A searching, galvanizing memoir about blood and love: how learning more about her period, PMS, PMDD, and the effects of hormones on moods transformed her relationships—to a new partner, to family, to non-blood kin, and to her own body—from the beloved essayist and author of Women
Chloe Caldwell’s period has often felt inconvenient, uncomfortable, or even painful. It’s only once she’s in her thirties, as she’s falling in love with Tony, a musician and single dad, that its effects on her mood start to dominate her life. Spurred by the intensity and seriousness of her new relationship, it strikes her: her outbursts of anxiety and rage match her hormonal cycle.
Compelled to understand the truth of what’s happening to her, Chloe documents attitudes toward menstruation among her peers and family, reads Reddit threads about PMS, attends a conference called Break the Cycle, and learns about premenstrual dysphoric disorder, PMDD, which helps her name what she’s been going through. For Chloe, healing isn’t about finding a single cure. It means reflecting on underlying patterns in her life: her feelings about her queer identity and writing persona in the context of a heterosexual relationship; how her parents’ divorce contributed to her issues with trust; and what it means to blend a family.
The Red Zone is a candid, revelatory memoir for anyone grappling with controversial medical diagnoses and labels of all kinds. It’s about coming to terms with the fact that—along with proper treatment—self-acceptance, self-compassion, and transcending shame are the ultimate keys to relief. It’s also about love: how challenging it can be, how it reveals your weaknesses and wounds, and how, if you allow it, it will push you to grow and change.
About the Author
Chloe Caldwell is the author of three books: I’ll Tell You in Person, Women, and Legs Get Led Astray. Her essays have been published in The New York Times, Bon Appétit, The Cut, The Strategist, BuzzFeed, NYLON, VICE, Longreads, and many anthologies. Her essay “Hungry Ghost” was listed as Notable in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2017. She lives in Hudson, New York, and teaches creative writing online at Writing Workshops, LitReactor, and the Fine Arts Work Center. Find out more at www.chloesimonne.com.
Named a Most Anticipated Book by BuzzFeed, Glamour, NYLON, and Bustle A W Magazine Essential Feminist Read
"In her memoir The Red Zone: A Love Story, Caldwell grapples with the realities of her 30s . . . Caldwell is grown now. Strange visitors are at her door—PMDD, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and a prospective life partner who happens to be a divorced man with a daughter. Here, our heroine is on a different journey: to establish a peace accord with her own period, whose cyclical hormonal fluctuations wreak havoc on her body and relationships . . . To find relief, she harnesses her episodes for semi-scientific investigation and emotional revelations that do, ultimately, serve to connect Caldwell with Tony, his daughter and a network of women obsessed with finding out why they cycle through rage and agony. These women have suffered excruciating, often emotionally shattering episodes that are alternately undisclosed, unrecognized or dismissed . . . I found myself texting images of certain pages to a friend I suspect may have PMDD." —Kristen Millares Young, The Washington Post
"Caldwell’s cathartic The Red Zone will be a comfort and a revelation to those suffering." —Laura Waddell, The Scotsman
"Periods are often shrouded in mystery and shame. But in Chloé Caldwell’s new memoir, The Red Zone: A Love Story, she brings the period front and center by making the rhythm of a menstrual cycle the rhythm of a life . . . It’s humorous and genuine . . . a story about the things we so often fear society will render illegitimate through its judgmental gaze—periods, being a stepparent, bisexuality, divorce. But it shows us that the only gaze required to render our experiences as legitimate is our own, searing and red-hot, and always fiercely authentic." —Nylah Burton, Shondaland
"Characteristically affecting, sharp, and funny." —Katie Heaney, The Cut
"Caldwell poetically captures the complexities of living (and loving) with PMDD . . . Flip through The Red Zone, and you'll find many things: Reddit threads and diaristic lists; romantic excursions and heated text messages; questions and (sometimes) answers. But whatever shape its content takes, one thing is clear: The Red Zone is an homage to love . . . Perhaps that's why I was able to see my own first pivotal period experience in a new light after reading." —Rachel Schwartzmann, Byrdie
“A mix of memoir, medical investigation, and group therapy, Caldwell’s latest is a red-hot probe into the biology, ramifications, and politics of menstruation. Using her personal struggles with premenstrual dysphoric disorder as a vehicle to explore the way that other women experience their periods, Caldwell takes us from Reddit threads to the halls of her own marriage with the candidness and bravery that has made her a standout memoirist and teacher.” —Courtney Maum, Literary Hub
