Emotional Female

Yumiko Kadota

Emotional Female
Penguin Books Australia
18 January 2022

Emotional Female

Yumiko Kadota

Yumiko Kadota was a young, gifted medical student - the top of her class - on her way to becoming an outstanding plastic and reconstructive surgeon. For fourteen years she’d studied and worked hard. She put in 70-hour weeks at the public hospital as a plastic surgery registrar, accepted everything her superiors threw at her because that’s what you do to get on, right? Her life revolved around her work, but it was okay because it would all amount to a stellar, dream career down the track. In 2018, she walked away from it all.

Emotional Female charts Kadota’s rugged journey through ambition and dedication to exploitation and eventual collapse - and beyond. Yumiko Kadota is a voice for her generation when it comes to work practices and burnout, but she’s also someone other generations can look to as a symptom of what’s acceptable in the workplace.


You may recall an article in the Sydney Morning Herald in 2018 about a junior doctor resigning from the Australian public health system due to burnout. Rostered up to 20 consecutive days in a row, clocking well over 100 hours of overtime each month and often surviving on a couple of hours’ sleep, Yumiko Kadota’s body and mind reached its limit. Despite attempts by both Kadota and her GP to get her hours reduced, she was told by staff that her workload was ‘good for you’ and she should just continue. The day she resigned, she experienced a car crash on the way home.

It’s no secret that medicine is a demanding profession. Kadota acknowledges the support she received from many colleagues and mentors, and understands that some who didn’t did so because they had nothing of themselves left to give. But to see a passionate, driven medical student with a talent for surgery slowly become a depressed, isolated young doctor is devastating. I was taken aback by the prejudice, harassment and lack of support Kadota received. I don’t think the profession and government could get a better wake-up call than this book.

There is a powerful sense of immediacy to Kadota’s writing. We share her thrill at participating in her first surgery, the gratitude of her patients, the confrontation of her first death certification and the chilling moment where she considers self-harm just so she can get some rest. By recalling events in such detail, Kadota allows us to understand just why she kept going, as well as what led her to finally resign.

It is a privilege to review this book. Emotional Female is a brave memoir where the author doesn’t hold back from sharing her most vulnerable moments. If this doesn’t end up in my top three reads of this year I will be surprised.

Amanda Rayner is a bookseller at Readings Carlton.

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