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Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of "Prozac Nation," dies at 52

Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of the best-selling memoir "Prozac Nation," has died at the age of 52. The cause of death was complications due to breast cancer. 

Wurtzel's memoir, published in 1994 when she was 27 years old, chronicled her battle with depression and substance abuse while attending Harvard University and working as a writer. The book divided critics but is credited with opening up a national dialogue about depression, and signaled a new era of confessional memoirs. 

"I was born with a mind that is compromised by preternatural unhappiness, and I might have died very young or done very little. Instead, I made a career out of my emotions," Wurtzel wrote in a 2013 piece on confronting her "one-night stand of a life" for New York Magazine's The Cut. 

Her second book, a collection of essays titled "Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women," published in 1998, was again met with mixed reviews, but eager readers. The New York Times wrote that it was "full of enormous contradictions, bizarre digressions and illogical outbursts" but was also "one of the more honest, insightful and witty books on the subject of women to have come along in a while."


Wurtzel went on to earn a law degree, write five other books and contribute writing to a number of publications. Her subject matter continued to cover a tumultuous life, plagued by drug addiction, as well as women's issues and politics. 

In 2018, Wurtzel wrote a piece for The Cut on her discovery that the man she thought was her father was in fact not, and her real father was the famous civil rights photographer Bob Adelman. In October, she contributed a piece titled "A Gen X Icon on Why American Isn't Ready for a Gen X President" to Gen, a political outpost of Medium.

When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Wurtzel again turned to her life for candid material. Writing in The New York Times in 2015, she shared her regret over not being tested for the BRCA gene mutation, which Ashkenazi Jewish women are 10 times more likely to carry, and advocated that others get tested. Wurtzel underwent a double mastectomy in 2015.

"It seems I am the designated driver at my Seder table," Wurtzel wrote. "I could have had a mastectomy with reconstruction and skipped the part where I got cancer. I feel like the biggest idiot for not doing so."

In her writing, Wurtzel wrestled with her life choices but never apologized for making them boldly. 

"I am proud that I have never so much as kissed a man for any reason besides absolute desire, and I am more pleased that I only write what I feel like and it has been lucrative since I got out of college in 1989," she wrote. "I had the great and unexpected success of Prozac Nation in 1994, and that bought me freedom. And I have spent that freedom carelessly, and with great gratitude. Why would I do anything else?"

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