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review 2018-01-15 06:19
Rethinking School by Susan Wise Bauer
Rethinking School: How to Take Charge of Your Child's Education - Susan Wise Bauer

From the blurb"

 

"Our K–12 school system is an artificial product of market forces. It isn’t a good fit for all—or even most—students. It prioritizes a single way of understanding the world over all others, pushes children into a rigid set of grades with little regard for individual maturity, and slaps “disability” labels over differences in learning style.

Caught in this system, far too many young learners end up discouraged, disconnected, and unhappy. And when they struggle, school pressures parents, with overwhelming force, into “fixing” their children rather than questioning the system.

With boldness, experience, and humor, Susan Wise Bauer turns conventional wisdom on its head: When a serious problem arises at school, the fault is more likely to lie with the school, or the educational system itself, than with the child.

In five illuminating sections, Bauer teaches parents how to flex the K–12 system, rather than the child. She closely analyzes the traditional school structure, gives trenchant criticisms of its weaknesses, and offers a wealth of advice for parents of children whose difficulties may stem from struggling with learning differences, maturity differences, toxic classroom environments, and even from giftedness (not as much of a “gift” as you might think!).

As the author of the classic book on home-schooling, The Well-Trained Mind, Bauer knows how children learn and how schools work. Her advice here is comprehensive and anecdotal, including material drawn from experience with her own four children and more than twenty years of educational consulting and university teaching.

Rethinking School is a guide to one aspect of sane, humane parenting: negotiating the twelve-grade school system in a way that nurtures and protects your child’s mind, emotions, and spirit.
"

 

This book provides a well-written, interesting and informative assessment of the American school system, how children do not necessarily fit into this system, how parents can help their children better deal with the school system, or by "flexing" the existing system to better accommodate their children.  This book offers a great deal of practical advice in a situation where homeschooling is not an option and where the child does not fit into the school system.  I recommend this book to every parent that has a child still stuck in the current education system.

 

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review 2018-01-06 20:34
Easy listening on a tough topic
Men, Women & Worthiness: The Experience of Shame and the Power of Being Enough - Brené Brown

I've become a bit of an evangelist for this audio...book? It feels like a personal appearance. Incredibly easy to listen to about a topic that's hard to embrace: shame. There is a lot of research-based information on the differences between men and women here, but the bigger notes for me were the definitions she created for "shame," "love," "guilt" and other words we use constantly and rarely stop to define for ourselves or those we speak with.

 

I cannot repeat often enough: everyone should listen to this. Quick reasons:

 

  • 1) You may not  think shame is a "thing" for you, but it is actually a vital part of being an empathetic human being. You want to feel guilt/shame - the other option is psychopathy.
  • 2) We can develop "shame resilience." It will just take a bit of courage.
  • 3) We don't have to go through massive trauma to feel shame. We all have it. I, personally, felt great relief when the author admitted to having "birthday shame." It made me realize we all feel shame, whether we think our "reason" is "good enough" or not. 
  • 4) There is a way out. It won't take decades of therapy, and this book was a delightful way to learn about the basics.

 

Did I say how easy - even delightful - she is to listen to? I'm not a huge fan of audiobooks, but this is one I'd recommend to everyone I know or don't know.

 

 

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review 2018-01-06 20:16
Useful
Treating Survivors of Childhood Abuse: Psychotherapy for the Interrupted Life - Marylene Cloitre,Karestan C. Koenen,Lisa R. Cohen

Excellent, if seemingly ancient, book with loads of worksheets that are actually useful, information and plans for use in therapy that will actually be helpful... There are things written in this book that anyone in the trauma field should know or does know but somehow have escaped being written down, and I'm thrilled this book was still available when I learned about it. Sadly, the blurbs do it an injustice. It looks very formulaic, but it's meant not to be individualized for each person. I highly recommend this to anyone working with survivors and to survivors themselves. This book won't sit on your shelves holding a retelling of the same tale - it has easily copied worksheets and prompts that will suit a variety of survivors. 

