THE ALCHEMY OF SURVIVAL: One Woman's Journey by
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Mack (Psychiatry/Harvard Med.) won a 1976 Pulitzer for A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T.E. Lawrence. In this extraordinary work, he teams with fellow psychiatry professor Rogers (UCLA School of Medicine) to tell her inspiring life-story. Mack and Rogers trace the forging of a strong, empathetic and maturely independent person through her struggles with severe adversities. Born into a tightly knit Jewish family and community which had learned to survive in the chronically disputed ethnic, religious, and political no-man's-land of northernmost Romania, Rogers acquired in early childhood bedrock identity and values from a mother whose love and penetrating intuition verged on the archetypal, from a father who lived his principles, and from her community. This sense of self-worth kept her alive. She survived a Nazi internment camp by her wits and fierce determination, and escaped from two communist regimes by sheer grit and by the skin of her teeth. As a poor and stateless refugee, she scrabbled her way through medical schools in Prague and Vienna, earned her degree, and emigrated to the US, where she built a distinguished career. And she mastered what is perhaps the greatest challenge to those who suffer yet live through the devastations that governments wreak upon their lives: to understand the manifold causes of violence and destruction; to reject the angry megalomania of feeling oneself a victim to whom the world is forever in debt; and to learn not to hate. Her career as a child psychiatrist--one who also works publicly with interdisciplinary teams to break the perennial cycles of hatred, mistrust, and vindictiveness among nations--is more than fitting. The title says it well. Rita's life is a paradigm, for individuals and nations, of the transmutation of conflict and suffering into workable existence and coexistence. Superb.

Pub Date: June 30th, 1988
Publisher: Addison-Wesley