REVIEW: Emotional Female by Yumiko Kadota

In brief: The story of a female doctor, navigating the demands of training, working and studying to become a plastic surgeon. But it didn’t end well.

The good: Yumiko words send the emotion from the page to the reader and I felt like I was right beside her.

The not-so-good: Some scenarios I was too familiar with.

Why I chose it: I like medical non-fiction and there is no way I could resist the Oxford-style cover. Thank you to Penguin for the copy.

Year: 2021

Pages: 384

Publisher: Viking (Penguin)

Setting: Australia

Emotional Female is a book I’ve been wanting to read for a long time, and I’m really glad that Yumiko Kadota has written it. I’ve followed her blog for quite some time and wondered if she was OK – now I know she was busy writing. And that cover is just brilliant – it’s almost like a secret sign for those who are in the medical/hospital field. (If you’re not sure what I mean, check out the design of the Oxford Medical Handbooks).

Emotional Female is a memoir of Yumiko’s life, focusing on her days as a medical student and later doctor. Yumiko sounds to me like the doctor you would want to have on your team – open, engaged, clever with the patient’s care at the centre of it all. She’s a hard worker who would always strive for more- case in point where she was practising her surgical ties all around her house. Even as a student, she had ambition and plans to be a plastic surgeon. She had her career mapped out, and then things started to get awkward. There was sexual harassment, long hours, dealing with the whims and vagaries of different personalities and endless days on call. What was eye opening is that nobody thought that weeks on call was unusual or wrong – that it was more of a stamina test to see if the doctor could ‘handle’ working most of the hours of the day and then being called frequently during the night. Eventually the days and nights working, followed by nights on call and then repeat was too much and Yumiko quit. The book deals with her depression, PTSD and slow road to recovery and rebuilding her life without surgery.

Emotional Female isn’t always an easy read because of its content, but it’s a necessary one. Toxicity in the workplace isn’t something that is readily discussed, nor is the effect of very long hours and on call periods on mental and physical health. Sexual harassment, bullying, being sworn at and told you’re an ‘emotional female’ when you deal with an inappropriate request in the middle of the night – it doesn’t make for a happy, productive workplace. Yumiko discusses it all clearly and at times, the emotion simmers off the page. (At times, I was really angry on Yumiko’s behalf when it seemed like the common sense of others went out the window). She has a friendly writing style, making the reader seem as if they are right there alongside Yumiko. Adding in details about her family made the whole story more personal – Yumiko’s family sound very loving and proud of her. Yumiko also doesn’t make it seem as though she is perfect, as she describes her faults and where she thought she could improve. Overall, Emotional Female was a strong story that has allowed conversations to start about topics that previously haven’t been discussed, Thanks Yumiko.

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