Elizabeth Wurtzel, 'Prozac Nation' author, dies at 52

Wurtzel rose to fame with the publication of "Prozac Nation," which documented her struggles with depression and substance abuse.

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By Janelle Griffith

Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of "Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America," died Tuesday at a hospital in Manhattan, a family spokeswoman said.

She was 52.

The author Elizabeth Wurtzel in a publicity photo in 2000.Neville Elder / Corbis via Getty Images

Wurtzel announced in 2015 that she had breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy.

Her husband, Jim Freed, said the breast cancer had metastasized to her brain, according to The Washington Post.

"She put up a valiant fight, and we admire her for that," the spokeswoman told NBC News. "We deeply loved her and hope she rests in peace."

Wurtzel rose to fame with "Prozac Nation," published in 1994. The memoir documented her struggles with depression and substance abuse. The book garnered wide acclaim for sparking a dialogue about clinical depression.

Wurtzel also wrote the essay collection "Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women" and the memoir "More, Now, Again: A Memoir of Addiction," which were met with less acclaim.

The writer David Samuels, a friend since childhood, told The New York Times, "Lizzie's literary genius rests not just in her acres of quotable one-liners but in her invention of what was really a new form, which has more or less replaced literary fiction — the memoir by a young person no one has ever heard of before. It was a form that Lizzie fashioned in her own image, because she always needed to be both the character and the author."

The journalist Ronan Farrow remembered Wurtzel on Monday as "kind and generous."

"I met Lizzie in law school. She started mid-career as I was starting young," Farrow tweeted. "We were both misfits and she was kind and generous and filled spaces that might have otherwise been lonely with her warmth and humor and idiosyncratic voice. She gave a lot to a lot of us. I miss her."

His mother, actress Mia Farrow, said Wurtzel was "brilliant, complex, fascinating, fun and kind."

Others on Twitter praised Wurtzel for her confessional style of writing.

"Elizabeth Wurtzel was a major factor in making personal essay the currency of women writers in the 90s," one Twitter user wrote. "This was a blessing and a curse, both for her and for the rest of us. We all deserved better and to be better, and I'm sad she's gone."

Lindsey Adler, a writer at The Athletic, said: "Elizabeth Wurtzel didn't just change the memoir game. She helped brush back the stigma of psychiatric treatment for mental health issues. Her work did important things and yet, she wasn't always taken seriously because of those issues. She suffered for her candor. RIP"

Journalist Erin Blakemore said it is impossible to convey the impact Wurtzel had in the '90s.

"She was unapologetic, raw, honest. She stood for a very specific form of GenX femininity, confession, rage," Blakemore tweeted. "We learned from her — and from how intensely she was mocked for writing about her own life."