As someone who has suffered from an eating disorder and PTSD, I consider Darkness Visible an inspiring read. Only by sharing our stories of struggle aAs someone who has suffered from an eating disorder and PTSD, I consider Darkness Visible an inspiring read. Only by sharing our stories of struggle and recovery can we destigmatize mental illness, ranging from bipolar disorder to schizophrenia to obsessive-compulsive disorder. William Styron's memoir about his battle with depression and suicidal ideation serves as one of the first of its kind, highlighting his courage to shed light on a topic often darkened by society.
With personal and raw prose, Styron details the onset of his depression and his fight to seek help. He infuses his account with bits of dark humor as well as allusions to others who have endured suicidal thoughts: Randall Jarrell, Primo Levi, and more. Styron's honesty gives his memoir a sheer truthfulness, as his attention to detail and self-analysis make his story feel even more painful and real. A quote that captures just a snapshot of his turmoil:
"In depression this faith in deliverance, in ultimate restoration, is absent. The pain is unrelenting, and what makes the condition intolerable is the foreknowledge that no remedy will come - not in a day, an hour, a month, or a minute. If there is mild relief, one knows that it is only temporary; more pain will follow. It is hopelessness even more than pain that crushes the soul."
My favorite part of this book centers on Styron's final message of hope. He concludes his memoir in an uplifting and candid way, acknowledging that yes, depression sucks, and yes, it gets better. These types of endings give me the most joy, because they acknowledge that though our struggles really are awful in this moment, we still have so much to experience and to grow from in our journeys. We still have a lot of love to give and to receive from our world and those who inhabit it. I will finish this review with a closing quote from Darkness Visible itself:
"But one need not sound the false or inspirational note to stress the truth that depression is not the soul's annihilation; men and women who have recovered from the disease - and they are countless - bear witness to what is probably its only saving grace: it is conquerable."...more
Society responds to those suffering from physical illnesses, like cancer; we have become more receptive to those fighting certain mental illnesses asSociety responds to those suffering from physical illnesses, like cancer; we have become more receptive to those fighting certain mental illnesses as well, like depression. But we often turn a blind eye to the scars created by child abuse - we want to believe in the sanctity of family, even when millions of children grow up battered both inside and out. Susan Forward's Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life provides a much-needed guide on how victims of abuse can break free from their pasts and move toward healthful, happy lives.
Forward provides a through breakdown of different types of abuse: verbal, physical, and sexual, and the multifaceted behaviors that comprise them. She offers several examples of abuse victims from her own clinical practice and how they progressed in therapy and recovered. Her voice comes across as nurturing and validating, and she also encourages victims to take the necessary steps to release themselves from the pain their parents created. She touches on several tricky topics with wisdom, such as how to regulate anger, the harmful myth of forgiveness, and how to handle loaded subjects like alcohol and incest.
My main takeaway from reading this book: it is never too late to change. No matter how awful you have felt in the past or how you may have coped in unhealthful ways, you can recover from your parents' abuse and lead a fulfilling, meaningful life. This book serves two, if not more, important functions: it gives voice to those mistreated and then shamed by their parents, and it provides victims with ways to regain trust and autonomy. As someone who has fought with his own family demons, I would recommend this book to anyone with an abusive history or anyone who wants to learn more. I encourage therapy and tons of self-compassion, too....more
An alright self-help book about how we can use difficult times to grow. Elizabeth Lesser, co-founder of the Omega Institute known for spiritual retreaAn alright self-help book about how we can use difficult times to grow. Elizabeth Lesser, co-founder of the Omega Institute known for spiritual retreat and personal growth, shares her own story of loss as well as the journeys of those she has encountered through her work. She mixes theory with memoir with metaphor to address difficult experiences and the potential pockets of revitalization these types of trials can bring.
I wanted a little more definition from this book. While Lesser took a nuanced approach to her storytelling, I found myself glossing over certain sections of Broken Open because of their circularity. I would have gotten more wisdom from this book if Lesser had connected more of her themes together in a concrete way. And while I agree that certain meanings and feelings transcend words, I thought Broken Open veered into New Age, wish-washy territories at times.
