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December 13, 2007

Francesca recommends books: Holidays making you insane?

Filed under: Books — Francesca @ 12:10 pm

With Christmas approaching, perhaps your in-laws, your own parents, your kids, your brother, and your Uncle Merve are “driving you crazy.”

Put your problems into perspective with these three moving, classic books which explore the emerging world of clinical psychiatry:

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (1964) by Joanne Greenberg is the semi-autobiographical, first-person tale of Deborah, a 16-year-old diagnosed with schizophrenia, who is institutionalized. Can her doctor help her quell the many cruel voices in her head? What sort of world will she re-enter when she eliminates the swirling ones in her mind?

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey (1962) Remember this book from high school? It may be time to revisit it. Francesca recently did, and found that it was richer than she remembered. Kesey was inspired to write the book based on his experiences as an orderly in a psychiatric facility. The story, narrated by one of the patients, tells of Randle McMurphy, a sane man (played in the 1975 film by Jack Nicholson) who has himself transferred from a work farm to the mental-health facility thinking it is an easier way to wait out his prison term. There, he enters into a power struggle with the control-hungry Nurse Ratched, and helps the other patients regain their sense of dignity in ways their doctors fail to do.

Dibs in Search of Self (1964) This fictionalized story of a real patient, by psychologist Virginia Axline, inspired countless readers to become play therapists. Five-year-old Dibs is silent and withdrawn, refusing to play with other children or to speak. How can his doctor bring him out of his shell? (Francesca says: when reading this book, keep tissues nearby.)

Happy reading!




  1. Ah, the holiday classics, Crazies at Christmas! Strangely appropriate (disturbing, but appropriate). :-)

    Comment by Idalin — December 13, 2007 @ 1:48 pm

  2. There’s nothing like the accounts of emotionally disturbed children to brighten my day! Happy reading, indeed.

    Comment by caitlin — December 13, 2007 @ 2:33 pm

  3. I love that Rose Garden book.

    Comment by Violet — December 13, 2007 @ 6:50 pm

  4. I have read the first two, but haven’t heard of the Dibs book. I put it on my reading list, if only to contrast how we treat children today with 1964. Thank you, Francesca.

    Comment by Krista Long — December 13, 2007 @ 7:11 pm

  5. Great topic for the season. My aunt is a psych nurse, and she loathes the film of OFOTCN – she says every trainee who comes in assumes that the wards are full of Ratched clones. I have to cop to not having read the book yet, though I like Kesey.

    I’d humbly submit another title for recommendation – ‘The Last Time I Wore a Dress’ by Daphne Scholinski. It’s a fascinating, chilling, autobiography of an adolescent who was institutionalised after behavioural difficulties and not being ‘feminine’ enough.

    Comment by Margo — December 13, 2007 @ 11:19 pm

  6. What was that Australian movie about the woman who was institutionalized and she wasn’t crazy? They gave her electroshock and I think a lobotomy. It came out in the ’80s. I don’t know if it’s based on a book — Janet Frame! that was her name — why did that pop into my head?

    I just googled her. She was from New Zealand, never crazy, and escaped a lobotomy when she was awarded a major literary prize. The movie is called “An Angel at My Table;” so is the book.

    I don’t know how the book is, but the movie will sure make you appreciate not being her.

    Comment by class-factotum — December 14, 2007 @ 3:57 pm

  7. We can’t talk about this subject without mentioning ‘Sybil’ – very harrowing and disturbing true account of Sybil”, patient with severe issues of social anxiety and memory loss. After extended therapy , a therapist discovers that Sybil has 16 separate personalities (some of this cribbed from the almighty Wiki!). Very very interesting book.. I don’t know about anyone else who read this, but it had me self diagnosing for all of a week before I decided that I really was quite normal!

    Comment by Zaftig — December 15, 2007 @ 12:57 am

  8. OMG I love the Dibs book! I had to read it for one of my Early Childhood ed. classes! It was really good. Very touching.

    Comment by Jabri — December 15, 2007 @ 2:10 am

  9. Hey class-factotum, Janet Frame is a helluva writer (though not for the faint of heart). “Angel…” was the first of three books she wrote about her life. She was initially diagnosed with schizophrenia, went through several electro shock sessions, and was scheduled for a lobotomy when news came through to the hospital that she’d won a literary prize. Her diagnosis was reversed later.

    As well as the autobiographies, she wrote novels, short stories, poetry & children’s books – much of which has been re-released in swanky new editions since her death in 2004.

    …er, I’m a former english lit major in NZ…it’s not like it’s usually ever useful… (And the movie is awesome).

    Comment by Margo — December 15, 2007 @ 2:14 am

  10. Margo, Isn’t it nice when that English major comes in handy? I, too, was an English major, and try to throw out obscure literary references whenever possible. Unfortunately, my knowledge does not make me a better Trivial Pursuit player, which is where it really matters. Nor does it have me employed. Hmm. Perhaps I should have stayed in engineering.

    Comment by class-factotum — December 15, 2007 @ 11:32 am

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