Katherine Sharpe is the author of Coming of Age on Zoloft (Harper Perennial), a beautifully wrought exploration of what it means to grow up in the age of psychopharmaceutical drugs. Personal and reportorial, intimate and well-researched, her writing steers away from the polemic that too often swamps discussions of psychiatric medication, instead presenting young people's intense, complex relationships with medication in their own words. Sharpe is a speaker of warmth, wit, and compassion, whose talks invite reflection about topics that are of universal interest to teens, young adults, and the people who care for them, but are seldom discussed in a public setting. She is an ideal speaker for colleges and universities, health and psychology organizations, and parent groups.
In the last 20 years, psychiatric medication has become a routine part of life for millions of young people in America. Sharpe experienced this trend firsthand during her first year of college, when a bout of homesick depression led her to the health center at her college. A quarter of an hour later, she left with a diagnosis and a prescription for an antidepressant that she would take for most of the next ten years. In Coming of Age on Zoloft, Sharpe unpacks the ever more common experience of 'growing up' on medication and, by extension, growing up in a world whose go-to approach to emotions is medical. Weaving sections of memoir with historical context and in-depth interviews, Sharpe describes why using medication is different for young people whose identities are still works in progress. She shows how seamlessly the questions raised by medication -- Who am I? Am I normal? What am I supposed to feel? -- blend with and intensify the questions that are central to every adolescent's life. She highlights the pressures that young adults live under, particularly in the transition to college, and considers what is at stake in our culture's push to define emotional difficulties as forms of illness. And she asks how a generation raised in a medicalized, always-on society can push back, developing the self-care skills and forms of emotional literacy that can help smooth the path to adulthood for all of us, whether we use medication or not.
Born and raised in Northern Virginia, Sharpe earned a B.A. in English from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and an M.A. in English from Cornell University. Her articles and essays have appeared in Washington Post Magazine, n+1, Scientific American Mind, Wired, GOOD, Huffington Post, and many others. She blogs for Psychology Today. Coming of Age on Zoloft was excerpted in the Chronicle of Higher Education Review, and an article based on the book appeared as the lead essay in the Wall Street Journal's Weekend Review section. The book was featured online on The Daily Beast, Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish, the Washington Post's On Parenting blog, the New York Times' Motherlode blog, Wired Science, and The Atlantic, and received an honorable mention from the Association of American Publishers. Sharpe has taught writing and literature at Cornell, LIM College in Manhattan, and the U.C. Berkeley Extension. After years as a magazine and web editor in New York, she now makes her home in Berkeley, California.
Praise for Katherine Sharpe:
"Katherine Sharpe spoke to our audience of 500 students, faculty, and administrators, and her compelling honesty held us all spell-bound. She inspired us to rethink our approaches to stress and sorrow, to medication and melancholy, and to community and cures."
-- Annalisa Crannel, Professor of Mathematics, Franklin & Marshall College
"Katherine Sharpe attracted a large and enthusiastic audience at her talk at Mount Holyoke College, and stimulated a thoughtful dialogue. Her balanced blend of personal testimony and cultural analysis, combined with the stories of others whose experiences differ from her own, made for a powerfully effective and satisfying event."
-- Gail Hornstein, Professor of Psychology, Mount Holyoke College
"Katherine Sharpe spoke at Franklin & Marshall College as a part of our Common Hour Series, a weekly event in which the entire campus — faculty, students and administrators — gathers to hear a speaker address national, international or local issues that are relevant to all. Katherine's talk about her book Coming of Age on Zoloft was engaging and thought-provoking, and she made a strong connection with the audience during the Q & A session. Events like hers enrich the liberal arts experience by promoting campus-wide dialogue. Having Katherine here was a wonderful experience from start to finish. I highly recommend her as a campus speaker."
-- Deborah Murray Martin, Assistant Secretary of the College and Director of Events, Franklin & Marshall College
Praise for Coming of Age on Zoloft:
"It is difficult to do justice to Katherine Sharpe's beautifully written memoir and reflection on her rite of passage with Zoloft and other antidepressants--she wonderfully conveys the profound issues these drugs raise. This is a book for anyone taking or thinking about taking an antidepressant, anyone who prescribes them, anyone who wonders about their suitability for someone they know, or anyone who wants a mirror held up to our time."
-- Dr. David Healy, author of Let Them Eat Prozac and The Antidepressant Era
"Katherine Sharpe asks questions about identity and society that have probably occurred to most people her age who've taken medication for depression, but unlike most people she has worked to seek out answers. Coming of Age on Zoloft is a fascinating look at how drugs and trends have shaped the identities of individuals and of a generation -- provocative without being sensationalistic, skillfully written and totally necessary."
-- Emily Gould, author of And the Heart Says Whatever
"Katherine Sharpe excels at something very difficult -- weaving complex science with a personal account in a way that leaves a rich story fresh in the mind. I get sent a lot of books, but it's rare that I open one and immediately find it so engaging and impressive. Coming of Age on Zoloft is an absorbing read in the tradition of Kay Redfield Jamison, but freshened and made urgent by its exploration of what it means to develop an adult identity while under drug treatment. This is an important book."-
- David Dobbs, author of Reef Madness and the #1 Kindle-Single bestseller My Mother's Lover
"In many years of reading books of every imaginable type about mental health and mental illness, Coming of Age on Zoloft stands out -- for its supple and evocative writing, its nuanced and thoughtful arguments, its avoidance of every trap into which people who write on this topic routinely fall, and its beautifully-titrated optimism about the true possibilities of mental health. I am enthusiastically recommending the book to friends and colleagues and planning to assign it to my students from now on."
-- Gail A. Hornstein, Professor of Psychology, Mount Holyoke College and author of Agnes's Jacket: A Psychologist's Search for the Meanings of Madness
"Intuitive and investigative, personal and historical, narrative-rich and fact-packed....Part of what makes this book riveting is the way Sharpe sets her own story within the larger context of cultural, social, and psychiatric changes that moved depression (along with other mental illnesses) into the medical spotlight."
"Sharpe is excellent at detailing the positives and negatives of these drugs ... But she is best at probing broader societal issues ... This is a fine book that nicely weaves together personal, sociological, and philosophical perspectives for a thoughtful view of how antidepressants are shaping many people's lives."
-- Publishers Weekly
"A knowing account of what it is like to grow up on psychiatric medications....Balanced and informative--an education for any parent considering psychiatric medication for a troubled adolescent."
-- Kirkus Reviews