A glimpse of how schizophrenia looks and feels from the inside.

A schizophrenic’s autobiographical manuscript serves as a creative-nonfiction project for his niece.

As a graduate student in creative nonfiction at the University of Iowa, former BuzzFeed editor Allen received a large envelope from the man she had affectionately known as “my crazy uncle Bob.” Her mother’s brother hadn’t been in much contact with the rest of the family outside of phone calls and an occasional cassette of the music he made and that obsessed him. The author set it aside because it disturbed her. However, she eventually not only read it, but began devoting much of her scholastic energy to it, sharing it with fellow students and writing an essay about it. Once she had brought herself to read it, “what surprised me was how much I liked it—his word choices and style.” Allen alternates between her edit of the manuscript she received, preserving the style and substance but cleaning it up some (it had been in all capital letters with irregular punctuation), and her own interpretation of what happened to her uncle: her attempts to corroborate what he had written with his parents and friends and her views on his treatment and psychiatry in general. The result is a patchwork, with the reader not sure what to believe and why it should be significant. Family members disagreed over Bob’s diagnosis and his recollections, and Allen’s own attempts to find perspective lack authority. “In my experience,” she writes, “people who’ve been psychiatrically diagnosed feel a variety of ways about their diagnosis and about the field of psychiatry itself.” She elaborates, “no two people I’ve interviewed or resources I’ve read about mental health care in America have felt the same way about what the right treatment should look like. But almost everyone who follows these issues agrees that the situation at present is quite grim.” Bob may not have managed to fit inside society, but he found a measure of peace outside it.

A glimpse of how schizophrenia looks and feels from the inside.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3403-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017


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



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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