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Lynette Brasfield is now hard at work on her second novel.

Her first, Nature Lessons, received NAMI’s Outstanding Literature Award earlier this year. It is about a woman who returns to Brasfield’s native South Africa following the end of apartheid to search for her missing mother—and the truths about her family history. Part mystery, part political thriller, part travelogue, the book explores the strain family and social relationships that arise from paranoia rooted either in mental illness or an oppressive political regime, and how the past may continue to damage the present.

Nature Lessons reveals how psychotic delusions often reflect the surrounding cultural reality, how the two may be confused, and how what is "real" may depend on a person’s racial or class perspective.

Brasfield’s mother lived with schizophrenia—as does the mother in the novel.

"At first I had know intention of admitting that one of the characters was based partly on my mother, because of the possible stigma," said Brasfield, "but I realize more and more how important it is to be up front about mental illness."

Brasfield’s current work in progress is titled Anyhow in a Corner, from a poem by W.H. Auden. It will focus on three people whose lives intertwine in Zimbabwe during the 1970s through the 1990s. Once again, it will include themes related to mental illness.

In the meantime,if youhaven’t already read Nature Lessons, you should. You might even want to read it twice.

Copyright Date: 10/24/2003

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