gave a lot to a lot of us,” wrote journalist Ronan Farrow on Twitter.
I met Lizzie in law school. She started mid-career as I was starting young. We were both misfits and she was kind and generous and filled spaces that might have otherwise been lonely with her warmth and humor and idiosyncratic voice. She gave a lot to a lot of us. I miss her. https://t.co/nn4uY77rJO
— Ronan Farrow (@RonanFarrow) January 7, 2020
Amanda Mull, staff writer at the Atlantic, posted that Wurtzel’s books were “incredibly formative” to Mull at an early age.
Incredibly sad. Bitch and Prozac Nation were incredibly formative to me as a young writer. I remember reading about Elizabeth in a magazine and having my mom take me to the local bookstore to order them when I was like 14. https://t.co/xfEtwIB60q
— Amanda Mull (@amandamull) January 7, 2020
Others noted how Wurtzel was criticized for her honesty and refusal to apologize for writing about her experiences, which particularly appealed to other young women of Generation X and beyond.
It's impossible to convey the impact Elizabeth Wurtzel had in the '90s. She was unapologetic, raw, honest. She stood for a very specific form of GenX femininity, confession, rage.
We learned from her—and from how intensely she was mocked for writing about her own life. pic.twitter.com/1KAViZL503
— Erin Blakemore (@heroinebook) January 7, 2020
Wurtzel herself was frank about her polarizing impact on the literary and cultural world, and on the struggles of memoir and self-help in the age of social media.
“I have always made choices without considering the consequences, because I know all I get is now. Maybe I get later, too, but I will deal with that later,” she wrote in 2013. “I choose pleasure over what is practical. I may be the only person who ever went to law school on a lark. And I wonder what I was thinking about with all those other larks, my beautiful larks, larks flying away.”