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. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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

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