How to Knit a Human by Anna Jacobson (NewSouth, 2024)

The cover of 'How to Knit a Human': an aqua blue cover with Anna's illustration of a figure knitting. The purple yarn weaves around the navy title and Anna's name is in magenta.

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I want to know what it was like to have crossed into the realm of madness. After all, I did it. I went mad. Why can’t I have the secret knowledge that comes with it?

How do you write a memoir when your memories have been taken? She awakens in hospital, greeted by nurses and patients she doesn’t recognise, but who address her with familiarity. She decides to untangle the clues.
How to Knit a Human is Anna’s quest to find her self and her memory after experiencing psychosis and Electroconvulsive therapy in 2011, at the age of twenty-three. As the memory barriers begin to crumble, Anna weaves her experiences around the gaps of memories that are still not accessible. Anna writes and creates art on her own terms. This book is a reclamation of story and self.


‘Blazing, incantatory and furious, this is a work of unshakeable witness. Jacobson sorts through the shapes and shades of memory, dropped stitches and invisible repairs, to forge a blazing work of consolation and recuperation, a paean to resilience and creativity.’ FELICITY PLUNKETT

How to Knit a Human is a precise and searching memoir that illuminates the fragile balance that can exist between memory and one’s sense of self. The writing reflects superbly on the profound impact of memory loss caused by psychosis and its treatment, and shows us how storytelling can form part of healing through the sharing of experiences and a deeper understanding of them.’ KÁRI GÍSLASON

‘In this wise, wry and moving memoir Anna Jacobson reclaims her self from the institutions that sought to define her. As she asks vital questions about care, memory and inheritance, Jacobson reminds us of the recuperative joy of creative life.’ MIREILLE JUCHAU

‘This book is a revelation. If Leonora Carrington teamed up with Janet Frame you might get something close to the kind, gentle, weird and brutal brilliance of How to Knit a Human. Anna Jacobson has shifted my perspective on art and illness. 100 stars. Bravo!’ KRIS KNEEN

How to Knit a Human is a visceral and immersive memoir, carefully crafted as well as genre-bending. Jacobson delves deep into her own unquiet mind only to emerge artistically victorious. A triumph.’ LEE KOFMAN

‘In How to Knit a Human, Anna Jacobson gives us a sheaf of home made X-rays that net interior light. Her ability to stand both inside and outside of memory as an encased form has allowed Anna a rare set of insights, something akin to planting seeds in the air, that initially subsist then quietly grow under the moisture in her own breath. As writer, artist and musician, it is fortunate that Anna has the intellectual, emotional, familial and spiritual machinery to approach memory (as itself and herself), in a way that she can watch the pieces of the existential jigsaw move inside the box without her even touching them.’ NATHAN SHEPHERDSON

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