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A Room With a Darker View [electronic resource] : Chronicles of My Mother and Schizophrenia
A Room With a Darker View [electronic resource] : Chronicles of My Mother and Schizophrenia
Phillips, Claire2020
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The author chronicles her mother’s mental illness and its devastating effects on the family but at the same time her mother’s incredible coping skills regarding her schizophrenia as well as the successes her mother had in her life. A Room with a Darker View is told from the perspective of an outsider/insider who can both see her mother’s brilliance in law as a mind, but also the domestic havoc of that mind and who has her own story to tell as the witness. A Pushcart Prize nomination and notable mention in Best American Essays 2015 resulted from a long-format personal essay featuring parts of this book manuscript published in Black Clock (“Hanging from the Chandeliers”). A Room with a Darker View is written in a literary manner using episodic flashes through time. In this way, the fractured narrative provides a truth about what we as readers know cannot be the whole story of schizophrenia. This elegant self-conscious construction is appropriately different than a linear narrative. Poetic language propels the book. There’s an opening in culture right now to discuss and share the great shame of schizophrenia in families, which has been and is usually a closely guarded and painful secret. (The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang 2019; The Edge of Every Day by Marin Sardy 2019; The Heartland: Finding and Losing Schizophrenia by Nathan Filer 2019.) The author’s bravery in this regard is notable and she makes valuable contributions to the current, critical national conversation about mental health and the need for compassion for those suffering with the disease, as well as the intractability of this illness as seen by the children of these people. It will resonate with others who are hungry for knowledge and need to share their experiences. Reflecting on feminist themes, the author examines how her mother’s medical condition was exacerbated by: being one of few women at Oxford Law School and later, one of few women practicing law; having to choose between being a mother/having a career; not having an outlet for her brilliance and intelligence like her astrophysicist husband surely did; being overshadowed by him while being misunderstood by her doctors and subject to mal(e)practice. As the author shares her story in all its difficulties, she sees the light where there is light and gives the reader intimate insight into the effects of this disease. Beyond being a witness, she is a compassionate advocate for the care of schizophrenics, especially as they age. Differing styles and abilities for caregiving and the bond between siblings is lovingly told as the author shows how her brother defied gender categories in his caregiving of her mother. One of the sub-themes of the book is the complicated position of people in the Jewish diaspora who are dealing with these kinds of mental illnesses, which are culturally wrapped in their own kinds of shame. While Jews through history have done remarkably well at assimilating into new cultures, they simultaneously still face anti-Semitism in subtle and overt ways that make it more difficult to deal with the stigma of mental illness in a family.
[Place of publication not identified] : DoppelHouse Press, 2020
1 online resource (1 text file)
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