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Sarah Fawn Montgomery

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Join us as we welcome Sarah Fawn Montgomery, author of the memoir Quite Mad: An American Pharma Memoir, in discussion with local author Bruce Machart.


Diagnosed with severe anxiety, PTSD, and OCD in her early twenties, Sarah Fawn Montgomery spent the next ten years seeking treatment and the language with which to describe the indescribable consequences of her mental illness. Faced with disbelief, intolerable side effects, and unexpected changes in her mental health as a result of treatment, Montgomery turned to American history and her own personal history—including her turbulent childhood and the violence she faced as a young woman—to make sense of the experience.

Blending memoir with literary journalism, Montgomery’s Quite Mad: An American Pharma Memoir examines America’s history of mental illness treatment—lobotomies to sterilization, the rest cure to Prozac—to challenge contemporary narratives about mental health. Questioning what it means to be a woman with highly stigmatized disorders, Montgomery also asks why mental illness continues to escalate in the United States despite so many “cures.” Investigating the construction of mental illness as a “female” malady, Montgomery exposes the ways current attitudes towards women and their bodies influence madness as well as the ways madness has transformed to a chronic condition in our cultural imagination. Montgomery’s Quite Mad is one woman’s story, but it offers a beacon of hope and truth for the millions of individuals living with mental illness and issues a warning about the danger of diagnosis and the complex definition of sanity.


Sarah Fawn Montgomery is the author of Quite Mad: An American Pharma Memoir and the poetry chapbooks Regenerate: Poems of Mad Women, Leaving Tracks: A Prairie Guide, and The Astronaut Checks His Watch. Her poetry and prose have appeared or are forthcoming in various magazines including Crab Orchard Review, DIAGRAM, Electric Literature, Fugue, The Los Angeles Review, LitHub, The Normal School, North Dakota Quarterly, Passages North, The Pinch, Puerto del Sol, The Rumpus, Southeast Review, Terrain, and others. Her work has been anthologized in Trailhead: Literature for the Backcountry, Manifest West: Serenity and Severity, Circe’s Lament: An Anthology of Wild Women Poetry, The Great Gatsby Anthology, Shadowed: Unheard Voices, Extinguished and Extinct: An Anthology of Things that No Longer Exist, and Undead: A Poetry Anthology of Ghouls, Ghosts, and More. Her work has been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes, and her essays have been listed as notable in Best American Essays for the past several years.

A native of California’s central coast, Sarah Fawn Montgomery holds an MFA in creative writing with a focus in nonfiction from California State University-Fresno and a PhD in English with a focus in creative writing and women's and gender studies from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where her dissertation won the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Folsom Distinguished Doctoral Dissertation Award. She has worked as Prairie Schooner’s Nonfiction Assistant Editor since 2011 and is an Assistant Professor at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts.


Bruce Machart's debut collection of stories, Men in the Making, follows the widely acclaimed first novel, The Wake of Forgiveness, which was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the fall of 2010. Winner of the Texas Institute of Letters Steven Turner Prize for fiction, the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association's Reading the West Prize, the novel was named a Barnes and Noble "Discover Great New Writers" selection and a New York Times Book Review "Editors' Choice." Chosen as a Top Ten title for 2010 by The Cleveland Plain Dealer and The Wall Street Journal, the novel was a finalist for the American Booksellers Association's Indie's Choice award and the PEN/USA Literary Prize. The recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, Machart graduated from the MFA program at The Ohio State University in 1999. He is currently Assistant Professor of English at Bridgewater State University. He lives in Hamilton, Massachusetts.

Earlier Event: September 13
Kate Colby + Anna Moschovakis
Later Event: September 27
Emma Ramadan