"I first read the novella Women by Chloe Caldwell when I was heartbroken over my first queer relationship, and it became my go-to recommendation for people to understand what I had gone through. I can only imagine her new memoir, The Red Zone, will become that book for many more people: ones with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), difficult periods, medical concerns that evade diagnoses, or even just people whose relationship to labels of all sorts is ever-changing. Chloe Caldwell is known for her candor and honesty in her writing and The Red Zone more than lives up to that reputation." —Analyssa Lopez, Autostraddle
"Caldwell turns her focus on her period, forever a source of anxiety and rage that’s now threatening her relationship. Through interviews, conferences and Reddit threads, the author explores the boxes we put ourselves, and one another, in—at any time of the month." —Lauren Emily, GO Magazine
"Both frank and emotionally resonant . . . A welcome return for an assured and compelling literary voice." —Vol. 1 Brooklyn
"Caldwell’s book is refreshingly different, honoring the intimacy and conflict that menstruation can bring . . . A humorous, tender, and informative memoir, The Red Zone shows readers how exploring our bodies can help us connect to the deepest parts of who we are and how we relate to others." —Nylah Burton, BitchReads
"This memoir explores finding the language and communication skills to come to terms with emotions and physical pain beyond anything we have ever encountered in media, social or familial conversation, medical treatment . . . I wish it was around back in the 1990s. I’m glad it’s here now. This is one you’re going to buy for the teenager as well as your friends and colleagues in their twenties and thirties. With a love story entwined with a chorus of voices, this is compulsively enjoyable and empowering memoir." —Lauren LeBlanc, The Observer, Best Memoirs of Spring
"Caldwell comes to the realization in her 30s that her strong waves of emotion are tied inextricably with her menstrual cycle . . . With wry humor, Caldwell takes the reader with her on her journey of not only discovering what’s wrong, but dealing with the symptoms of it. She tells the love story between herself and her body as she works to understand it better." —Emma Cariello, Chronogram
"From bleeding on her boyfriend’s sheets to real talk about blood clots to sometimes hating her period unapologetically, [Caldwell] tells honest, shame-free stories about learning from, suffering through, and simply having a period. And in doing so, Caldwell gives readers the period story we deserve." —Anna Sims, Electric Literature
"In some ways, I'm surprised this is a book that hasn't been published before. But I also have to believe, especially after reading Caldwell's sharp wit and wry sense of humor, that she had to be the one to write it . . . It's got everything I want in a memoir—thinking on the page, the private and personal made public, and the perfect amount of humor." —Kateri Kramer, The Rumpus
"What I think is so compelling about Chloe’s writing is her candor and how deeply personal she gets . . . The Red Zone is maybe her most generous and well-researched work yet . . . A textured and comprehensive book about PMDD that will likely become a significant resource for people who menstruate." —Shelby Hinte, Write or Die Tribe
"Scintillating . . . [Caldwell] smartly blends the personal and cultural to confront the ways women’s suffering has been dismissed throughout history . . . The result gives a vibrant voice to a struggle that many have been taught to quietly shoulder alone. This is an audacious tribute to women everywhere." —Publishers Weekly
"Caldwell delves deeply into medical and social aspects of menstruation as well as complex aspects of women's health, identity, marriage, and family, resulting in a fresh, intimate, and engaging chronicle." —Booklist
"Caldwell’s candor about all things menstrual is the greatest strength of this dynamic book . . . [W]omen who suffer from PMDD will take solace in the ups and downs of Caldwell’s journey toward self-acceptance, health, and love. The narrative may also appeal to anyone who suffers frustration and anger in the face of an illness for which they struggle to get an accurate diagnosis, a situation that disproportionately affects women. Provocatively intimate reading." —Kirkus Reviews
“It's the greatest love story known to woman: that of herself with her own body. This is deep, wild genius at work—a sharp, generous, questing, very funny book that lays bare the grueling extremes of menstruation. THERE WILL BE BLOOD. And thank god for that. Because we bleed. We bleed and bleed and bleed. As much as they want to pretend we don't. Chloe Caldwell writes with guts and grace. We are very lucky to have her.” —Emma Jane Unsworth, author of Grown Ups
“The necessity and urgency of The Red Zone made me wonder how I—and any woman—had lived so long without it. Through the lens of PMDD and the female body, Caldwell refracts every issue imaginable, from relationships to hormones to queerness to stepmotherhood to blended families, all with hilarity, intimacy, and depth. Feeling seen by this book is an understatement; it's a survival guide.” —Zaina Arafat, author of You Exist Too Much
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