A troubling and illuminating collection.

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OUTSIDE MENTAL HEALTH

VOICES AND VISIONS OF MADNESS

An expansive set of interviews and essays that offer a unique perspective on mental health.

Hall, a professional therapist, a former psychiatric patient, and the author of Harm Reduction Guide to Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs (2011), has been interviewing patients and therapists on his Valley Free Radio show, “Madness Radio,” for a decade. This book assembles more than 60 of those interviews with patients, therapists, and mental health activists who share their very personal and often poignant experiences with psychiatric drugs, hospitalization, and the social stigma of mental illness. The collection is broad and inclusive in its subject matter, as evidenced by chapter titles such as “Meaning in Voices,” “Art and Madness,” “Crash Course in Urban Shamanism,” and “Surviving America’s Depression Epidemic.” The variety in this volume is equally notable; readers will learn much about autism, attention deficit disorder, and bipolar disorder and about controversial treatments, such as electroshock therapy. The book also delves into other issues, such as the disturbingly large number of mentally ill prisoners. Hall’s interview questions are sensitive and perceptive, and the answers that he receives are frank and sometimes sobering. If there’s a central theme to the collection, it’s that drugs and hospital confinement may sometimes be employed excessively or unnecessarily. Eleanor Longden, a researcher at the University of Liverpool, observes, “Psychiatric drugs are designed to inhibit emotion. Yet strong emotion can actually be part of the healing process; learning to fully tolerate, experience, and express it.” Activist, writer, and artist Mel Gunasena, a former psychiatric patient, attests, “When I came out of hospital I had to do a complete detox.…I ultimately healed myself mainly through diet, vitamin and mineral supplements, resolving my trauma, and through friends and family support. Not psychiatric intervention.” Hall’s own emotional essay, “Letter to the Mother of a Schizophrenic,” sums up his focus on the humanity of his subjects: “Again and again I am told the ‘severely mentally ill’ are impaired and incapable, not quite human….[W]hen I finally do meet the people carrying that terrible, stigmatizing label of schizophrenia, what do I find? I find a human being.”

A troubling and illuminating collection.

Pub Date: April 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9965143-0-9

Page Count: 402

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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