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Dora: A Headcase Paperback – August 7, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for Lidia Yuknavitch's DORA: A HEADCASE:

"Hold a basketball under water, take your hand away, and it’ll surface with the powerhouse force of the suppressed. Welcome to Lidia Yuknavitch’s world. In Dora: A Headcase, Yuknavitch reimagines the girl, the woman, at the heart of Sigmund Freud’s breakthrough case study and unleashes this character's fury against a backdrop of hypocritical adulthood. Yuknavitch is talking back to a hundred years, to the founding of psychoanalysis. I’d like to think she wrote parts of this novel just for me, but so many readers will feel that way. Yuknavitch has wrestled with the force of her own convictions and given a powerful voice to a badass character born on the literary landscape."
—MONICA DRAKE author of Clown Girl

"Dora is too much for Sigmund Freud but she’s just right for us—raunchy, sharp and so funny it hurts."
—KATHERINE DUNN author of Geek Love

"In these times there's no reason for a novel to exist unless it's dangerous, provocative and not like anything that's come before. Dora: A Headcase is that kind of novel. It's dirty, sexy, rude, smart, soulful, fresh and risky. Think of your favorite out-there genius writer; multiply by ten, add a big heart, a poet's ear, and a bad girl's courage, and you've got Lidia Yuknavitch."
—KAREN KARBO, author of How Georgia Became O'Keeffe

"Dora: A Headcase is first and foremost an irreverent portrait of a smart seventeen year old trying to survive. It channels Sigmund Freud and his young patient Dora and is both a hilarious critique and an oddly touching homage. With an unerring ear and a very keen eye, Lidia Yuknavitch casts a very special slant of light on our centuries and our lives. Put simply, the book is needed."
—CAROLE MASO author of Defiance and The Art Lover

"Snappy and fun. I can pretty much guarantee you haven't met a character quite l like Ida before."
—BLAKE NELSON author of Girl and Paranoid Park

"In Dora, [Lidia Yuknavitch] takes the most classic model of Thera-tainment, personal-crisis-as-content, and she re-imagines it wonderfully reversed. The world of Dora is not just possible, it’s inevitable. It’s revenge as the ultimate therapy."
—From the introduction by CHUCK PALAHNIUK author of Damned

"When about to plummet to our deaths or fly we speak in a language all our own. Dora: A Headcase is a feminist retelling of Freud’s famous case study, Dora. But the novel constantly transcends this conceit in beautiful and surprising ways. Sure there’s literary discourse and feminist asides, feats of craft and vision, but in the end Yuknavitch drives narrative the way rednecks drive muscle cars. Right across your lawn without respect to boundaries. If Ida is a little scary to some readers, it’s only because we’ve forgotten that nothing is scarier than a teenage girl. They whisper things we don’t want to hear— that sometimes cutting is an act of freedom, like meditating without sleep, or starving yourself for the parallel bars. Also, that it’s damn hard to do the right thing when you’re in a dangerous conversation with the universe, one meant for god’s ears alone. Personally as someone whose teen years were hellish, I was floored by the softness and raw sorrow in Ida’s voice, which Yuknavitch braided in with the anger. It felt more real, more like the girls I knew and was, than any other coming of age narrator. Put simply, Yuknavitch has written the best portrait of teen girlhood I have ever read. I loved this book—it’s like a smart, fast chick Fight Club. In twenty years, I hope to wake up in a world where Dora: A Headcase has replaced Catcher in the Rye on high school reading lists for the alienated. I’m pretty sure that world would be a better one."
—VANESSA VESELKA, author of Zazen

Praise for Lidia Yuknavitch's THE CHRONOLOGY OF WATER:

The Oregonian, Best Books of the Year, 2011

Willamette Week, Top 10 Portland Books From 2011

Portland Mercury, Best Portland Book Releases of 2011

Art Faccia, Best Books of 2011

The Nervous Breakdown, Best Books of 2011

LitReactor, The Best Books of 2011

Flavorwire,The 10 Best Memoirs of 2011

The InDigest Awards: J.M. Owen's 2011 YIR

JMWW, Best of 2011: Robert Vaughan Lays Down His Cards

The chapter, "Love Grenade," included in BEST SEX WRITING 2012, SUSIE BRIGHT, Compiler, and RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL, Editor.

