Read This Book: An Unquiet Mind

11552857I love that more healthcare workers are talking about depression these days. It’s something I did not see while I was studying, and that meant that I felt very alone. You might even have seen (or participated in) #crazysocks4docs, which was meant to highlight the high rates of depression in the medical profession. (Some took exception to the term “crazy” – but I’m not going to discuss that right now.)

Anyway, more and more HCWs are doing their part to delegitimise stigma by sharing stories of their own depression. But some mental illnesses are still “off limits” – bipolar mood disorder and schizophrenia, for example; and it’s not hard to know why. For a doctor to get sad and burnt out? Most people can wrap their heads around that. But few are comfortable with the idea of an “unstable” doctor. Society hasn’t become comfortable talking about those disorders that may lead to losing touch with reality.

crazysocks4docsIt was on this background that I started reading Kay Redfield-Jamison’s “memoir of moods and madness”: An Unquiet MindWhat I like about it is that, although Kay is considered an expert in the field of BMD, this is not an academic text. Academic matters are mentioned only in passing; this is a tale of an academic with bipolar mood disorder.

The author traces her illness back to the first glimpses of it in her childhood – where, of course, she was not diagnosed. She was just very much like her father: mercurial, brilliant, curious, creative. It was not strange in her world, especially because she had an emotionally stable constant, namely her neurotypical mother.

“I have no idea how I managed to pass as normal in school, except that other people are generally caught up in their own lives and seldom notice despair in others if those despairing make an effort to disguise the pain.”

The benefit of reading Redfield-Jamison’s first-hand experience is in seeing how she fought, first against her diagnosis, and then against her treatment. How eye-opening to see that even an expert railed against her own mental illness.

Redfield-Jamison writes with such intricate self-awareness. It is as though she delicately unfolds her mind, displays its secrets, and then looks toward the reader, prompting, “Now, you.”

For a doctor with mental illness myself, An Unquiet Mind was a seminal read. The relatability is astounding – comforting, even. I want to give this book to everyone – those who have mental illness, and those who do not. Because people without mental illness do not understand. Many may try, but trying has its limits. I think An Unquiet Mind aides the understanding, just a bit more.

The writing is special in that it is simple. Unlike many memoirs, this reads smoothly, and is relatively short. It doesn’t try to be art. It just tells a story.

“People cannot abide being around you when you are depressed. They might think that they ought to, and they might even try, but you know and they know that you are tedious beyond belief: you’re irritable and paranoid and humorless and lifeless and critical and demanding and no reassurance is ever enough.”

Suffer from BMD? Read this book.

Suffer from any mental illness? Read this book.

Love someone with mental illness? Read the damn book! (Please and thank you)

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An Africa Day Collective

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Image via Mocha Club

Today is (was) Africa Day. My favourite way of celebrating Africa is by celebrating her literature – and by implication, her narratives.

I have loads of posts about South African books, but not one about the continent. Here is a handful of my favourite pan-African books. There are many more. I am shamefully missing a bunch of countries on the continent – please do recommend some good books in countries not listed below. Preferably written by an author from the relevant country. Continue reading “An Africa Day Collective”

8th Annual End of Year Bookish Survey

I’m linking up with Jamie’s annual end of year bookish survey again this year.

I spent 11 months of this year without internet, so I’ve hardly reviewed any books, and posted about books rarely too. I also haven’t read much this year. It’s been a tough one. Jamie has a lot of questions, and I don’t have answers to them all, so I’ve actually left some of them out.

2017-book-survey Continue reading “8th Annual End of Year Bookish Survey”

South African Books To Read This Heritage Day

Because it’s Heritage Weekend, and I’m working tomorrow (the actual Heritage Day), and I haven’t posted anything bookish in a long time.

