Recent Work By Julia Goldberg

PhotoMarinSardy4In the aftermath of Robin Williams’ suicide, a plethora of articles and blogs have been published on the topic of mental illness and depression. As a writer whose work often directly or indirectly addresses mental illness, do you think this sort of mass response is helpful?

In some ways, yes, absolutely, the mass response is very helpful. The cultural silence around mental illness, without a doubt, made my experience as a child of someone with schizophrenia far worse than it needed to be. I had no one to talk to about it and no vocabulary for it even, and so that silence stunted my ability to even do my own thinking about it. In a culture without open conversation around mental illness, I was cut off from social support that could have helped enormously. So I’m pretty much glad across the board whenever anyone is openly discussing it. But with this I’ve also been glad that most of it seems to be aimed at educating people and fighting stigma.

I first read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale in the late 1980s when I was in high school. It alarmed me on the first reading, scared me on the second, and, as I continued to re-read it over and over again that year, made me downright paranoid. It was, after all, the ‘80s and, while the religious right wasn’t born that decade, it had become significantly more high profile during the Reagan years. As a teenager reading The Handmaid’s Tale, the notion of a society taken over by fundamentalists who categorically stripped all of women’s rights did not seem hard to imagine.