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Book Reviews: March 2008

Note: To purchase any of the items below, simply click the item name to be directed to NAMI will receive a percentage of the sale, at no extra cost to you.

Naked On God’s Doorstep: A Memoir
By Marion Duckworth

NAMI BookshelfDuring the 1930s, Isadore Siegel was institutionalized—for life—after being diagnosed with “schizophrenia with catatonia.” His young daughter perceived it as an abandonment. Her memoir is about her subsequent life, involving passage through poverty and feelings of loneliness, helplessness, vulnerability and humiliation, as people called her father “crazy.”

Duckworth became a Bible teacher, lay counselor, writer and lecturer. Every page involves her Christian faith and religious interpretation, which may be too intense for some readers, but there is wisdom in her journey. The final chapter recounts an invitation to speak at the founding meeting of a small NAMI Oregon affiliate—which for her was a profound spiritual moment. She realized then that she was speaking words she had been waiting a lifetime to say.

“I was ashamed to have a mentally ill father,” Duckworth told the group. “I blamed him for leaving me, but I know now that it was not his fault…Every individual is of inestimable worth because God designed him or her uniquely in his own image. Mental illness doesn’t change that…Isadore Siegel was my father, and I am proud of it.”

Geriatric Psychiatry Basics
By Kenneth Sakauye, MD

This book will be released in April and can be pre-ordered from It is primarily for doctors—including family physicians—and other professionals involved in the care of older adults.

There is a growing demand for geriatric psychiatrists today, but geriatric training across the medical profession is often limited or in some cases lacking altogether. Family members therefore may also benefit from the book—using it as a practical guide in helping  to understand (or monitor) care   for their loved ones. It discusses the biopsychosocial model for aging and diagnoses, including sleep disorders and behavioral disturbances associated with dementia. Chapters also address psychotherapy with older adults and the role of psychiatrists in nursing homes as part of an overall treatment team.

Psychotic Disorders: A Practical Guide
By Oliver Freudenreich, M.D.

This book is the latest guide in a seven-book series of "Practical Guides in Psychiatry."

Designed in a handy, portable format, it is intended mainly for medical students and health care professionals who evaluate and treat people with psychosis. It serves as a manual for how to recognize that someone is experiencing psychosis, how to arrive at a clinical diagnosis that explains the psychosis, and how to treat it.

The author is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and directs the First Episode and Early Psychosis Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. In his preface, he notes that the bulk of the book is dedicated to diagnosing and treating schizophrenia and related conditions, since it is primarily consumers with that illness who have psychosis. A further, distinctive aspect of the manual is its emphasis on medical comorbidity. Also, clinical vignettes are offered throughout to aid diagnosis and treatment.

Living in Storms: Contemporary Poetry and the Moods of Manic Depression
By Thom Schramm, Editor.

This collection of nearly 200 poems has been organized into eight sections by the editor, a respected poet who also holds a degree in clinical social work. Each represents a specific aspect of the poetic portrayal of experiences shared by people who have bipolar disorder. It includes works by lesser known as well as by nationally recognized poets, such as Hayden Carruth, Jane Kenyon and former national poet laureate Robert Pinsky.

As described in the introduction, the editor's purpose is, in part, to counteract the romantic stereotypes that are often popularly ascribed to the illness as well as to certain kinds of poetry. He has brought together works that express the diversity, as well as the individuality, of experiences of bipolar disorder.  A striking example includes this excerpt from "Shaking Off the Dark," by Tino Villanueva:  "[A} a rebellion overtakes the mind /  the kind that breaks the / shadow's hold: / I ram a fist into the howl of the wind, / shake off the dark locked / within the hell of these rare depths. / The common street / and shifting sky become a song.”