I continue to have a love affair with South African (and African continental) books. Below are some of my previous lists on the same topic. (This is not a ranked list. This is a list of more books I’ve discovered since my last list.) (Mh. I thought I had more than two of these…)

Continue reading “South African Books To Read This Heritage Day”

[Book Review] Incarceration Nations

dreisinger_incarcerationnationsI don’t know how much time the average person spends thinking about prisons. It usually crosses my mind when I have a patient who is brought from prison – which happens a lot less now that I’m working only with kids. Every once in a while there will be a report of a jail break, and in high school we had a few debate topics around prisons (This House Supports The Right To Vote For Prisoners, etc). Every year at the anniversary of my aunt’s murder I think about prison, and wonder whether her murderer is still incarcerated.

Besides that, prison doesn’t cross my mind too often, and I’d wager it’s the same for those who don’t work with inmates, or don’t have a close relative currently imprisoned.

Baz Dreisinger’s Incarceration Nations dares to coax us from this comfort in a multi-national exposé of prisons around the world, and the justice/punitive systems within which they function. Continue reading “[Book Review] Incarceration Nations”

Ten Things Books Have Made Me Want To Do

You know that saying about readers having many lives through the books they read? I love it, because there are so many things I can’t do, but would love to. Then there are some things books have inspired me to do… or at least to dream about.

I’m linking up with Top Ten Tuesdays to bring you (some of the) things book have made me want to do.

1. Go to Boarding School

A la Malory Towers by Enid Blyton, Spud by John van de Ruit, Looking for Alaska by John Green and even Harry Potter, to name but a few.

5000b1238115345bee19d12384791a68625445af06153537b90254460bebb0df Continue reading “Ten Things Books Have Made Me Want To Do”

What If Slavery Never Fell: Underground Airlines [Book Review]

I’ve been on a bit of an alternate-history kick recently, which has led me to believe that it is possibly one of the most challenging genres an author might tackle. Call it the Butterfly Effect or Domino Effect or just plain Jenga, but changing a single event in history causes a cascade of changes, and if the author misses even one of those, the book loses its believability.

23208397Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters is an alternate reality in the present day where slavery was never outlawed in the USA, and is still practiced in four major states. It is a horrifying thought and an important topic in light of current race-relations in the USA and much of the world.

World-building is important in alternative-history fiction, but must be subtle. If the world is different to the way we know it, the reader must be able to understand why that is. Winters did this fairly well, in referring to trading sanctions which, for example, result in CDs not yet reaching American markets. Continue reading “What If Slavery Never Fell: Underground Airlines [Book Review]”

Top Ten Underrated Books

I’m linking up with The Broke and The Bookish to bring you ten of my favourite books with fewer than 2,000 ratings. All of my books on last week’s list, save for one, have fewer than 2,000 ratings on Goodreads, so I haven’t included any of those books on this list (but you should totally check them out, too!)

Note: Book titles are linked to my reviews of them, or in the absence of a review, to their Goodreads listing.

  1. The Girl Without A Sound by Buhle Ngaba

30187012Number of ratings: 4

A South African picture book “born out of defiance and as a response to the fairytales we were told as little girls. Stories about white princesses with blue eyes, flowing locks of hair and an overwhelming awareness of their beauty.” And just like Coconut and Kwezi (see last week’s list), even though I’m not the intended target market, I think it is wonderful, and I intend to purchase it for as many kids as I can.

Also, you can get the digital file for free on their website! Continue reading “Top Ten Underrated Books”

Ten More South African Books To Devour

Linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday – a freebie! I thought I had a whole host of lists about South African books, but it turns out I only ever did one. I have a soft spot for supporting local (to me) authors, and I do think we have some awesome authors so I like spreading the word.

A note on the links used in this post: I don’t have an affiliate link program. I include links to purchase the books only because I really want to encourage reading these books, and sometimes South African titles can be hard to source. In the titles, I have linked to my reviews where they are available, otherwise to their Goodreads pages.

1. Kwezi by Loyiso Mkize

30349900A brand new South African superhero comic, starring authentically South African characters. Such an important step in having representative books, but also a really fun comic that I would recommend widely. I intend on buying every issue, and buying some to donate to the children’s wards at my hospital too.

You can read the first issue online here. Continue reading “Ten More South African Books To Devour”