This book was slow going because I was mostly reading it during my lunch hour at work, but it's a good read. Ngugi wa Thiong'o is an acclaimed author,This book was slow going because I was mostly reading it during my lunch hour at work, but it's a good read. Ngugi wa Thiong'o is an acclaimed author, and in this memoir he tells of his life growing up in Kenya during WWII and the Mau Mau uprising. When I started reading this book, I knew very little about Kenyan history, so this made some of the events difficult to follow. On the other hand, it has spurred me to learn more about the greater political climate at the time. Sometimes the book can be a bit hard to follow, because the narrative is not always linear; it's more like listening to someone talk than reading a book, as the author is reminded of incidents or backtracks to explain something that has not been mentioned before. Sometimes this can be confusing, but it is also a rewarding experience....more
Sometimes memoirs are dangerous things, especially memoirs that are going for a more "wacky" angle about the author's bizarre and/or horrifying childhSometimes memoirs are dangerous things, especially memoirs that are going for a more "wacky" angle about the author's bizarre and/or horrifying childhood. This is a good one, though; Abrahams treats her childhood self sympathetically, but also can't help but point out both the absurdity of her situation and the insane way she handled it.
As the title indicates, Kyria Abrahams grew up Jehovah's Witness, and the first part of her memoir is a fascinating child's eye view of what this entails and how real people navigate the often-ridiculous strictures of the faith. As she gets older, Kyria begins to rebel against her faith, but not before dropping out of school, entering into an ill-advised marriage, and discovering the wonders of alcoholism and suicidal ideation. Oddly, it's not really a depressing read, and you find yourself rooting for the young Kyria, almost in spite of yourself -- she's so screwed up, and makes so many stupid mistakes, but at the same time... Well, as she puts it, when you grow up in a faith that regards murder and smoking as equally bad because all sins are equal in the eyes of Jehovah, it tends to really throw off your sense of the world.
The only thing I sort of wished for was more resolution, even though it is probably artistically more interesting to end where she did. The memoir ends with Kyria just barely finding her feet after burning all of her bridges, and I found myself wanting to call her and check up: "Are you really ok now? Do you talk to your parents? How's that drinking problem?" But maybe that's material for a sequel....more
Until Mei-Ling Hopgood was in college, she knew she was adopted and she knew the barest bones of her early life story, but she didn't particularly feeUntil Mei-Ling Hopgood was in college, she knew she was adopted and she knew the barest bones of her early life story, but she didn't particularly feel the need to seek out more information about her birth family. She loved her parents, a loving Midwestern couple, and she adamantly thought of herself as an all-American girl.
When she meets the nun who originally organized her adoption, however, she finds herself agreeing to get in touch with her Taiwanese family. The next thing she knows, she is on the phone with seemingly dozens of family members, and they don't just want to know how she's doing -- they want to meet her and treat her as part of the family again.
At first, Mei-Ling is just excited and exhausted by the chaos surrounding her birth family. But soon, questions begin to crop up: Mei-Ling has so many sisters; why was she the one who was given up? Why did her mother acquiesce? Why is the relationship between her birth parents so strange?
Mei-Ling's story is fascinating, although the writing is not particularly strong. Or rather, it's somewhat uneven; stretches of very good writing will be punctuated by that which is pedestrian or downright wooden. The strength of the narrative overrides the unevenness of the writing, however, and I recommend this memoir to anyone who enjoys a good memoir or who has an interest in international adoption....more
The sad thing about this book is that my favorite part was the cover. I mean, that's a brilliant cover!
But overall? Not the book I was hoping for. FisThe sad thing about this book is that my favorite part was the cover. I mean, that's a brilliant cover!
But overall? Not the book I was hoping for. Fisher seems to have mostly transcribed her one-woman show, and the problem is, what works for a performance doesn't hold up very well as a book. Everything's sort of glossed over with self-deprecating jokes, and there's not a real sense of narrative or much in the way of self-reflection. I didn't really want a celebrity tell-all, but I would really be interested in what Fisher really thinks and feels about her struggles with addiction, mental illness, and the bizarreness of her fame. Instead, I mostly got a lot of jokes about how it's weird when guys talk about jacking off to Princess Leia. It seemed like whenever she got too close to something painful, it was danced around or told in such a way that felt like she was saying, "Ok, told you about that, got it out of the way, so there." There is some genuinely interesting and affecting material here, but it's hard to find, which is really disappointing. ...more
This combination biography/memoir in graphic novel form is a complete delight! Ann Marie Fleming knew vaguely that her great-grandfather, his wife, anThis combination biography/memoir in graphic novel form is a complete delight! Ann Marie Fleming knew vaguely that her great-grandfather, his wife, and his daughters had been somehow involved in show business, but all she had were a handful of anecdotes and a single playbill. As it turns out, Long Tack Sam (as her great-grandfather was known) was at one time a world-famous magician and acrobat, and he led a truly amazing life. Harry Houdini stole tricks from him, Orson Welles was among his fans, and audiences all over the world thought him to be one of the greatest acts in vaudeville history. His story is one of racism, love, adventure and hardship, and Fleming's account of tracking down his (and her own) history is no less exciting.
