By Nick Romano
January 07, 2020 at 12:44 PM EST
Dan Callister/Shutterstock

Elizabeth Wurtzel, the acclaimed author who sparked a surge of memoir writing with her book Prozac Nation, died on Tuesday at the age of 52.

Writer David Samuels, Wurtzel’s longtime childhood friend, confirmed the news to The New York Times, noting that she had metastatic breast cancer that resulted from the BRCA genetic mutation. Her husband, author Jim Freed, told The Washington Post the cancer mestatisized to her brain. The immediate cause of death, he said, was leptomeningeal disease, which occurs when cancer cells migrate to the cerebrospinal fluid.

In February 2015, Wurtzel chornicled her struggles with cancer, writing for Vice, “So I have breast cancer, which like many things that happen to women is mostly a pain in the ass. But compared with being 26 and crazy and waiting for some guy to call, it’s not so bad.”

She continued, “If I can handle 39 breakups in 21 days, I can get through cancer. I’m not saying this because I’m a strong person or because I have a good attitude or anything like that — heaven knows, I believe in taking things badly and making a scene for no reason — but this is not bad.”

Months later, she wrote about it again, this time for The Times. “I could have had a mastectomy with reconstruction and skipped the part where I got cancer,” she mentioned. “I feel like the biggest idiot for not doing so.”

Writing about the difficult moments of her personal life felt natural for Wurtzel. It’s something she’s done the majority of her writing career.

Following her music criticism for publications like The New Yorker and New York magazine, Wurtzel’s Prozac Nation was published in 1994 and featured an account of her own issues with atypical depression and drug addiction, as well as her days as a student at Harvard and her sex life. The book launched a whole new wave of confessional writing and transformed Wurtzel into a Gen X celebrity at the age of 26.

”I think I thought that when it came out I was going to suddenly be a different person, that the air around me was going to tingle,” she told EW in a 2002 article. ”I couldn’t believe I was still me…. It’s not like I sat around and said, ‘Oh, I know what I can do, I can become a drug addict,’ but that’s kind of what ended up happening.”

Director Erik Skjoldbjærg turned Prozac Nation into a film in 2001 starring Christina Ricci.

Additional books included 1998’s Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women, 2001’s More, Now, Again: A Memoir of Addiction, and 2004’s The Secret of Life: Commonsense Advice for Uncommon Women.

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