Willow Weep for Me: A Black Woman's Journey through Depression
by Meri Nana-Ama Danquah
Review by David Seaman, Evelyn Davis, and Judith Tydings, the NAMI Literature Committee
Willow Weep for Me: A Black Woman's Journey through Depression is an interesting coming-of-age and living-with-depression memoir written by a young, black, foreign-born (Ghana) single mother. She came to this country at age six with her somewhat dysfunctional family and grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Meri Danquah, a very creative person, has led a dramatic life, and her story is fascinating and ably told.
Danquah experienced disabling major depression for some years, and after a long delay she sought and received help. She feels that her strong reluctance had cultural reasons (both African-American and Ghanaian), which she explores at length. We have had few books dealing specifically with blacks and mental illness, although depression in particular is common among minorities. While young white women (Tracy Thompson, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Lauren Slater) continue to publicize and explore their illnesses at length, black counterparts seldom do so. Ms. Danquah's book thus fills an important and neglected niche.
However, Danquah really doesn't enlighten us much about the causes and treatment of depression per se. After she eventually and reluctantly entered therapy, she continued to resist medication for some time, seemingly again for cultural reasons. While not denying the currently dominant biological theories of depression, she appears to believe that her family situation and early experiences had a lot to do with her illness. She now accepts and recommends therapy while "reluctantly" continuing to take Paxil, but she feels let down by modern medicine because no cure is yet in sight.
Read this book for a significant and moving story, but don't expect much therapeutic enlightenment. The author leaves that more prosaic task to others.
Willow Weep for Me: A Black Woman's Journey through Depression by Meri Nana-Ama Danquah. Norton, 1998. 272 pages, $23.95. This book is available through your local bookseller.