How do family dynamics change when a parent or child struggles with mental health issues? This question has long been a topic of fictional writing – most recently with the excellent Imagine Me Gone (a finalist for this year’s Pulitzer Prize). But a spate of nonfiction accounts has caught my eye lately. Although they approach the topic from different angles, and the subject is naturally difficult, it is a positive trend that mental health and the American health care system can be discussed in such an open and frank manner.
No one Cares about Crazy People
by Ron Powers - Tragedy is the only way to describe how mental illness manifested itself in journalist Ron Powers’s life. His younger son began showing signs of schizophrenia while at college and sadly committed suicide. Not long after, Powers’ older son developed the disease as well, though so far he has responded well to medicine. Powers’ courageous book is family memoir woven into a history of how mental illness has been treated in America and how the modern healthcare system often fails those same families.
A Really Good Day: Microdosing by Ayelet Waldman
Waldman, well known for her 2009 memoir Bad Mother, has a history of writing controversial nonfiction. This book is no different. It’s an illuminating account of her mood disorder and experimentation with LSD to alleviate her anxiety and make her house a happier place to live. It’s also a probing look at why the justice system has criminalized this drug particularly harshly.
The Splendid Things We Planned by Blake Bailey
- Award winning biographer Blake Bailey turns his lens onto his own family in this hard-to-read but equally hard-to-put-down memoir. His older brother’s battle with addiction and self-destructive behavior and how his parents try to hold his family together make for an unforgettable read. When I saw David Sedaris at a reading last summer, he couldn’t recommend this book highly enough, and he was right.
-Ginger Hawkins, Patrick Henry Library