Rachel Aviv at Harvard Book Store

presents

Strangers to Ourselves:
Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us

in conversation with FRANCESCA MARI

Date

Sep
19
Monday
September 19, 2022
7:00 PM ET

Location

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Tickets

This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes Rachel Aviv, staff writer at The New Yorker, for a discussion of her debut book Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us. She will be joined in conversation by FRANCESCA MARI, contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine.

A Return to In-Person Events

Harvard Book Store is excited to be back to in-person programming. To ensure the safety and comfort of everyone in attendance, the following Covid-19 safety protocols will be in place at all of our Harvard Book Store events until further notice:

  • Face coverings are required of all staff and attendees when inside the store. Masks must snugly cover nose and mouth.

About Strangers to Ourselves

In Strangers to Ourselves, a powerful and gripping debut, Rachel Aviv raises fundamental questions about how we understand ourselves in periods of crisis and distress. Drawing on deep, original reporting as well as unpublished journals and memoirs, Aviv writes about people who have come up against the limits of psychiatric explanations for who they are. She follows an Indian woman, celebrated as a saint, who lives in healing temples in Kerala; an incarcerated mother vying for her children’s forgiveness after recovering from psychosis; a man who devotes his life to seeking revenge upon his psychoanalysts; and an affluent young woman who, after a decade of defining herself through her diagnosis, decides to go off her meds because she doesn’t know who she is without them. Animated by a profound sense of empathy, Aviv’s exploration is refracted through her own account of living in a hospital ward at the age of six and meeting a fellow patient with whom her life runs parallel—until it no longer does.

Aviv asks how the stories we tell about mental disorders shape their course in our lives. Challenging the way we understand and talk about illness, her account is a testament to the porousness and resilience of the mind.

Praise for Strangers to Ourselves

"In this penetrating, landmark book, Rachel Aviv investigates what she calls the 'psychic hinterlands,' drawing on her customary vivid reporting and her own extraordinary personal story to pose unsettling questions about the ways in which we reckon with mental illness by categorizing it, diagnosing it, giving it a name. Threading together the intimate and emotionally shattering stories of a series of very different people who have struggled to live with and to understand their own psychological afflictions, Aviv has created an arresting work of profound empathy and insight." ―Patrick Radden Keefe, author of Say Nothing and Empire of Pain

“Master prose stylist Rachel Aviv quietly explodes our neat narratives as she rescues the radiant meanings of lives formed in extremity, including her own. Breaking away from labels that have the power to create the futures they foretell, her case histories are kaleidoscopic, filled with sudden radiance and uncomfortable discontinuities that in the end, force forward profound questions about what is real. Brilliant.” ―George Makari, MD, author of Of Fear and Strangers: A History of Xenophobia, director of the DeWitt Wallace Institute of Psychiatry, Weill Cornell Medical College

“A groundbreaking, paradigm-shifting exploration of the relationship between diagnosis and identity. This is the kind of book that can make your life flash before your eyes, glittering with new insights and a sense of unguessed possibilities.” ―Elif Batuman, author of Either/Or and The Idiot

Francesca Mari
Francesca Mari

Francesca Mari

Francesca Mari is a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine. She has also written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The New York Review of Books. She is a 2022 National Fellow at New America and a 2023 Radcliffe Fellow.

Rachel Aviv
Rachel Aviv

Rachel Aviv

Rachel Aviv is a staff writer at The New Yorker, where she writes about medicine, education, criminal justice, and other subjects. In 2022, she won a National Magazine Award for Profile Writing. A 2019 national fellow at New America, she received a Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant to support her work on Strangers to Ourselves. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Photo Credit: Rose Lichter-Marck

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.

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