"These fierce life stories gleam, fiery images passing just beneath the surface of the pages."
—DIANA ABU-JABER, author of Origin: A Novel

"The kind of book Janis Joplin might have written if she had made it through the fire - raw, tough, pure, more full of love than you thought possible and sometimes even hilarious. This is the book Lidia Yuknavitch was put on the planet to write for us."
—REBECCA BROWN, author of The Gifts of the Body

"...All sex scenes were shit, except for the sex written by Lidia Yuknavitch."
—FROM THE INTRODUCTION BY CHELSEA CAIN, New York Bestseller and author of Evil at Heart

"This intensely powerful memoir touches depths yet unheard of in contemporary writing."
—ANDREI CODRESCU, author of The Poetry Lesson

"Reading this book is like diving into Yuknavitch's most secret places, where, really, we all want memoir to take us, but it so rarely does. The reader emerges wiser, enlightened, and changed."
—KERRY COHEN, author of Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity

"The book is extraordinary."
—CHUCK PALAHNIUK, author of Pygmy

"The book is immensely impressive to me on a human level."
—DAVID SHIELDS, author of Reality Hunger: A Manifesto

"This is the book I've been waiting to read all of my life."
—CHERYL STRAYED, author of Wild

"This isn't a memoir ‘about’ addiction, abuse, or love: it's a triumphantly unrelenting look at a life buoyed by the power of the written word."

"Hot, gritty, unrelenting."
—DEBRA GWARTNEY, The Oregonian

"Artfully described in prose that’s as spare and beautiful as a diver slicing through the water."

"Her sharp prose-witty, jarring, worthy of dogearing- alternates between gleeful postmodern exercise and wrenching elegy. So honest and unapologetic is her writing that you can practically hear her sigh in catharsis as you turn the pages."

"The Chronology of Water is powerful and beautifully written—even the tough parts.
—BRIDGET KINSELLA, Shelf Awareness

"Yuknavitch’s nonlinear memoir that is at times lyrical, at times conversational, and almost always intense."
—ANCA SZIAGYI, Ploughsares

"It's war in there. I'm going back in."
—JEN GRAVES, The Stranger

"It's a sputteringly good read."
—ALISON BARKER, Chicago Reader

"It's worth your attention."
—ALISON HALLETT, The Portland Mercury

"Lidia Yuknavitch's The Chronology of Water might well turn out to be the best book of the year; it's unlike anything I've read before, and I haven't been able to forget it."

"Tragedy, abuse, oceanic booze consumption, and rated-X sexiness. And Ken Kesey, of course."

"Yuknavitch has a powerful personal story to tell, and she does this in surprising ways."
—JAMIE PASSARO, PNBA Northwest Book Lovers

"I fucking loved this book."

"Exhaustively compelling."
—EMILY GROSVENOR, Eugene Magazine

"The Chronology of Water is a vital book—a book that will be, as Kafka famously demanded, the axe for the frozen sea within you."
—KIRSTY LOGAN, Pank Magazine

"Her story is haunting, touching, and heartbreaking."
—RICHARD THOMAS, The Nervous Breakdown

"Chronology is about the resiliency of the human heart and its ability to piece itself back together, over and over."
—VANESSA NIX ANTHONY, Portland Woman Magazine

"The Chronology of Water is simply an unapologetic story about life."
—RENEE E. D’AOUST, The Collagist

"Yuknavitch gives new, rich meaning to the by-now-familiar idea of a fluid sexuality."
—AMY MCDANIEL, Paste Magazine

"One of the strongest memoirs I have had the pleasure to encounter. Don’t miss this book."

