Tag: Memoir

Ten Days in a Mad-House

Author: Nellie Bly
Published: 1887
92 pages

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 5 stars

Book Description:

Nellie Bly, posing as “Nellie Brown,” went undercover to investigate the deplorable conditions of insane asylums. Her memoirs of this event form the basis of “Ten Days in a Mad-House,” which forever changed the way the world looks at treatment and housing of the insane.

Kim’s Review:

It’s about time I read a non-fiction book! And I picked a great one! As it says in my bio, I LOVE anything about asylums, mad-houses, or psychiatric hospitals. For some reason, the historian in me geeks out and the little seen horror freak comes out. Don’t ask me why, I’ve tried to explain it, but I can’t, I just love them. In These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly, her main character, Jo Montfort, looks up to Nellie Bly as a journalist and a woman who works for change. That intrigued me, so I found Bly’s account and read it in 24 hours. It was inspiring, maddening, and heart breaking all at once.

Nellie actually faked insanity to be committed to the Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum. That may sound romantic to the rest of us, but during 1887, it was a nightmare. Her assignment was to give an accurate account of the plight of the insane from beginning to end. The thing that annoyed me the most was the commitment process. She saw a couple of doctors who asked her a short list of questions and then declared her a hopeless case of insanity. Though thankfully, they admitted that her pulse and heartbeat didn’t evidence insanity . . . yes that was indeed sarcasm.

Even at Bellevue Hospital, the conditions were primitive, at best. No heat, no extra clothing. The asylum on Blackwell’s Island was even worse. The food was minimum and mostly spoiled. The nurses beat and bullied the patients. But the most surprising thing to me, was the daily activities of the patients. From 6 AM-8 PM, they sat on hard benches, not allowed to talk, to move, to slouch. 14 hours of sitting straight and quiet was their main “treatment”. Anyone would be insane after a couple days of that! Fortunately, Nellie’s story incited a slew of changes in the treatment of the insane in New York State. “The committee of appropriation provides $1,000,000 more than was ever before given, for the benefit of the insane.” So thankfully the most basic of problems were addressed with the publication of this story. But modern day mental health still has way too many problems.

My husband is a Physician Assistant at the Emergency Department so he sees his fair share of insane patients coming through. I always press him about the process that each patient and doctor and policeman have to go through to get someone committed to a psych ward. Sometimes it’s as simple as someone trying to commit suicide or even admitting that they want to. But those people usually only stay for a night. They are then released after consulting psychiatrist. There are other more serious cases that have to go through the court system. As long as one doctor signs off on a commitment order, that patient can be committed to a short term psychiatric facility. When I asked about any long term facilities, Ivan informed me that there are none. The modern mental health system is dependent on pharmaceuticals. When I asked about those patients who won’t take their medication or those for whom medication doesn’t help, he just shrugged. We’ve discussed mental health many times and he always shows such frustration for the current process.

People can still be committed by family members who just can’t be bothered to care for their loved ones or are trying to take advantage of them. There are still people walking the streets who legitimately belong under 24 hour psychiatric supervision. And there are no longer any long term facilities available for those who need them. Sadly, there are still too many changes that need to be made and problems to be fixed. I absolutely recommend this book to anyone in the mental health system and to most medical professionals. Anyone who enjoys history would also enjoy this book.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

The Underachieving Ovary

Author: JT Lawrence
Published: September 29, 2016

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Listened: April 2-8, 2018
Jessica’s Rating: 5 stars

Book Description:

Will there be light at the end of the birth canal?

Does the word ‘endometriosis’ make you want to stick a fork in your eye? No? Then perhaps this book isn’t for you. It’s funny, and (sometimes alarmingly) frank. It contains an impressive array of synonyms for ‘vagina’ and it’s certainly NSFW.

It’s about having a devil womb and a hot knife lodged in my shoulder. It’s about becoming blackly bitter and twisted in my infertility, and then slowly finding a way to untwist myself.

It’s part memoir, part dark comedy, wrapped up loosely as a journal full of TMI and quirk.

Let me put it this way: If Helen Fielding and Marian Keyes were to go through IVF, and use Caitlin Moran as a surrogate, this book would be their baby.

Jessica’s Review:

This is JT Lawrence’s candid memoir dealing with her infertility journey. Ovary is written as a journal and you take every detailed step with Lawrence. This is one that will not be for everyone as she is very direct with her feelings that involve foul language which are raw, gritty, and also at times funny. Through her writing, Lawrence made me feel like I personally know her as I went down this difficult and frustrating path she went through to try to become a Mommy. I had no idea there were so many letters in the alphabet and acronyms for infertility…

This made me understand more of what some of my friends have gone through in their journeys to become parents. You definitely feel the wide range of emotions Lawrence goes through and you are pulling for her to get her wish of becoming a mommy despite all the hurdles that continually pop up.

I had previously purchased the kindle edition, but I was also sent the audible version from the author to listen to.  It is narrated by Jennifer Swanepoel who did a brilliant job. She put all the frankness and emotion that Lawrence wrote into her narration.

Infertility is a difficult issue and if you are going to write about it, then this is a way to do it. Please note that this is not a faith based journey.  For those who have not experienced infertility: READ THIS BOOK!  You will actually learn about infertility and gain some insight as you read.

Ovary should also make you think twice before you ask a couple if they are going to have children:  it is no one else’s business other than the couple.  You never know what they are going through whether it is infertility or other issues.

Bravo JT Lawrence on a memoir that we all need to read.

The Underachieving Ovary is highly recommended. Thank you JT Lawrence for my audible copy!

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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The Princess Diarist

Author: Carrie Fisher
Narrators: Carrie Fisher and Billie Lourd
Published: November 22, 2016
Audible: 5 hours 10 minutes

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Listened: February 28- March 5, 2018
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars

Book Description:

The Princess Diarist is Carrie Fisher’s intimate, hilarious and revealing recollection of what happened behind the scenes on one of the most famous film sets of all time, the first Star Wars movie.

When Carrie Fisher recently discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved—plaintive love poems, unbridled musings with youthful naiveté, and a vulnerability that she barely recognized. Today, her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon is indisputable, but in 1977, Carrie Fisher was just a (sort-of) regular teenager.

Jessica’s Review:

It was bittersweet to listen to the audiobook version of The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher. She also narrated it and it was great to hear her voice again. In some ways it was eerie as she talks about her future death/obituary, and even her mother, and they are both no longer with us.

She talks about her experience with Star Wars and she never expected it to be what it became. She was 19 when she filmed it, so she was still a baby in some ways.  I enjoyed hearing the stories she tells, and she relates them with enthusiasm.  She was not a perfect person and you see that in the drug use she mentions and her affair with Harrison Ford.  If you are looking for juicy details on that you are out of luck, she doesn’t spill them.  Harrison was 34 and married when they had their affair. There is some foul language as well, but nothing extreme: This is someone’s life and no one is perfect.

Fisher found diary entries when she was filming Star Wars.  Those are read by Billie Lourde. You see the feelings she had while she wrote those.  The diary entries are not that long compared to the rest of the book, so for me it was more of a memoir than about her entries.  I actually was not as interested in them as I was with the rest of the memoir.

If you are a fan of Star Wars in any way, I recommend The Princess Diarist.

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