Leslie Jamison: Echoes of Empathy & Experiences


Leslie Jamison’s latest book published by Little, Brown is The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath which is a mix of memoir, literary criticism and social history. In it she highlights her pangs of addiction and her release from intoxication and her experiences as a ‘nice upper-middle-class white girl’ and others’ intoxications. Plausibly, the book throws light to come out of addiction as it has first-hand experiences and observations stemmed from research.

The Gin Closet is Leslie’s first novel published by Free Press in 2010. The Empathy Exams is a collection of essays published by Graywolf Press.

On the summer equinox of 2017, Leslie Jamison, born in 1983, visited Gothenburg. She is an American novelist, columnist, journalist and essayist. She attended Harvard University, honed her writing skills at the Iowa Writers Workshop, and attained a PhD in English literature at Yale. Her visit to Gothenburg in 2017 was organized by Weyler Publisher and Göteborgs Stadsbiblioteket as part of International Writers’ Platform, and Leslie Jamison was in conversation with Ulf Karl-Olov Nilsson the local resident and poet, psychologist and translator. The discussion was around her book ‘The Empathy Exams’ which deals with everyday issues of life: abortion, disorders, sorrow and alcohol.

“The idea for the collection began when I was working as a medical actor which meant that I was being paid to pretend to have all kinds of sicknesses and ailments. So that medical students could try to diagnose what was wrong with me and after they try to figure out what was wrong I would evaluate them,” said Leslie about how she got the idea for her collection of essays. Her evaluation of the doctors focussed on: how well did the doctors empathise with her: The Empathy Exams!

Leslie Jamison in conversation with Ulf Karl-Olov Nilsson in 2017 organized by Weyler Publisher and Göteborgs Stadsbiblioteket as part of International Writers’ Platform

In response to a participant’s question about the confessional writing in American English literature (fiction and non-fiction), Leslie Jamison said confessional writing in literature exists. The confessional writing is amply manifested in the works of Philip Roth who began his writing career by exploring Jewish lives from personal experiences.

Leslie Jamison has worked “as a baker, an office temp, an innkeeper, a tutor and a medical actor (impersonation)”.

Podcast on SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/gothenburg-goeteborg/leslie-jamison