THE ART OF MISDIAGNOSIS

SURVIVING MY MOTHER'S SUICIDE

A uniquely graceful, gorgeously written and composed collage of grief, misunderstanding, love, and an attempt at familial...

A novelist, poet, and writing teacher mourns the tragic loss of her tormented mother.

In this raw memoir, Brandeis (The Selfless Bliss of the Body, 2017, etc.) begins with her 70-year-old mother Arlene’s suicide in 2009, which coincided with the birth of her son Asher. Desperate for answers, she and her sister fruitlessly scoured their mother’s bedroom, which, much like the woman herself, appeared “lovely and elegant on the surface, total chaos underneath.” The author’s reality soon became even more complex: she wrestled with the grief of her mother’s sudden death, processed her complicated history of paranoia, suspicion, and delusions, and nurtured her newborn. This frustration bleeds into the text as Brandeis recounts episodes where her mother’s inexplicable accusations wreaked havoc on her pregnancy and her marriage. The author then reveals her mother’s history of psychosis, which seemed to stem from the author’s pregnancies, with which Arlene became obsessed. The book’s title comes from a documentary her mother, an artist, was producing about the rare inherited illnesses she believed plagued the family. Her daughter was skeptical, however, believing the film to be a “noble, misguided project.” Whether they were psychosomatically induced or not, Arlene attested that the illnesses had been repeatedly dismissed or misdiagnosed by the medical community; even the author herself admits to suffering, as a teenager, from a combination of malingering and factitious disorder. Urged by her therapist, Brandeis penned letters to her deceased mother to hopefully exorcise the demons haunting her and to transfer unexpressed feelings about their complex relationship into words. These resonant missives combine with exchanged emails, transcripts from her mother’s documentary, and evocative, retrospective narration detailing the author’s own medical maladies, youthful memories, and her love-hate relationship with a woman she seemed to empathize with in hindsight. Brandeis’ emotional struggle to truly understand her mother is searing and poignant. “I am aching to understand you now,” she writes, “to figure out your story, the path that led to your unraveling.”

A uniquely graceful, gorgeously written and composed collage of grief, misunderstanding, love, and an attempt at familial closure through art and prose.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8070-4486-5

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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