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9 hopeful books about schizophrenia


The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee

This is a deeply considered and gorgeously rendered work, part memoir and part clear-eyed assessment of the past, present and future of genetic study. Mukherjee, both a physician and gifted writer, begins by describing the several members of his family whose lives have been devastated by schizophrenia. In order to better understand schizophrenia, he explains all of genetics generally, unraveling the fascinating story of how researchers have come to know what they do about genes. Arriving in the present day about halfway through the book, he then shifts into exploring the ramifications of genetic knowledge today. He discusses such matters as race and gender and identity and intergenerational trauma and psychiatric diagnoses like schizophrenia. I think the world would be a better place if everybody read The Gene.

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg

This 1964 novel fictionalizes the author’s self-described descent into and recovery from schizophrenia right before the dawn of psychopharmaceuticals in the late forties and early fifties. The book rivetingly animates the protagonist’s elaborate inner world, and the devoted efforts of her psychiatrist — who is based on a real-life doctor, Dr. Frieda Fromm-Reichmann. Rose Garden was initially published under a penname at the behest of Greenberg’s mother. It resonated with a surprising number of readers, becoming an unexpected bestseller and inspiring many adaptations. Today Rose Gardenremains something all too rare: a widely read story about schizophrenia written by someone who had herself been diagnosed. It’s a very powerful and formally daring work, one that remains as necessary as ever.

Agnes’s Jacket by Dr. Gail Hornstein

In this memoir, an academic psychologist traces her own journey toward a more scientific and historically grounded understanding of madness. I recommend this book particularly for mental health care professionals seeking to better understand schizophrenia and other severe mental illnesses, and to those partaking in the debates about how to best treat people diagnosed. For those interested in psychiatry, I also recommend Dr. Hornstein’s thorough biography of Dr. Frieda Fromm-Reichmann (of Rose Garden fame), To Redeem One Person is to Redeem the World.

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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Ghayath Almadhoun

By Aminah Sheikh

ghayath 1 (1)

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

To survive.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

I just finished my new Arabic poetry collection Adrenaline. As I say, I try to survive, like Shahrazad in One Thousand and One Nights, who keeps telling the king stories to not get killed.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

I don’t know really, but I can feel it have a strong effect on people.

Who are your favorite authors?

From the thinkers: Edward Said.

From the short story writer: the Iraqi Hassan Blasim.

In poetry: Amjad Nasser, Ghassan Zaqtan, Saadi Yousef and Salah Faik.

What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.

My poem “Schizophrenia”, which I wrote after Assad’s chemical attack on Syrian civilians. I got the chance to stay for two weeks in the city of Ypres, invited by “deBuren” and “citybooks”. The visit coincided with the centenary of the first chemical attack in history, which occurred in Flanders Fields during the First World War. I remember that I visited most of the 170 cemeteries that surround the city of Ypres and hold the bodies of 600,000 soldiers that were killed there. I was listening to The Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate which is held every evening at Menin Gate for the past 89 years, and after that I wrote Schizophrenia, moving between Ypres (the past), Damascus (the present), Stockholm (the peace that I enjoy) and Palestine (the dream).

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