In the introduction to her edited collection, Literatures of Madness, Elizabeth J. Donaldson offers a brief analysis of Shulamith Firestone's often overlooked 1998 Airless Spaces. Donaldson's short incisive reading of Firestone's writing and life is a powerful example of what can be gained by sustained conversation between disability studies, mad studies, and literary studies. Per Donaldson's reading, Firestone's life and writing reject easy thematic summary. Airless Spaces is filled with devastating, deep sadness; yet, it exists as a material object, Donaldson notes, only because of the community of feminist support her friends and colleagues extended around her. Donaldson offers no easy understanding of Firestone's work and life, but instead raises questions about how we as mad scholars, teachers, and activists engage what is left behind.

Literatures of Madness speaks to this complexity by offering no singular way to read mental disability or distress. Across the thirteen essays in the collection, the contributors offer analyses of lesser known texts like Airless Spaces, as well as more canonical disability and mad studies works such as Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. This balance between introducing and rereading makes Literatures of Madness a strong potential basis for graduate and perhaps undergraduate level courses. The book may also be useful for those looking to learn more about applying a mad literary studies approach. Contributors demonstrate multiple ways of "doing" mad studies work in literature — from close reading mad experiences, historicized research, and biographical analysis, to a reframing of fiction as theoretical lenses for later scholarship. Additionally, many of the contributors succeed in making their essays accessible to those who have not read the texts they discuss. Even having not experienced Hannah Weiner's Clairvoyant Journal or Dora García's Hearing Voices Café, I still found Andrew McEwan's reading of them to be engaging and important work. Rather than lean into the urge to skim that many students (and activists and scholars) make when confronted with analyses of texts they do not know, I found myself reading more intently and growing more interested in finding access to Weiner's and García's works. (I believe the exact comment I wrote in the margins was "Clearly I need to find this. This is so good.") Perhaps because so many of the essays were accessible, those that relied on high theory stood out as denser. Gail Berkeley Sherman's analysis of Joanne Greenberg's I Never Promised You a Rose Garden via Levinas's concept of "the face," for instance, took me a bit more time and mental space to work through, but was still compelling.

The collection's diverse understanding of madness and the language used to discuss it made this book an importantly uncomfortable read. The contributors and the texts they discuss do not adhere to one model of what it means to be mad, distressed, or disabled. They vary in their apprehension toward and reliance on psychiatric and medical care. They at turns call out and occasionally employ what other activists might identify as ableist or sanist language. While the contributors disagree with one another about how to discuss mad experience, their analyses altogether agree on using the language that the individual, whether author or fictional character, chooses to discuss their own experiences. This range — and, indeed, the overall refusal of Literatures of Madness to restrict definitions of madness or one avenue of anti-psychiatric or mad activism — speaks to the strengths of Donaldson as an editor and curator of these essays. Notably, Donaldson is thanked and cited in multiple chapters as a gracious steward and scholar who offered guidance and a flexibility that attends to the mad temporality of research.

While Donaldson's collection adds important new analyses and breadth to mad literature, the book also retreads some of the existing and urgent concerns in mad and disability studies and literary studies overall. Specifically, the book is predominantly white, both in its contributors and the texts they engage. Many of the texts analyzed represent North American or European writers and conceptualizations of disability, and while race and colonization are engaged in some of the essays, they are secondary to intersectional analyses of gender, sexuality, and disability. (Notable exceptions to this are Srikanth Mallavarapu's "Resistance, Suffering, and Psychiatric Disability in Jerry Pinto's Em and the Big Hoom and Amandeep Sandhu's Sepia Leaves" and Drew Holladay's "Mental Disability and Social Value in Michelle Cliff's Abeng.") To be true, work on madness, gender, and sexuality remains necessary and much needed. But mad studies and its related disability studies still have much to confront about their inherent and presumed whiteness.

Admittedly, Literatures of Madness does seem at points aware of these concerns, as in Erin Soros's questions about what happens when settler scholars read, analyze, and publish Indigenous work. In her chapter, "Writing Madness in Indigenous Literature: A Hesitation," Soros meditates on the tension between celebrating and reenacting colonial violence in her reading of Stó:lō literature, especially Lee Maracle's Celia's Song. Soros argues that this must be a continual process by settler scholars of learning and a commitment to continuing that process even as we fail. She writes, "Such reading involves stepping away from the professional confidence that comes with one's academic training within settler traditions—leaving "white town"—while also retaining awareness of one's status as an outsider" (85). And indeed, Soros' "Hesitation" is very much a discussion of how she has thoughtfully navigated that process as a settler scholar invested in respectfully and graciously reading Indigenous texts. Yet, because her essay is purposefully more concerned with this coming-to-terms than with analyzing Stó:lō and other Indigenous texts — and because Soros's essay is the only essay engaging Indigenous American and First Nations writers — its presence calls attention to and calls out the very problems it seeks to analyze within Literatures of Madness.

We might generatively read this lack, however, through Soros's own methodology: as a call to continue learning and doing more in our scholarship and teaching of mad studies and mad activism to decenter white settler voices. Literatures of Madness stands as an insightful complement to pivotal mad studies volumes like Brenda A. LeFrançois, Robert Menzies, and Geoffrey Reaume's Mad Matters (2013) and Helen Spandler, Jill Anderson, and Bob Sapey's Madness, Distress and the Politics of Disablement (2015). The collection is a productive addition to our work as mad readers and teachers, and it can only encourage us to continue learning and addressing the rhetorical and material diversity of our madnesses.

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