The book is based on Fleming's documentary about her great-grandfather, and makes use of stills and artwork from the film, but in my opinion it stands on its own very well. Highly recommended....more
I really enjoyed this book, which records one year of treating a woman addicted to Vicodin. It really isn't "Lucy's" story, however; it's really a medI really enjoyed this book, which records one year of treating a woman addicted to Vicodin. It really isn't "Lucy's" story, however; it's really a meditation from Stein on the nature of addiction and its treatment, and the role of the doctor in this situation.
Lucy's story really isn't all that special. Really, she is just an in, a focal point for Stein's musings. The book as a whole is fascinating reading, though, particularly for the window it gives into the though processes of one doctor. I love knowing things like what it's like for a male doctor to give a female patient a physical exam, or what it's like to give a physical exam, period. Small things, like trying to observe all one can in the first pass, lest one cause undue stress by focusing on one part of the body more closely ("he looked at that spot on my arm a second time -- there must be something wrong!"). Reading a patient's body language to learn what their boundaries are. Those are the things that were most interesting about this book. I would recommend it to those who enjoyed Atul Gawande's books; those who are interested in addiction and its treatment will find it interesting, but probably not as informative as they would have liked....more
This is a biting, sarcastic, and incredibly honest portrayal of depression. Brampton refuses to pull any punches or give herself any slack. She descriThis is a biting, sarcastic, and incredibly honest portrayal of depression. Brampton refuses to pull any punches or give herself any slack. She describes how she was openly hostile toward treatment (with sometimes hilarious results -- as someone who's been tempted to derail Cognitive Behavioral Therapy out of sheer cussedness, I couldn't stop laughing about her stubbornness in group therapy), was frequently a dangerously noncompliant patient, and very nearly derailed everything by developing a massive drinking problem along with her depression. She also really gets at the physical feelings that accompany depression; the way that it feels as though not only one's mind, but one's body is rebelling.
Other reviews have mentioned that the author behaved selfishly, foolishly, and was incredibly self-absorbed. Yes, yes, and yes. This is one of the reasons I loved this book. It really gets at the simultaneous self-loathing and self-centeredness that characterizes severe depression, and I applaud Sally Brampton for having the guts to portray herself as thoroughly unpleasant.
The only real flaw in the writing is that this book could probably have stood a little more organization; Brampton occasionally jumps around in time, making it a little difficult to discern which hospitalization she's talking about, or how long many of her issues persisted. It's not nearly as bad in this regard as Teri Cheney's Manic, but it could still stand some tightening up.
My only other issue is that she describes her depression as medication-resistant -- which definitely happens -- but doesn't really make a strong connection between the meds not working and the fact that she was drinking enormous amounts of alcohol at the same time. I have to wonder if, now that she is sober, she might have more success with antidepressants. On the other hand, she has found other effective ways of coping with and controlling her depression, so I can't really blame her for not wanting to get on the meds-go-round again.
Oh, one last comment -- this is really random, but I loved that she pointed out that meditation, while very effective for doing mental housecleaning once one is in recovery, can actual be detrimental if one is in the throes of a deep depression. A great number of people have suggested meditation to me as a means to heal my depression, not realizing that someone who is deeply depressed is not particularly adept at clearing their mind and thinking calming thoughts, etc., and it may actually just offer an opportunity for uninterrupted destructive thinking....more
When Samantha Schutz started college, she began to have frightening episodes for which she had no explanation. She would become fearful, particularlyWhen Samantha Schutz started college, she began to have frightening episodes for which she had no explanation. She would become fearful, particularly during class, have difficulty breathing, experience heart palpitations, and sometimes pass out. Every episode made things worse: fear of having an attack could trigger an attack. Eventually, Schutz learned that she was having panic attacks, and she suffered from panic disorder.
This is a frank, heartfelt memoir, told in free verse, that describes Schutz's college years and her struggle with anxiety and panic. I was dubious about the poetry format -- who wants to read someone else's poetry about their depression and anxiety? -- but it actually works really, really well. Schutz is able to capture moments and episodes in her life with wrenching clarity, and out of the short poems a complete portrait emerges. I think this is a particularly important book because there are so many memoirs of depression, and comparatively few that describe what it is like to live with unending anxiety. This was published as a YA book, but I would recommend it to just about anyone....more