U alum’s novel, ‘Girl in Pieces’ addresses mental health

Set partially in St. Paul, Kathleen Glasgow’s debut novel, “Girl in Pieces,” discusses mental health issues in an accessible format.

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Courtesy of Kathleen Glasgow

Maddy Folstein

Three red, razor-sharp slits slice through the cover of Kathleen Glasgow’s debut, young adult novel, “Girl in Pieces.” The design doesn’t hesitate to reveal the pain the novel contains — pain that Glasgow believes is far more common than the world is led to believe.

“Girl in Pieces,” which has already received numerous positive reviews, centers on the titular character, Charlie — a 17-year-old struggling with poor body image, self-harm and addiction. The book was released by Penguin Random House on Aug. 30.

An ’02 University of Minnesota alumna, Glasgow found the confidence to pen “Girl in Pieces” during her graduate work at the University.

While the novel has been placed in the YA genre and shares the story of a teenager, Glasgow hopes that it will reach all ages, and yet, despite critical acclaim, Glasgow has faced backlash from adults who enjoyed the novel, but would never let their teenage child read it.

“It’s so hard to be a woman between the ages of 11 and 30,” Glasglow said. “I tried to write this book for women who will not feel ashamed to pick this off the shelf … and find themselves inside.”

The novel candidly discusses self-harm, mental health, tragedy and recovery. Glasgow’s editor at Random House kept the more intense scenes in the novel, providing those who haven’t faced mental illness with an intimate understanding of its pain.

“On a crossover level, it’s going to reach out to people who have never experienced drinking or harming themselves,” she said.

As someone who has struggled with mental illness herself, Glasgow noted that the novel served as a creative outlet for combating these issues.

“Art can be a really healthy way to cope with your disorder,” she said, noting its ability to relieve stress and create a community of empathetic listeners.

For those looking to explore creative writing, Glasgow shared that a good first step is to take a class — either at the University, or at places like the Loft Literary Center in downtown Minneapolis, and to find a writing community that can supply productive feedback to budding writers.

Interested in further discussion? Take an early-semester field trip to Magers & Quinn in Uptown. Glasgow will be reading from and discussing “Girl in Pieces” with University of Minnesota Creative Writing Program professor, Julie Schumacher, Wednesday at 7 p.m.