DWMs, the new literary frontier

Claire Greeman – An english major who does extra work outside of class

Normal people!
Okay, now that I’ve gotten the attention of all of the sad lit girls I want to discuss a pervasive phenomenon in the literature world: the DWM. A phrase coined by “CJ Reads” on Youtube, a DWM stands for “depressed woman moving.” It is what it sounds like, a DWM is a slice of life/inner world/essentially plotless novel following a depressed woman moving through the world, whether it be physically, emotionally, mentally, or all three.
This isn’t a report so I’m not going to bore you with any history or stats, but the DWM is a fairly new literary phenomenon- to my knowledge the biggest hit for this sub-sub literary genre is My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottesa Moshfegh. Even if you don’t recognize the name, the cover was a standout in bookstores last year or thereabouts; it depicted a Victorian era woman with a bright pink spine. The cover isn’t the only genius of this book however. The novel tells the tale of a female narrator with a complicated history with her wealthy family who allows her to live, unemployed, in an apartment in New York City. She hates her only female friend, relies emotionally on her withholding older lover, and resolves to be drugged for a year and emerge with a new outlook on life.
What DWMs, and what this book specifically does, is show the rich interior lives of women (specifically depressed women) that can make some (me) feel seen. My Year of R and R also plays with the subversion of tropes, ie. having an unlikable narrator who doesn’t get a happy ending, is the worst half of her terrible relationships, and doesn’t try to justify her revelry within her white middle class identity. For those reasons, DWMs can be very subversive, rich, and thought provoking, which is why I’m so happy that this is a trope that won’t be losing steam anytime soon.
These books are also cynical and dark- so often focusing on consumerism, current American culture, and identity, which is why I think they are a subset of another pervasive literary genre, the millennial fiction novel (which might have to become my own acronym if no one else will hurry up and coin it.)
All of this to say that get on board or get out of the way of these DWMs! Women aren’t going to stop being interesting, depressed, or un-moving for too long.
If you’re looking for a good place to start My Year of R and R is a great introduction, but if you want a protagonist that is more likeable I suggest Luster by Raven Lelani. Sally Rooney’s new novel Beautiful World Where Are You offers up two depressed women for the price of one, and I’m sure that if your eyes perked up at the mention of Normal People, this book is already on your radar.
However, my personal favorite is The Idiot by Elif Bautman and it is perfect for the Gustavian Weekly’s readership; the novel chronicles the first year of our protagonist’s university career as she struggles with her relationship to other people and to the world. She begins life at a private university, coming in alone and a little bit out of her depth. She grapples with the burgeoning online culture and when she connects with a boy in her class over email but his presence in real life leaves something to be desired. She loses her connection with herself but finds it again in the lives of the people she encounters during a semester abroad. I didn’t fully “get it” as a freshman, but looking back, she has some very vivid experiences that I think a lot of us can relate to as First-years as it pertains to our relationships with ourselves and the world around us. Which is another reason why I love the DWM: the connections you make between yourself and the characters are feeling (and they feel a lot) can enrich your life and your understanding of your identity in a very real way.
So go out and pick up a DWM, and if you’re not already depressed, don’t worry, you soon will be!
venience, but also all the different experiences available to you. Life is too short to use bathrooms that don’t have good, or at the very least interesting, vibes, and GAC has a plethora of offerings in that regard.

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