In essays that range from using fashion to present as high-functioning to the depths of a rare form of psychosis, and from the failures of the higher education system and the dangers of institutionalization to the complexity of compounding factors such as PTSD and Lyme disease, Wang’s analytical eye, honed as a former lab researcher at Stanford, allows her to balance research with personal narrative.
... unnervingly excellent ... [Wang's] essays are all varied lenses on what it is to be one kind of human, to be schizoaffective, to be her. As a whole, The Collected Schizophrenias provides a new and welcome map for the severe landscapes of schizoaffective disorder, of cerebral disease, diagnosis, recovery, and relapse, of the many human mysteries of the schizophrenias. The essays are resoundingly intelligent, often unexpectedly funny, questioning, fearless and peerless, as Wang makes for brilliant company on 13 difficult walks through largely uncharted territory.
In Wang’s kaleidoscopic essays, memoir has been shattered into sliding and overlapping pieces so that the story of her life subtly shifts from essay to essay. The images and insights Wang summons from these shards are sometimes frustrating, but often dazzling, and worth the reconstructive work ... Wang is able to show off her novelist’s eye for detail, character and dialogue in her description of her time spent working at a camp for children with bipolar disorder. And her prismatic approach to ethical questions serves her especially well here ... [Wang's] descriptions of what it’s like to descend into psychosis are viscerally enlightening ... At times, the pervasive disorientation Wang employs in these essays — the zigzagging narrative, the tangled sense of time, the repetitions, the abrupt announcements of ever more diagnoses (PTSD, bipolar disorder, fibromyalgia, Lyme) — can be distracting. One alternately wishes Wang had been subjected to more disciplined editing and to more questioning of her vantage point. At other times, her multifaceted arguments can be gratifyingly mind-expanding.
The Collected Schizophrenias is not a memoir, nor does it tell a linear story about the author. Wang prefers to use her own experience as a point of departure for philosophical inquiry ... The very fact of her book, she seems to assert, is proof that she can rise above her limitations ... While reading The Collective Schizophrenias, I often thought about the toll that writing it must have taken on Wang, physically and mentally, and the bravery it took for her to do it ... 'Ritual, my therapist told me later, would help, but it was not the solution; there was no solution.' There was no solution—this is the level of uncertainty, even hopelessness, that Wang lives with. And yet she perseveres, however imperfectly. It’s Wang’s ability to reconcile these opposing realities, to allow them to persist in contradiction, that feels most radical about her approach to being sick.