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review 2017-10-26 10:01
Schuldig oder unschuldig?
Im Traum kannst du nicht lügen: Roman - Malin Persson Giolito,Thorsten Alms

Auf „Im Traum kannst du nicht lügen“ von Malin Persson Giolito wurde ich durch den Newsletter der Lesejury von Bastei Lübbe aufmerksam. Die Mail pries den Thriller, der als bester Kriminalroman Schwedens 2016 ausgezeichnet wurde, für eine Leserunde an. Meine Erfahrungen mit Leserunden waren bisher eher negativ, doch der Klappentext weckte meine Neugier. Ich gab der umfangreichen Leseprobe eine Chance. Die ersten 60 Seiten nahmen mich gefangen. Ich wollte überhaupt nicht mehr aufhören zu lesen und schoss all meine Zweifel spontan in den Wind. Für dieses Buch würde ich die Leserunde in Kauf nehmen. Ich bewarb mich und erhielt etwa 2 Wochen später die Zusage. Was machte ich für Augen, als ich in meinem Briefkasten kein Buch, sondern ein echtes Manuskript vorfand, das extra für mich gedruckt worden war! Mühsam geduldete ich mich bis zum vorgegebenen Termin, um die Lektüre gemeinsam mit allen anderen zu beginnen.

 

Als die Polizei das Klassenzimmer in Stockholm stürmte, saß die 18-jährige Maja Norberg in der Mitte des Raumes. Überall war Blut. Um sie herum lagen die regungslosen Körper ihrer besten Freundin Amanda, ihres Lehrers Christer und ihrer Mitschüler Samir und Dennis. Auf ihren Schoß hatte sie den Kopf ihres Freundes Sebastian gebettet. Sebastian, der Sohn des reichen Unternehmers Claes Fagermann. Sebastian, der langsam kalt wurde. In der Luft hing der Geruch nach faulen Eiern und Pulverrauch. In ihrer Hand hielt Maja eine Waffe. Sie war unverletzt.
Jetzt, Wochen später, muss sich Maja vor Gericht verteidigen, während ganz Schweden von ihrer Schuld überzeugt ist. Doch was ist wirklich in dem Klassenzimmer geschehen? Wie kam es zu dem Massaker, das mehrere Menschen das Leben kostete? Ist Maja eine Mörderin?

 

Was ist das wichtigste Element eines guten Thrillers? Wenn ihr mich fragt, ist es der Spannungsbogen. Ein Thriller darf weder langweilig, noch zu vorhersehbar sein, er sollte den Leser_innen aber trotz dessen die Möglichkeit bieten, mitzurätseln. „Im Traum kannst du nicht lügen“ stellt meiner Meinung nach die geschickteste Konstruktion eines Spannungsbogens dar, die mir in diesem Genre jemals untergekommen ist. Das Buch ist überwältigend. Es lebt von der Frage, was geschehen ist, ob Maja, die eigentlich Maria heißt, tatsächlich in der Lage war, ein Blutbad anzurichten. Die Spannung wird die ganze Zeit aufrechterhalten, flaut niemals ab und riss mich mit. Ich ahnte bereits nach der Leseprobe, dass dieser Thriller außergewöhnlich sein könnte und ich behielt Recht. Malin Persson Giolito lässt ihre Leser_innen grübeln, mitfiebern, abwägen, zweifeln, mutmaßen und hoffen. Die nichtlineare, bruchstückhafte Erzählweise der Protagonistin Maja, der die Autorin erlaubt, ihre Geschichte selbst in Ich-Perspektive zu schildern, wirkt ungemein realistisch und erzeugt eine enorme Nähe, die sich stetig steigert, bis sie im letzten Viertel des Romans sogar die vierte Wand durchbricht und die Leser_innen direkt anspricht. Wir treffen Maja zu Beginn ihres Prozesses und das erste, was mir an ihr auffiel, war die unbändige Wut ihrer kalten, harschen Worte. Sie erschien distanziert, genervt, nahezu desinteressiert am Verlauf ihrer eigenen Verhandlung. Obwohl sie sich dadurch nicht gerade als Sympathieträgerin qualifizierte, hatte mich Malin Persson Giolito auf diese Weise sofort am Haken. Ich wollte wissen, warum Maja so zornig ist und begriff bald, dass sich unter ihrem Zorn ein Meer der Resignation, Schuld und Verzweiflung verbirgt, das mir beinahe das Herz brach. Ihr Charakter, ebenso wie die Chronologie der Ereignisse, die zu dem Massaker im Klassenzimmer führten, schälen sich absichtlich sehr langsam heraus. Ich lernte sie in ihrem eigenen Tempo kennen und entwickelte Stück für Stück Sympathie und Mitgefühl für sie, wodurch sich der emotionale Sog ihrer Erzählung graduell verstärkte. Maja stammt zwar aus einem gut situierten Elternhaus, wofür sie in der sensationslüsternen schwedischen Presse wiederholt angegriffen wird, doch Geld schützt eben nicht vor Schmerz und Kummer. In den Monaten und Wochen vor der Bluttat war sie verloren, überfordert, einsam. Ich sehe euch jetzt bereits wissend mit dem Kopf nicken. Vermutlich ergeht es euch ähnlich wie mir: ihr neigt dazu, zur naheliegenden Schlussfolgerung zu springen und Maja vorzuverurteilen. Haltet ein. So einfach ist es nicht. Diese Geschichte ist viel komplizierter, als sie anfangs erscheint und ich musste tatsächlich den Schlussakt abwarten, um endlich herauszufinden, ob Maja eine Mörderin ist. Für mich steht fest, dass „Im Traum kannst du nicht lügen“ eine Tragödie ist; nicht nur aufgrund des grauenvollen Massakers, sondern auch, weil sie eigentlich nicht ihre Tragödie ist. Schuldig oder nicht – Maja ist ein Opfer.

