Little Panic: Dispatches from an Anxious Life

"I am always happy when my body remembers to feel things other than scared."
Growing up, novelist Amanda Stern (The Long Haul) felt safe inside her house and in the shared garden behind it, but the "street side of life" seemed packed with potential dangers. Any time she was separated from her mother, something terrible happened to one of them. Any moment she forgot about the terrors of the world could be when they'd come for her. Her fears seemed proven when Etan Patz, a boy close to her age, disappeared a few blocks away. Stern's anxiety was constant but ignored by the adults in her life, who meant well but never fully grasped the depth of her feelings. Instead, she was tagged with learning disabilities and believed that she was stupid, and it wasn't until after college that she was properly diagnosed with a panic disorder.
Against the backdrop of 1970s and '80s New York, Little Panic is a vivid, candid and often funny chronicle of living with anxiety. Most of the narrative follows Stern's childhood, though select chapters show her as an adult--particularly her relationship with a man who she thought would give her a family of her own. Her panic is instense throughout, and it's heartbreaking to see her as a child immobilized by dread. She takes on the voice of a young girl without being cloying, and her retelling of her childhood memories is thoughtful and complete. It's an eye-opening and beautifully written memoir of struggling to understand the world despite a fear of it. --Katy Hershberger, freelance writer and bookseller
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