Kirsten's Reviews > Nobody's Child

Nobody's Child by Marie Balter
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Apr 30, 08

bookshelves: from-library, mental-health, psych-and-neuroscience, non-fiction, memoir
Read in April, 2008

Marie Balter spent the majority of the time between age 17 and her late thirties in Sutton Hospital in Boston. After her tenure there, she gradually managed to rejoin the outside world and eventually became an advocate for the mentally ill, particularly those who had been hospitalized for the long-term.

Balter's story is interesting, and is a good counterpoint to some other memoirs of mental illness, like Girl Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen, which tend to involved relatively brief stays in much nicer private hospitals. Balter's writing, unfortunately, is not particularly good; she frequently switches between past and present tense to describe events happening in the past, which sometimes makes it confusing, especially since she also jumps chronologically from the past to the present fairly frequently. I also wish that she had written a little more about exactly what she was supposed to be in the hospital for; at first, when she was seventeen, it seems like she mostly ended up there because she was depressed and didn't have anywhere else to go. Later, she seems to show signs of acute anxiety disorder and anxiety or depression-related psychosis, but since she was also on massive amounts of drugs in an experimental program, it's hard to know how much of the psychosis was caused by this.

The final thing I was curious about is that at the time she wrote her memoir, Balter was working closely with patient's rights groups and seems to have been part of the movement to get more people released from the hospitals into group home situations. While she seemed to have a strong sense that there was a right and a wrong way to do this, I do wish that she'd talked more about how the massive closings of state mental institutions in 70s affected the population of the homeless and mentally ill.
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