 

Mein Leseerlebnis mit „Im Traum kannst du nicht lügen“ war fantastisch. Einerseits ist das Buch ein hervorragender Thriller, in dem Malin Persson Giolito munter und unberechenbar mit der Erwartungshaltung der Leser_innen spielt und das brillante, glaubhafte und einfühlsame Bild einer verzweifelten Jugendlichen zeichnet, andererseits gefiel mir auch die Leserunde der Lesejury erstaunlich gut. Ich empfand den Austausch mit anderen Leser_innen als wertvoll, da ich früh einsehen musste, dass ich viele meiner Überlegungen und Theorien in dieser Rezension nicht würde verwenden können, ohne heftig zu spoilern. Die Ungewissheit während des Lesens hält Spannung und Geschichte am Leben; sie ist ein unverzichtbarer Bestandteil des Romans, der Neugier schürt und zu eigenen Hypothesen einlädt. Diese Erfahrung möchte ich niemandem nehmen, weshalb ich versucht habe, so vage wie möglich von „Im Traum kannst du nicht lügen“ zu berichten. Meiner Ansicht nach steht der Autorin eine schillernde Karriere bevor und ich bin froh, dass mir Bastei Lübbe die Möglichkeit einräumte, an ihrem Anfang dabei zu sein. Malin Persson Giolito ist ein Name, den man sich unbedingt merken sollte.

 

Vielen Dank an die Lesejury und Bastei Lübbe für die Bereitstellung dieses Rezensionsexemplars im Austausch für eine ehrliche Rezension!

Source: wortmagieblog.wordpress.com/2017/10/26/malin-persson-giolito-im-traum-kannst-du-nicht-luegen
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review 2017-08-17 22:23
No One Cares About Crazy People by Ron Powers
No One Cares About Crazy People: The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America - Ron Powers

This is a deeply emotional book about an important topic, and it seems to have found a large audience (judging by the number of holds at my local library if not the number of ratings on Goodreads). It’s a great idea, alternating between nonfiction chapters about the nature and history of mental illness and a memoir of the author’s family, including two sons with schizophrenia. And as a journalist, the author has an engaging writing style that kept me wanting to read on. It is marred, however, by odd choices in structure and focus. In the end, there is far less about mental illness in it than I expected, and the author’s major policy proposal involves disempowering the very people to whom he claims he wants to give a voice.

The larger part of this book is the nonfiction, much of which is history. The author writes a bit about the spiritual roles often held in traditional societies by people who would today be defined as mentally ill, before discussing the history of asylums (they seem to have started out somewhere between prisons and zoos, to be later reformed in the era of Dorothea Dix and then deteriorate again). And other low points: eugenics (Hitler was all about wiping out mental illness through murder, but the U.S. pioneered forced sterilizations), lobotomies (shudder), and deinstitutionalization (the U.S. closed most of its asylums in the 1960s, resulting in many of the mentally ill winding up on the streets or incarcerated). For no reason I could discern, the chapter about the aftermath of WWII comes after the deinstitutionalization chapter, but it’s otherwise roughly chronological.

Powers’s writing style is engaging, and there is useful information here for those who don’t know much about the topic, but the nonfiction portions could have been much better. When the subject is science – what is schizophrenia, or the link between mental illness and creativity – there’s little actual science and lots of authorial speculation; Powers spends more time detailing debunked theories with emotional appeal for him than laying out the facts. When the subject is history, he has a tendency to go off on tangents at best loosely related to the topic of the book: the eugenics chapter goes into detail on how Darwin came to travel on the Beagle, but neglects to mention that forced sterilization went on in the U.S. until the 1970s.

