The Prettiest Horse in the Glue Factory by Corey White

The current thinking in social work circles is that there are better long-term outcomes for children left with their family in an unstable home, than those removed and placed in foster care. This was in the back of my mind as I read comedian Corey White’s recently published memoir, The Prettiest Horse in the Glue Factory.

The details White shares of his childhood made me sick with fear from the first page. His father adored him but belted his wife and daughters. His mother, a drug addict, would disappear for days at a time. White was sexually abused by a ‘friend’ of the family, and as a young child he was violent toward his mother and sisters.

I drink in my father’s anger, see how it makes him glow and other people cower, and I repeat it. I punch my mother in the stomach and call her a stupid slut. Continue reading

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

Have you ever looked at a copy of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (commonly referred to as the ‘DSM‘)? It’s a reference book published by the American Psychiatric Association, and it is used by clinicians for diagnosing mental illness. Each ‘disorder’ is described using a number of diagnostic criteria, risk factors, cultural and gender considerations, differential diagnoses and so on. It makes for very compelling reading, as Jon Ronson discovered in his exploration of psychopathy, The Psychopath Test.

I was much crazier than I’d imagined. Maybe it was a bad idea to read DSM4 when you’re not a trained professional…

Yes, even on a good day, I could browse through the DSM and slot myself into a whole bunch of disorders (today for instance, sluggish cognitive tempo disorder, otherwise known as lack of motivation). Continue reading

How Did You Get This Number by Slone Crosley

If I was to follow Slone Crosley’s rules*, I’d have been to Kilwa Kivinje in Tanzania.

Crossley’s essay collection, How Did You Get This Number, opens with a piece about her visit to Lisbon. At age 30, she decided that she ought to fulfil a preteen promise to herself, ‘…that one day I would spin [a globe] and point and travel wherever my finger landed.”

Okay, I’ll wait while you rush off to spin a globe and see where you land. I know you want to. Please report your result. Continue reading

A Really Good Day by Ayelet Waldman

Think suburban mothers doing drugs and you might go to some sort of Valley of the Dolls scenario. But Ayelet Waldman’s story, A Really Good Day, is quite different.

The idea of becoming a ‘self-study psychedelic researcher’ felt ridiculous. I am a mother of four children. I am, to use my children’s gibe, “totally basic.” I wear yoga pants all day, I post photos of particularly indulgent desserts on Instagram.

Continue reading

The Stella Prize 2019 winner in conversation

Last night I had the great pleasure of hearing Stella Prize 2019 winner, Vicki Laveau-Harvie, talk about her memoir, The Erratics.

Vicki was in conversation with Louise Swinn, chair of the 2019 judging panel. They began by discussing the broad themes of the novel – dysfunction and mental health in families, and sibling rivalries. The response from readers was overwhelmingly “This is my story.” Continue reading

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

Because I am in #campold, a dinner party conversation I had last weekend was about colonoscopies. More specifically, the person who brought it up was talking about their anxiety – they’ve never had a colonoscopy. Neither have I*, which is probably why I gleefully suggested they should read the hilarious chapter on colonoscopies in David Sedaris’s eighth collection of essays, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. Continue reading

Axiomatic by Maria Tumarkin

Time heals all wounds… Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it… History repeats itself… Give me a child before the age of seven and I’ll give you the woman… You can’t enter the same river twice…

The sayings might be familiar but everything Maria Tumarkin does in Axiomatic to explore them, is not. In five loosely linked chapters, Turmarkin uses stories about suicide, a child’s kidnapping, Holocaust survival, crime, and past relationships to challenge our understanding of these well-worn axioms.  Continue reading