Books by Kathryn Watterson

Released: March 1, 1995

A moving, though overlong, account of the triumph of patience and tolerance over bigotry. Based on a remarkable series of events that transpired in Lincoln, Neb., in the early 1990s, this book by journalist Watterson chronicles the transformation of Larry Trapp, Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan of Nebraska. Trapp, the product of a terribly abusive childhood and a number of years in institutions, assumed a leadership role in reviving Klan activities in Nebraska. Handicapped and confined to a wheelchair, he spent his considerable energies on disseminating hate literature, leaving obscene messages on the phone machines of civil rights activists, and planning attacks on members of minorities who moved into Lincoln. When Cantor Michael Weisser and his wife, Julie, decided to respond to Trapp's harassment by offering him help of the most basic kind— help with shopping and getting around—he was initially spiteful and wary. But he was also touched by the offer. Though well narrated, the story of how this developing and uneasy friendship led Trapp to renounce his ties to the Klan and eventually convert to Judaism is muddled by a plethora of uplifting quotes from inspirational literature, giving the account a New Age flavor. Towards the end of the book we learn that the cantor and his wife have also undergone remarkable personal recoveries from abuse and emotional deprivation, which clarifies their ability to bring about a transformation in Trapp. His conversion to Judaism is not easily accepted by some members of the Weissers' congregation (``forgiving your enemy is one thing, but letting him become a member of your family is another,'' says one temple member). Trapp dies soon after his conversion ceremony, and his very moving funeral—attended by many of the individuals whom he attacked—is the book's closing scene. This story received considerable media attention in 1992; for those who missed it, Watterson tells it in historical and social context—a bit too much so. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 11, 1992

A disturbing account of psychiatric malpractice and rape, written by the victim, who sued, won, and saw her therapist lose his license. Noâl was a young singer who first sought treatment with Chicago's eminent psychoanalyst Jules Masserman for headaches, panic attacks, and performance anxiety. She remained with him, except for brief periods with other therapists, for 18 years, becoming addicted to Sodium Amytal (a barbiturate he administered intravenously) and, in a related dependency, to alcohol. Their relationship ended when Noâl awoke early from an Amytal session and found Masserman raping her; she suspected it wasn't the first time. Here, Noâl describes her long-term treatment, unorthodox in many other details, in an easy-to-follow narrative before moving to the complex sequence of events following her charges of rape. Although she was unable to pursue those charges because there was no physical evidence to support her claims, Noâl was able successfully to challenge Masserman's medical judgment (Amytal is a discredited mode of treatment), to get more than her money back, and to see Masserman lose not just his medical license but the opportunity to practice any therapy whatsoever. Moreover, publicity about Noâl's case encouraged two other women to come forward, make claims, and collect, and ten others to call Noâl's lawyer with their own stories. Masserman was suspended from the American Psychiatric Association but, according to Noâl, organization bigwigs protected him from expulsion and from notification to the membership, a decision she clearly resents. Noâl's story is shocking and convincing, and her presentation, full of significant details, is appropriately focused. She includes subsequent therapeutic findings of childhood incest—an experience that, she says, left her vulnerable to Masserman's exploitation—and she refers to an ongoing process of adjustment. A sadly compelling addition to the growing literature on sexual abuse. Read full book review >