Elizabeth Wurtzel, ‘Prozac Nation’ Author, Dies at 52

January 7, 2020 10:57AM PT

Elizabeth Wurtzel, best known for her confessional memoir “Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America,” died Tuesday in a New York City hospital, the New York Times reports. She was 52.

According to Wurtzel’s husband Jim Freed, the cause of death was leptomeningeal disease, a a condition that results from cancer spreading to the cerebrospinal fluid. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015.

Wurtzel first gained recognition at the age of 26 after “Prozac Nation” became a best-seller in 1994. Due to the memoir’s incredibly open and startling dialogue regarding her substance abuse, sexual encounters, self-mutilation, the book is credited with piloting the public conversation on clinical depression. Her first person account of events also earned her credit for igniting the new era of the first person narrative and memoir genre of the internet’s primitive years. Her memoir was later adapted into a feature length film starring Christina Ricci in 2001.

Wurtzel followed up her successful memoir with essay collection “Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women”  in 1998 and another memoir “More, Now, Again” in 2002.

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A gifted student, she was the only child born to two Jewish parents on the Upper West Side of Manhattan where she attended the Ramaz School. According to her memoir, her parents divorced at a young age, which weighed heavily on the young writer and contributed to her depression she said began as a child. Wurtzel attended Harvard University, where she wrestled with substance abuse and depression. She was hospitalized multiple times during her undergraduate career. She was awarded the Rolling Stone College Journalism award in 1986, and eventually went on to write for the New Yorker and New York Magazines.