Overall, this book might inspire at least one person, and just one makes it worth it. Not the first book I would recommend to someone going through a tough time, but perhaps I would share it with people who dig self-help books. Of course, I always appreciate the general theme of resilience in times of hardship....more
A novel full of distinct ideas and images that never quite came together. Monique Truong's debut book centers on Binh, a gay Vietnamese cook who fleesA novel full of distinct ideas and images that never quite came together. Monique Truong's debut book centers on Binh, a gay Vietnamese cook who flees Saigon in 1929 to work as a galley hand at sea. He narrates his journey while later employed as a live-in cook for Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas, two esteemed women who operate a literary salon in Paris. When the two women plan a return trip to America, Binh must confront the ghosts of his family and his exile.
The Book of Salt included a lot of cool phrases and poetic images about sexuality, race, gender, abuse, and more. I got lost - in a good way - in some of Truong's passages; they would often flow from thought to metaphor to sensation and beyond. Her use of Binh's overt introspection to isolate minute details and string them together impressed me
However, I felt an overwhelming lack of direction in The Book of Salt. Binh's mind wanders from place to time to memory to incident without any solid grounding; the impact of his journey decreased because of how Truong did not give his internal rumination enough structure. While Binh's desire for belonging and his curiosity about Stein and Toklas pulsated from the pages of the novel, his intense strands of emotion never merged into a single thread for readers to hold onto and follow.
Overall, a unique book I would recommend to those intrigued by its synopsis, because it does touch on several fascinating subjects. While Truong both hit and miss with The Book of Salt, I would still give another book of hers a shot, if not just for her poetic prose....more
A modern and innovative retelling of The Arabian Nights centered on Fatimah Abdullah, an old matriarch who tells her life story to Scheherazade in anA modern and innovative retelling of The Arabian Nights centered on Fatimah Abdullah, an old matriarch who tells her life story to Scheherazade in an attempt to alleviate the latter's boredom. The novel begins on Fatimah's 992nd night while she also starts to plan her own funeral, because she believes that by tale 1001, she will complete her purpose and pass away. Alia Yunis moves us back and forth between Fatima's present-day situations as well as the scenarios that encompass her sprawling family.
I enjoyed how Yunis dispersed the idea of identity in The Night Counter: she moved away from Arab-American stereotypes and portrayed an array of experiences. She gives us glimpses into the lives of Amir, Fatimah's out-and-proud gay grandson, Zade, a dysfunctional and uncouth matchmaker, Dina, a Texas-homecoming queen who goes to volunteer in Gaza, and more. Yunis deconstructs the idea that only one type of Arab-American exists, and she paints Fatimah's family with eclectic color and vivid personality.
While I did not love this book with all of my heart, I would recommend it to those with an interest in The Arabian Nights, Arab-American identity, frame stories, or humanity in general. A good college read that exposed me to culture and a family outside of my own....more
Nowhere near as good as Me Before You, but an honest depiction of grief nonetheless. In the past few years I have learned about the myth of moving onNowhere near as good as Me Before You, but an honest depiction of grief nonetheless. In the past few years I have learned about the myth of moving on and the ways in which society tries to force closure, when oftentimes no such thing exists. Jojo Moyes captures this journey of letting go through Louisa, rendering her relapses in realistic and messy ways. Of course, every snippet of Will made my heart clench.
But I did feel unimpressed with this book's pacing and its lack of novelty. Moyes recycled Louisa's same internal struggle from Me Before You, just with different external fixtures: Lily, Sam, and the Moving On circle did not reach me on an emotional level. The plot of After You and Louisa's development both meandered. While the story contained some rare moments of insight, those few passages did not compensate for the rest of the lackluster prose - in particular because Moyes proved her ability to write magic in Me Before You.
Overall, an okay book I would hesitate to recommend unless you feel super thirsty for the follow up to Me Before You. While I did not love the book, I liked Moyes's funny dialogue and her focus on feminism. ...more
An experimental book about a bunch of Filipino, genderqueer kids living in 1970s Hawaii. While the fragmented structure of the story did not do too muAn experimental book about a bunch of Filipino, genderqueer kids living in 1970s Hawaii. While the fragmented structure of the story did not do too much for me, I appreciated Zamora Linmark's honest and sometimes brutal portrayal of postcolonial trauma and race relations. Linmark incorporated a ton of pop references that offset the serious stuff the fifth-graders in Rolling the R's face, and his consistent use of Pidgin English made the novel a unique read. Recommended to those interested in its synopsis as well as to those searching for something different, diverse, and meaningful in a zany way....more