The chapter on antipsychotics is particularly off-base. I expected this chapter to answer such questions as: how effective are antipsychotics? What is it like to be on them? How have these drugs changed in the sixty-odd years since they first became available? What are their disadvantages? Instead we get a history of the development of the precursors to the first antipsychotic drugs, including biographical details of involved scientists, and then a long catalogue of misdeeds by drug companies, often not related to psychoactive drugs at all. There’s even a discussion of the intricacies of patent law that cause medication to be expensive in the U.S. in the first place, and mention of Bernie Sanders bussing seniors up to Canada to buy cheaper meds. As a piece of journalism it’s fine, but that isn’t why I picked up this book.

The memoir portion is equally marked by odd choices of focus. Three-quarters of it takes place before either of the author’s sons begins showing signs of schizophrenia. I understand the author’s desire to focus on the happy events in their lives, and even his drive to include supportive emails he sent his kids over the years. Perhaps one of his goals was to get readers invested in Dean and Kevin as people rather than seeing them as representatives of an illness. But a good writer could have done that while focusing on the years when they were actually sick (they’re still people, which is supposed to be the author’s point, and they’re hardly psychotic all the time). And this structure winds up giving the impression that life ends with schizophrenia, that everything worth telling in his sons’ lives happened beforehand – even though one of them is alive and apparently doing well.

Again, there’s a lot of authorial speculation and tangents here. He theorizes that his older son, Dean, was moody and withdrawn as a teenager because he was in the early stages of the disease, never mind that Dean’s first psychotic episode seems to have come around age 30. He discusses at length the social and judicial consequences of a car accident when Dean was 17, during which it becomes clear that he has a bone to pick with the other teenager’s family (who previously wrote their own book). Dean’s own opinions are noticeably absent. The author will mention that he never asked how Dean felt about a particular event, or doesn’t know some fact from Dean’s life, leaving me wondering why he didn’t just walk downstairs and ask. Memoirists generally have living, non-estranged family members read their manuscripts and share their memory of events, which could only have improved this book.

Finally, though there’s little discussion of specific policy proposals, Powers advocates throughout the book for parents having increased authority to force treatment on their unwilling adult children. Of course, early diagnosis and treatment is extremely important to health outcomes, and it was clearly agonizing for Powers and his wife to watch Kevin go off his meds, insisting that he’d gotten better. But having recently read a horrifying account of involuntary commitment in another memoir, I’m hesitant to say we should do this more, and concerned by the author’s pooh-poohing of civil liberties concerns. A basic tenet of a free society is that adults get to make their own life decisions, even if their judgment is terrible, as long as they abide by the law. If someone is incompetent, the court can appoint a guardian. Powers apparently believes this option is insufficient because there can be delay (in which case the delay is the problem) and, bafflingly, because this is “not a medical hearing, with psychiatrists, but a judicial hearing, with a judge and lawyers.” Um, yes, this is how government works; it’s called due process of law and why courts exist. There’s nothing stopping psychiatrists from testifying in them.

At any rate, the author doesn’t seem to have thought this proposal through. Does he believe in involuntary treatment only during episodes of acute psychosis, or indefinitely once someone has a diagnosis? His experiences make it seem like the latter. In which case, what diagnoses are sufficient? How long does someone have to be stable to get their rights back? Does he think parents should have this power for life, or only while their children are financially dependent young adults? How would he prevent situations like Rosemary Kennedy's, where less conscientious parents choose a treatment that destroys their child in an attempt to make her easier to manage? If the ill person is married, does the spouse get to dictate treatment? Has he considered the ways mental illness already leaves people vulnerable to domestic violence (“you’re crazy, so no one will believe you”)? There's a long history of inconvenient women forced into mental institutions, because people given power over others don't always exercise it well. It doesn’t appear the author has considered the implications of his ideas beyond his own pain, and while his experiences are a valid consideration, the inquiry can’t stop there.

 

So in the end, while there is some good journalistic writing here and I found the book more engaging than a 2-star rating implies, it falls short of the author’s stated goals. He writes in the introduction that he wants reading the book to hurt, and he wants to give a voice to people with mental illness. The book includes a few tragic stories taken from the news, dealing with police shootings and suicide in prison, and certainly his son’s suicide is one of the most tragic events a family can experience. But far more page time is spent on Powers family vacations and why the author hates Thomas Szasz. And I’m confused as to how he believes he’s given anyone a voice when there’s no indication he interviewed anyone with mental illness for the book; even his own surviving son appears to have had no involvement. Raising awareness is good, but this book is too much of the author’s feelings and too little of anything else. What a wasted opportunity.

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