November 22, 2022
Today I talked to Elissa Bassist about her memoir Hysterical: A Memoir (Hachette, 2022)
For two years author Elissa Bassist saw over twenty medical specialists for pain that none of them managed to diagnose or resolve. Some of their treatments led to other medical problems but never relief. Then an acupuncturist suggested that she simply needed to take control of her voice, and Bassist was shocked when it worked. How, as far as we think we’ve come, is it still the case that a girl born in 1984 could have so much in common with generations of women who were expected to be silent, to "get along," to accept whatever was happening even when their souls ached, their heads pounded, and their bodies withered? Bassist was accused of "being dramatic" when she experienced pain and "inappropriate" when she expressed her sadness or suffering. She said “yes,” when she meant, “no,” and accepted others’ opinions that she was too emotional, too loud, or too aggressive. In her justifiably angry voice, the one she had to take control of, Bassist shares her personal journey from broken and bleeding, scared and lonely, to acerbically funny and quick to call out nonsense. She’s straightforward and unashamed in sharing the moments she’s least proud of and the times she’d rather forget, because now she wants to teach other women that it’s okay to "look bad" in service of unmuting their own voices.
Elissa Bassist is the editor of the “Funny Women” column on The Rumpus and the author of the award-deserving memoir Hysterical. As a founding contributor to The Rumpus, she’s written cultural and personal criticism since the website launched in 2009. She also teaches humor writing at The New School, Catapult, 92NY, Lighthouse Writers Workshop, and elsewhere, and she is probably her therapist’s favorite. Bassist lives in Brooklyn with her dog Benny, a very good boy, and when not writing or reading or teaching, she watches horror movies, rides roller coasters, and does light witchcraft.