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What Fresh Hell Is This?

Book Review:

What Fresh Hell Is This?


Corrina cover

Heather Corinna
HachetteGo! 2021
272 pages

Books about menopause abound. Typically dry, prescriptive tomes packed with information, these sit on the shelves of the health section at the local bookstore or on the waiting room table in an office. Perhaps these are useful for patients’ specific questions (are there natural remedies for my vaginal dryness?), but very few, non-healthcare professional women will sit and read these books cover to cover. What’s more, traditional women’s health books focus on, well, women—by which they mean cis-gender, heterosexual people.

Enter Heather Corinna (they/them). A sexual health and education advocate for decades, Corinna is a nonbinary, queer author who founded Scarleteen, a high-energy, creative, online space for all things sex, relationships, and navigating your physical body. Corinna’s most-recent book, What Fresh Hell Is This?, leads the reader through their perimenopause journey and a lightning-fast exploration of women’s health history and advice.

Although not a healthcare professional, Corinna gets this complicated health topic right. Their research is considerable, and their distillation of it accessible. Their voice, however, is not going to be for everyone. Freely dropping expletives and snarky comments, What Fresh Hell Is This? is for the modern reader who wants to explore perimenopause as though she is sitting down with a funky, unfiltered, say-what-they-mean type of friend.

Corinna opens the book with a personal story of misdiagnosis, poor healthcare access, and exorbitant cost. Certainly not a unique experience, this is disheartening but has been previously similarly rendered. This is where I almost did not finish the book. Push on, dear reader, it gets better.

On page 19, we get started with “Some Menopause Lingo.” Why this continues to be so confusing is baffling. Corinna then dives in with a history of women being dismissed by the medical establishment, including signature graphics sprinkled throughout the book adding humor and a bit of levity.

In the chapter “YA Basics,” Corinna directly jabs at the “(seemingly) super-duper basic advice” we give to patients regarding lifestyle management of the menopause transition. Still, Corinna delves deeper into stress, sleep, exercise, and hydration, with advice and self-deprecating admissions such as, “I especially suck at drinking water.” Corinna transparently calls themself out about smoking: “If I wouldn’t be a big a**hole by not talking about this, I’d leave you and your smokes alone in peace. I swear.”

NAMS members—and readers—will be pleased with the call to action to educate more healthcare professionals about management and acknowledgement of perimenopause. Moreover, Corinna draws attention to predatory hormone practices and red flags for scams. The “Brace for Impact” section tackles vasomotor symptoms, mental and cognitive health, digestive effects, and appearance. The book would be incomplete from this author without advice on sexual health and relationships.

For the right reader, this is a fresh look at discussing perimenopause that was deeply researched. The presentation is balanced, if at times coarse and irreverent. Add it to your expanding women’s health bookshelf.

Reviewed by
Denise M. Millstine, MD
Consultant, Women’s Health and Internal Medicine
Director, Integrative Medicine and Health
Mayo Clinic Arizona

 

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