OUT OF THE BLUE by Jan Wong (self-published), 263 pages, $21.99 paper. Rating: NNNN
This is a book about depression. Well, actually it's a book about the conflict between a person suffering from depression and the employer who fired her for a variety of causes, many of which can be read as euphemisms for malingering.
Depressed people are often blamed for their mental state. Wong uses that observation as a starting point for her investigation into the disease. Tapping into her journalistic rigour, she gathers research on societal attitudes, symptoms and treatments - especially of the pharmaceutical variety - to give a complete profile of the disease and its history.
But this is a personal story. Wong fearlessly reveals the painful details of her incapacitation. In the depths of depression she could not parent her sons or write a line, had bouts of uncontrolled weeping and wallowed in confusion over how she, one of Canada's toughest scribes, could sink to such non-functioning depths.
All of that's compelling enough. But the real juice is in Wong's relationship with her employer. The publication of her Globe & Mail article about the shootings at Dawson College, in which she made reference to Quebecers' preoccupation with racialist ideas like "pure laine," caused a huge furor. The PM castigated her in Parliament, Wong started getting scary racist hate mail, and her father's Montreal restaurant was threatened.
Worse, the Globe left her twisting in the wind via an article written by editor-in-chief Edward Greenspon that said the offending passages should have been removed. This despite the fact, as she reports it, that the national editor had encouraged the "pure laine" elements and Greenspon himself had read the piece before it went to press.
When the Dawson debacle sent her into a deep depression, her relationship with the newspaper and her insurer, Manulife, deteriorated. If what she says is true, the Globe was less than compassionate, eventually cutting her loose.
Note that the publisher of Out Of The Blue is Jan Wong. Why can't one of Canada's most accomplished journalists, author of four bestsellers, get a deal for a book about depression? Doubleday was on board and then, though the manuscript was lawyered several times, "disagreed on the book's direction."
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