Mexican American writer and National Book Award finalist Erika L. Sánchez is “almost certain” that if she hadn’t had an abortion years ago, she would have taken her own life. “I just couldn’t go on,” she said. “Abortion was a life-saving measure. It doesn’t have to be that extreme, but for a lot of people it is.”
When Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court last month eliminating the constitutional right to abortion, the ‘I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter’ author told USA TODAY it made her physically ill, c was a “really difficult”. blow.” In Sánchez’s new memoir in the essays “Crying in the Bathroom” (Viking, 256 pp., forthcoming Tuesday), she details the difficult experience and how pregnancy, coupled with debilitating depression, left her made suicidal.
“I will never claim that my abortion was easy. It was, without a doubt, the worst experience of my life,” she wrote. But she would start again: “I believe that the procedure saved me.
Sánchez says this political moment is “very triggering,” but hopes that by sharing her experience, people will talk more about what it really means for a woman’s right to choose.
“I just think of all the women who are going to suffer (and) have children they don’t want to have, who are probably going to be stuck in a cycle of poverty because of the government. It’s really terrifying to think about, ” she says.
Abortions don’t have to be traumatic. But the annulment of Roe v. Wade could make it so.
In “Crying in the Bathroom”, Sánchez writes for ambitious, crude and wandering women like her who choose to live their lives on their own terms. She writes about exploring her sexuality, leaving little to the imagination as she describes her adventures during her “bitch year” and “The year my vagina broke”. But it also addresses depression, spirituality, family ties and feminism.
Sánchez’s essays also deal with the mess of being alive. Specifically, to exist in American society as a woman of color, growing up in a home of working-class Mexican immigrants thinking she “didn’t matter, that nobody cared what I had to say,” she wrote.
“Crying in the Bathroom” is her third book, following the poetry collection “Lessons on Expulsion” and the 2017 hit “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter,” which follows a teenage girl grieving after losing her sister and breaking up. with the pressures and expectations of growing up in a Mexican-American home. Her novel is being adapted into a Netflix movie directed by America Ferrera. The screenplay, which “really moved” Sánchez, is co-written by Linda Yvette Chávez (“Gentefied”).
“Every book I write is harder than the last because I have a lot of expectations of myself and want to create something totally new and different, and I care so much about the art of writing,” Sánchez says on whether writing poetry, fiction, or non-fiction is more difficult. “They all wore me out in one form or another, and each genre has its charms. This last one was particularly painful to write.”
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After her poetry collection and novel were published, Sánchez began teaching at Princeton University on a scholarship and a year later was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. Throughout her life, Sánchez faced severe bouts of depression that twice led her to visit a psychiatric ward. She had felt like something was wrong with her, but finally she had a diagnosis that made sense.
“It’s really critical that people understand that mental illness is not a choice,” she says. “It’s not a character flaw. It’s not just dramatic. It’s a real disease that can cripple your whole life. I’ve been through so many episodes of depression throughout my life, and I survived it all.”
Sánchez wants young readers to see themselves in his story, to know that there is nothing wrong with them, no matter what the world throws at them.
“When I was younger I felt so strange and I couldn’t explain my feelings and I couldn’t explain why I was like that. Everyone made me feel like there was something wrong. didn’t go with me. It’s really detrimental to a young person, to make them think it’s their fault or that they were just born weird.”
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“If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you have to write it,” Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison once said. Like Morrison, Sánchez wrote it. Her memoir is for herself younger, a brunette girl growing up in Cicero, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, in the 90s. “I just want people to see what it’s like to be a person like me, and for brunette girls, I want them to feel seen because that happens a lot?” she says.
For whom she does not write, it is white people.
Writing “Crying in the Bathroom,” Sánchez knew she would be authentic herself, weaving the dark stuff life threw at her with a crude humor inherited from her family.
“I write for my people. I don’t think of white people when I write. I just don’t,” she says. “I learned that from Morrison: you write what’s most authentic to you. The rest of the world might agree or not. Otherwise, what do I do? What’s the point of writing?”
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Listen to a playlist Erika L. Sánchez curated to go along with “Crying in the Bathroom” below:
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