NEW YORK CITY — Elizabeth Wurtzel, the author whose 1994 memoir “Prozac Nation” ignited conversations about the then-taboo topic of clinical depression, has died. She was 52.
Wurtzel passed away Tuesday in New York City following a battle with metastatic breast cancer that had spread to her brain, her husband Jim Freed told CNN.
Before memoirs became a literary genre du jour, and before the now-popular confessional style of writing became mainstream, Wurtzel’s “Prozac Nation,” published when she was just 27, created a sensation.
Not only was the book was a window into a hidden world of depression that resonated with other young woman and people across the country, it also invited widespread criticism and debate for its unapologetic, self-reflective nature.
However, the way Wurtzel discussed Prozac in the book, then a relatively new drug, having been approved by the FDA in 1988, meant it stood as a cultural standard against which future conversations about antidepressants and mental health would be measured.
Wurtzel published several other books, including 1998’s “Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women,” a collection of feminist essays. Later in life, she became an advocate for BRCA gene testing, which identifies a gene mutation that makes people predisposed to breast cancer. Wurtzel learned she had the mutation after her diagnosis.
As her disease progressed, Wurtzel continued to write about her experience with unabashed confidence.
“Do you know what I’m scared of? Nothing,” she wrote in a 2018 essay. “Cancer just suits me. I am good in a fight. This one goes on for the rest of my life. But I have been fighting with myself in one way or another all along. I am used to it. I can’t think of a time when my mind or my body was not out to get me. I am at ease with this discomfort.”
People from around the writing world mourned her passing.
“It’s impossible to convey the impact Elizabeth Wurtzel had in the ’90s,” author and journalist Erin Blakemore wrote in a tweet. “She was unapologetic, raw, honest. She stood for a very specific form of GenX femininity, confession, rage.”
“I met Lizzie in law school,” journalist Ronan Farrow wrote on Twitter. “We were both misfits and she was kind and generous and filled spaces that might have otherwise been lonely with her warmth and humor and idiosyncratic voice. She gave a lot to a lot of us. I miss her.”