"I'm not sure I've ever had such a powerful, complex reaction to a book. The Chronology of Water is astonishingly beautiful, and, as a writer, Yuknavitch is a force. Her writing hits you, hard. It rocks you. She knocked me over with passages so brilliant, so true, I had to reread them over and over until I could bear to let them go in order to move on to the next paragraph."
—MEGAN ZABEL, Powell’s Books

". . . brave and breathless memoir . . . vivid storytelling."

"I cannot fathom of a list of the ten best books of the year that does not include Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Chronology of Water . . . one of the most stunning books I’ve ever read and undoubtedly the best book I read in 2011."
—ROXANE GAY, The Rumpus

"Her language, inventive and sparse, is determined to leave its readers spinning in realness, the physical grit of being present as a woman and as a human being."

From the Inside Flap

INTRODUCTION BY CHUCK PALAHNIUK:: IDA NEEDS A SHRINK; or so her philandering father thinks, and he sends her to a Seattle psychiatrist. Immediately wise to the head games of her new shrink, who she nicknames Siggy and Sig, Ida begins a coming of age journey. At the beginning of her therapy Ida, who's alter-ego is Dora, and her small posse of pals, Little Teena, Ave Maria, and Obsidian, engage in what they call “art attacks” for teen fun and mayhem. Ida has a secret: she is in love with Obsidian. What’s more, the closer she gets to intimacy or the crisis of deep emotions, Ida faints or loses her voice. Ida and her friends hatch a plan to secretly record and film Siggy and Ida intends to make an experimental art film in which he figures. Sig becomes the target of her teen rage and angst, but something goes terribly wrong at a crucial moment of filming Siggy at a nearby hospital when Ida finds her father in the emergency room having suffered an acute heart attack. Ida loses her voice and experiences more trauma—a rough cut of her experimental film has gone underground viral and unethical media agents are trying to hunt her down to buy the material. A chase ensues in which everyone wants what Ida’s got.

Dora: A Head Case is a contemporary coming of age story based on Freud’s famous case study—retold and revamped through Dora’s point of view, with shotgun blasts of dark humor and sexual play. It’s a ballsy book. Some have called it the female Fight Club.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Hawthorne Books; Original edition (August 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0983477574
  • ISBN-13: 978-0983477570
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,783 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

LIDIA YUKNAVITCH IS THE AUTHOR of the debut novel Dora: A Headcase (Hawthorne Books), and the memoir The Chronology of Water (Hawthorne Books), as well as three books of short fictions-Her Other Mouths, Liberty's Excess (FC2), and Real to Reel (FC2), and a critical book on war and narrative, Allegories of Violence (Routledge). Her writing has appeared in publications including Ms., The Iowa Review, Zyzzyva, Another Chicago Magazine, The Sun, Exquisite Corpse, TANK, and in the anthologies Life As We Show It (City Lights), Wreckage of Reason (Spuytin Duyvil), Forms at War (FC2), Feminaissance (Les Figues Press), and Representing Bisexualities (SUNY), as well as online at The Rumpus. She writes, teaches and lives in Portland, Oregon with the filmmaker Andy Mingo and their renaissance man son Miles. She is the recipient of the Oregon Book Award - Reader's Choice, a PNBA award, and was a finalist for the 2012 Pen Center creative nonfiction award. She is a very good swimmer.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Central Industrial on April 9, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After being recommended the book by an emerging adult, I find myself ambivalent. For a teen-fiction piece, it does do the trick. I can imagine being much younger and reveling in Dora & Company's righteous indignation, but I find myself confused at the outpouring of praise for this work. Maybe because I'm a clinical psychologist.

Yet if in fact the author was so stricken by the case study of Dora, an incomplete analysis Freud himself deemed a failure, it is disappointing that there isn't much more done with the original story than could be easily found in Wikipedia. I'm not quite sure she succeeded in "turning the case on its head, either", since it ends similarly to the actual event, and it doesn't escape notice that she lifted elements from her memoir and transposed them onto Dora's case. Given her personal relationship to this case, I would have hoped that she would deepen that connection to merit referencing it so heavily.

