Sex with a Brain Injury: On Concussion and Recovery
I’ve added this book to my required reading list. Annie is one of millions of people who walk around with the symptoms of a minor traumatic brain injury (concussion) every day. As someone who has also hit her head many times, sometimes with an official concussion diagnosis and a couple of times with just a few Advil and an ice pack, this book made me feel very seen. Annie talks about how the uncertainty that comes with a head injury affects every part of a person’s life. Many symptoms of head injury can be misdiagnosed as ADHD or simple rudeness. And this epidemic is so grossly underdiagnosed that most people who have suffered mTBIs are the walking wounded. Some folks are completely unaware of why they seem to be unwell out of the blue, suddenly sensitive to lights, sounds, and quick to anger. If you, like me, ever smashed the heck out of your head, I recommend reading this book. If you, like me, have done it a few times, I recommend reading it and making a doctor's appointment.
For readers of Meghan O’Rourke’s The Invisible Kingdom, Esmé Weijun Wang’s The Collected Schizophrenias, and Melissa Febos’s Girlhood, a powerful and deeply personal memoir in essays that sheds light on the silent epidemic of head trauma.
Annie Liontas suffered multiple concussions in her thirties. In Sex with a Brain Injury, she writes about what it means to be one of the “walking wounded,” facing her fear, her rage, her physical suffering, and the effects of head trauma on her marriage and other relationships. Forced to reckon with her own queer mother’s battle with addiction, Liontas finds echoes in their pain. Liontas weaves history, philosophy, and personal accounts to interrogate and expand representations of mental health, ability, and disability—particularly in relation to women and the LGBT community. She uncovers the surprising legacy of brain injury, examining its role in culture, the criminal justice system, and through historical figures like Henry VIII and Harriet Tubman. Encountering Liontas’s sharp, affecting prose, the reader can imagine this kind of pain, and having to claw one’s way back to a new normal. The hidden gift of injury, Liontas writes, is the ability to connect with others.
For the millions of people who have suffered from concussions and for those who have endeavored to support loved ones through the painful and often baffling experience of head trauma, this astonishing and compassionate narrative offers insight and hope in equal measure.
Praise for Sex with a Brain Injury: On Concussion and Recovery
“Reflects on history, philosophy and love while living with head trauma.” —The New York Times Book Review
“An intimate memoir of a profound affliction and resilience…Liontas offers frank reflections on the physical, emotional, and cognitive consequences of her injuries…stands as testimony to love and patience.” —Kirkus
“These unflinching and eye-opening essays wow at every turn.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“A personal history of what happens when our physical relationships with many of the things we know and love—our families, delicious food, and, yes, even sex—evolve beyond our control.” —SELF Magazine
“This is an infuriatingly gorgeous, important book and Liontas is a singular writer.” —Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties
“Sex With a Brain Injury is a rhythmic genre-bender: Maggie Nelson meets concussion; Olivia Laing of the walking wounded. Annie Liontas writes like an alchemist, braiding humor, humanity, and history into the personal narrative of her injuries and healing. I loved this book.” —Melissa Broder, author of Death Valley
“A riveting book about embodiment, pain, identity, and intimacy. Sex with a Brain Injury rings with the honesty, humor, and intelligence of all my favorite books and is among the best examples of ethical personal writing that I've ever encountered. Annie Liontas is a treasure and this book is a stunning achievement.” —Melissa Febos, author of Girlhood
“A gorgeous, passionate book about the ways we fight to find intimacy across the different realities of our bodies and brains and lives. What a difficult miracle this is to pull off! And yet— we know it is possible because Liontas does it here: in chapter after breathless chapter she connects with the reader through her powers of art and language and feeling, bringing us ever closer to her experience and understanding of brain injury and the larger historical and cultural scope of it, too. How lucky we are for this gripping, moving, and necessary memoir.” —CJ Hauser, author of The Crane Wife
“I’m in awe of Annie Liontas’s Sex with a Brain Injury for a hundred reasons, not the least of which is its resistance to abstract language, which is another way to say its commitment to writing through the immediacy of sinew, nerve, blood, and bone. On top of that it's funny, tender, hopeful, and disarmingly intimate with a charisma so bright it leaves sparks flying in its wake. In short, a classic.” —Paul Lisicky, author of Later: My Life at the Edge of the World
“In Sex with a Brain Injury Annie Liontas has written a guidebook to falling back in love with the unruly body. Liontas renders the intimacy and terror of life after brain injury in rapturous prose, cracking open their own story and those of others who live with invisible, often disbelieved suffering. Yet amid the pain, Liontas excavates moments of bodily delight so sensual they gave me goosebumps. This book is a revelation, a cold compress on anything that aches—the mind, certainly, but also the heart and soul. A sensational read.” —Sabrina Imbler, author of How Far the Light Reaches
“Sex with a Brain Injury succeeds in extraordinary, unfamiliar ways. Memories are rendered like snapshots—vivid, sharply and wonderfully strange, full of voids; pieced together, they form a tapestry of questions: what does true intimacy look like? What are the margins of illness, and how, too, is illness spacious, illuminating? With the chorus of other writers, scholars, and myriad artistic sources, Annie Liontas turns these questions over like a stone in their hand; multi-faceted, full of nuance, dazzling. Delightfully weaving humor with horror, Liontas brilliantly articulates what it is like to reach for cohesion, linearity, sense, and how it feels to do so with pleasure. An unforgettable read.” —T Kira Mahealani Madden, author of Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls
“A most extraordinary lesson in compassion... Annie Liontas has captured the truths known mostly to survivors of brain injury. Hers is a visceral, bracing account of the aftermath of injury and the war she fought to make meaning of suffering and reclaim her life. People with any manner of invisible health conditions will see themselves in and through Annie’s writing; people who have been dismissed, discounted, or degraded by the systems of care that should have offered relief. A celebration of the complexities of vulnerability, this book is required reading for everyone with a brain, injured or otherwise. A triumph.” —Dr. Kim Gorgens, neuropsychologist & TED Speaker