Strangers to Ourselves

Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us

Strangers to Ourselves asks questions about how we name and respond to people with “unsettled” minds. Starting with the author’s own diagnosis and treatment—a hospital stay for anorexia when she was only six—Aviv tells the stories of five people’s difficult passages through mental health care: an American business man who sues his caretakers for malpractice; an Indian woman alternately seen as an embarrassment or a saint; a Black woman whose experience with racism is invalidated by the system; a wealthy white woman on a cacophony of drugs. And a young woman who Aviv meets when they are both hospitalized, but whose life diverges sharply from her own. The book troubles each of these stories, which don’t fit neatly into any tale of illness and recovery. What emerges is a deeply felt sense that our approach to caring for people’s minds is at best a two-dimensional take on a three-dimensional world. It’s not enough.