This book is not a nagging rant by any means. Bassist is much too good for that. She takes us on this wild and uncomfortable ride with ease thanks to her incredible wit and humor to help us not to scream at the top of our lungs—which Bassist would probably be ok with or encourage ... Her writing reads like a wise older sister, insightful and to the point, brutal when need be, but there to catch you when you’re ready to fall. I read this book in a couple of days, swiftly and hungrily. Anytime I got the urge to stop because I felt too angry to keep reading about this frustrating world, I kept going.
Reading Hysterical: A Memoir by Elissa Bassist sometimes feels like sitting across from a delightfully bright and very amped woman while she tells you the story of her life. Well, the bad parts. Only it’s not really the story of her life; it’s a passionate, conversational and discursive exploration into all the ways in which women are oppressed, shunned, not listened to and hated, and how all of that is why she has such a hard time telling her story ... This memoir, which I suspect is a designation assigned by the marketing department because memoirs sell well, is more a feminist critique and primer on rape culture as seen through the lens of one woman’s personal experiences than it is a traditional memoir ... Bassist is herself very funny ... Let me admit here that I approached the book with a bit of a been-there-done-that attitude. Bassist’s examinations of her fraught early romantic relationships felt young and too familiar to me at first. I found it navel-gazing (a term often used to dismiss women writing about their lived experiences) and a little derivative (she cites and quotes feminist thinkers with abandon) ... By the end, “Hysterical” felt like a kind of a breakthrough, a celebratory whoop and a call to action all in one, even for someone who has identified as a feminist for decades. As I finished it, I found myself wanting to press it into the hands of everyone I know because whether it is a revelation or a reminder, Hysterical is part of the essential story of being female today.