As a mental health practitioner, it is true that we can be quick to pathologize both women and adolescents. While some will chafe under a diagnosis, others are pleased to learn there is a name for their cluster of symptoms. It is also true that children are often sent to therapists because their parents are funneling their dysfunction into them. But there are a lot of intelligent and fierce women in the field challenging long-held assumptions and working hard for their patients. A number of us would not call a drunk teenager, altered by a panoply of prescription medications, stripping naked in a public place art.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Melissa V on November 10, 2012
Format: Paperback
Critics have apparently hailed this book as the female "Fight Club" but I assure you, it's not nearly as interesting or creative. Stylistically, though, the book IS enjoyable; the author does a good job of putting you in Ida/Dora's head, making you feel her emotions and how she sees the world. Unfortunately, how Ida/Dora sees the world is exactly what you would expect from your average teen monster whose inflated sense of self-importance comes before anything else. Here you have a teen who really doesn't have much reason for her bitterness - aw, did one of your parents check-out? Most of us have been there without such drama - she's really just a spoiled kid who doesn't have the sense to mind her own hypocrisy about her "generation's venacular" when a video she makes gets misappropriated. Her posse is likewise spoiled and ungrateful. True, they'll all victims to some degree but really, who isn't anymore? The only interesting character is Marlene, to the point where you wish there were a story for her so you could stop reading this one. We do discover in the epilogue that Ida/Dora does grow up a bit, but it's the kind of uncreative ending to a meandering story you just don't want. This book has a lot of potential and that is exactly it's downfall.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Simkha on June 28, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Thanks god I don't have one and am not one.

To be harsh: pretentious, more interest by the author in the process of writing than in story -- and I'm a reader who loves story above language. I don't read to discover new ways to use English, but to immerse myself in a story.

The characters are extremely well-drawn and consistent; I'll give Yuknavitch that. She's excellent with the characterization.

But reading about a white spoiled rich depressed teenager and her merry band of outcast friends is not my idea of a good time.
Yuknavitch attempts to make political commentary but fails -- particularly when Dora rants about corporations and how money rules things, and then finishes the novel with a ridiculous epilogue that pretty well makes a mockery of the politics. (Money fixes everything, apparently, and if you receive a multimillion dollar inheritance, you will be able to be happy and help all your outcast friends be happy, too).
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Trevor Dodge on September 9, 2012
Format: Paperback
Lidia Yuknavitch updates the farce with a brave, bold and totally unforgettable protagonist whose creative spark burns within us all. If you've ever been young, pissed off and feverishly in love for the first time, you'll instantly recognize Dora within you. The comparisons being made by others to Holden Caulfield aren't adequate or even appropriate; Yuknavitch dances and writes circles around Salinger here as much as she does Freud, and the result is a dizzying, beautiful celebration of not only the feminine but the individual in a culture that is overwhelmingly male and faceless.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By C.E. Bagwell on August 16, 2012
Format: Paperback
If you love Catcher in the Rye because Holden Caulfield tells it like it is and is the perfect teenage bad-ass, then you haven't read Dora. There is nothing phony about this girl, she would rather set her world on fire than have to live the role of "happy daughter" or "perfect girl." Dora is brave the way I wish I was as a girl as she refuses to let anyone deter her from who she is and who she wants to be, that to me is a real bad-ass. If I was a teenager today I would memorize the whole thing, it would be my bible, it would save me.

Dora talks the way all teenagers talk crudely and passionately. It was so much fun to be able to see the world that stark and brilliant again. I have a lot of feelings about Lidia Yuknavitch's writing, it is so beautiful and powerful that you can't help but smile or cry wherever she wants you to. She is amazing and you should read her just for the pure beauty of her words alone. That and she talks a lot about bacon, and that is never a bad thing.
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