In her memoir, Haldol and Hyacinths: A Bipolar Life (2013), Melody Moezzi describes herself during a manic episode as “Tigger on crack.” By mixing humor with social critique, Moezzi compares the discrimination she experiences as a Muslim woman of Iranian descent and as a woman living with bipolar disorder in the U.S. Gayathri Ramprasad’s Shadows in the Sun: Healing from Depression and Finding the Light Within (2014) offers insights into the author’s childhood marked by depression in India and her approaches to managing her mental illness that combine Hindu culture and Western medicine after migrating to the U.S. Both authors expose and criticize exclusionary practices that dehumanize and isolate people with invisible disabilities.
This article investigates how women with mental health issues use memoir to discuss the negative ideological notions that patriarchal society has historically attached to disability, femininity, and non-whiteness. My comparative reading—informed by life-writing theory, feminist concepts, and critical race studies—offers an intersectional perspective on how society perpetuates the oppression of women of color with a mental disability based on their bodies, gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, and religion. The women whose memoirs I analyze are not interested in declaring their lives unique. Their aim is to emphasize how common mental disabilities are among women. My case studies push for social justice as they challenge autobiography’s supposed reliance on a stable sense of self to convey the ‘truth’ and connect discourse about disability with other layers of domination.