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Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Category: Memoir (page 1 of 2)

Black & Blue by Andra Douglas

Growing up in Zephyrhills, Florida, Toady loves nothing more than playing football. It isn’t surprising, given that football is a religion in the small Southern town. Indeed, a winning team is a cure-all throughout the South. But for Toady, the love of football is bittersweet – because Toady’s given name is Christine. She’s a girl, and girls “can’t” play football. Christine’s story, and how she beats the odds to become the owner of – and player on – a championship women’s tackle football team, is told in Andra Douglas’s new novel, BLACK & BLUE: Love, Sports, and the Art of Empowerment (BookBaby, July 2019).

Loosely based on the author’s own story, BLACK & BLUE chronicles Christine’s struggle to “get a slice” of the “pigskin pie” of life. The youngest of three sisters, she chafes against what the South tells her she should be. From childhood on, she loves football and plays exceptionally well. But she is denied a spot on the high school team, and by senior year, she watches unhappily as her male classmates win college football scholarships – knowing that for her it cannot be. Reluctantly, she puts aside her football dreams and moves to New York City, never expecting to play the game she loves – but life is full of surprises.

Douglas, the former owner of the New York Sharks Women’s Pro Football team and a player herself, paints a compelling picture of Christine’s struggle. But more importantly, BLACK & BLUE lays bare the complexity of being a woman who wants to play what has essentially been a man’s sport since it was first created. Once in New York, Christine hears rumors about women playing flag football on Fire Island. She rides the ferry over, clutching her ball – and there she finds her people. The women who will one day be her teammates on the New York Sharks.

This quirky, tough, and diverse group is held together by their love of the game. When, after several years of successful flag competitions, the Women’s Professional Football Association is launched, Christine becomes part of this new tackle league – against her better judgment, because she senses that something isn’t quite right. Before long, she discovers the truth – the Association has no funding and the team needs money and an owner if they want to compete. To keep her dream alive, Christine haggles and scrapes together the cash to buy the franchise.

And that’s when the tension really heats up. In order to create a championship team, Christine must make countless personal and financial sacrifices. Finding a coach who isn’t abusive is a struggle. Rallying team spirit is an endless quest. Add to that the loss of her one true love, the devastation of the September 11 attacks, and the sudden death of one of her players, and Christine’s dream seems doomed. Does she have the guts and the stamina to spite the odds? Will her sacrifices pay off?

BLACK & BLUE not only challenges gender stereotypes, but takes readers behind the scenes of one of America’s least understood sports. Readers will cheer Christine as she doubles down to fight for the women who want nothing more than to be allowed to play the sport they love. This is a story of empowerment that will inspire anyone who is struggling to fulfill their dreams.

Thanks to Jane Wesman PR for this review copy!

BLACK & BLUE is truly like “A League of Their Own” but with football. There are personal struggles, foul-mouthed players, and a sometimes-dysfunctional team.

The author grew up in Florida in the pre-Title IX days, which meant that girls were not only second-class citizens, they were also looked down upon for wanting to play sports with the boys. Douglas’ own sister cautioned her that if she continued to partake in the rough-and-tumble world of football with the boys, she would never be able to “catch a husband”. Another cringe-inducing recollection involves a neighbor girl that goes missing one summer. As the author eats dinner at her girlfriend’s house, there is talk of the missing girl. One brother remarks that he doesn’t know why everyone is making a big deal of things, after all, it’s ONLY A GIRL that is missing. Needless to say, the girls are appalled, and the father passes his son a large helping of food to keep him strong.

This attitude frustrated and upset me, and I was gratified to see the author leave Florida to attend Pratt Institute in NYC. She becomes enamored of the bustling city, even more so when she discovers a bunch of women playing football in an old sandlot. She asks to join the game, and with that simple question she starts a brand-new life. She makes fast friends with the women and play impromptu games with other “teams” in the area. Eventually a semi-pro team is formed called the New York Sharks, and the women have to learn to play nice with their former rivals, since now they are on the same team. They need to unite and believe in each other, as well as combat the attitudes of the coaches (who persist in telling the “ladies” to “behave”).

Douglas goes through a lot of ups and downs with the team, some emotional, some monetary. She ends up buying the Sharks and is now the owner/manager of the dysfunctional but lovable team. This causes her parents and siblings to heartily disapprove of her actions; they tell her so in a disappointed tone. All her life Douglas has wanted to be involved with football and now that her dream is coming true, she is still not considered to be a true woman. Despite the fact that she is challenging societal norms to follow her dreams, she is shunned by her lover also.

After suffering losses both in her professional and personal life, the author slides into a deep depression. Despite her best efforts, her team is imploding. She is not sure if she wishes to continue following her dreams. One bright light on the horizon is the creation of the International Women’s Football League, which the Sharks join. In true shark fashion, the team keeps moving forward and keeps on fighting. They are seeking a win in the Championship game and need to pull together one last time – can they do it?

This book is gritty and authentic, with lots of hilarious trash talk from all the players. I got an excellent grasp of the trials and tribulations of what goes on behind the scenes of a football game. Unfortunately, I also got an excellent look at how the women are still considered to be second class citizens and how their teams were not financially backed as well as the pro men’s teams. I’m certain that the pros don’t need to come up with $40 to pay for their own jerseys.

Douglas also shares her struggle with depression, which takes courage and strength. I too, would become depressed after continually facing the setbacks in her life. One message that I take away from this book is that women are still not thought of as equals, and that is sad. Despite all the strides we have made since Title IX, there is still more to be accomplished. Please read Douglas’ story with not only entertainment, but enlightenment in mind. You can get your copy here.

Abused: Surviving Sexual Assault and a Toxic Gymnastics Culture by Rachel Haines

Two-year-old Rachel Haines didn’t know that she would be committing to twenty-one years of hard work, dedication, and perseverance as she jumped into the foam pit during her first “mommy and me” gymnastics class. She had no idea that one day she would become a two-time National Team Member, two-time National Champion, and a Division I college gymnast at the University of Minnesota. Nor could she have known that she had just signed herself up for serious injury, emotional distress, and continuous sexual assault by world-renowned trainer turned serial molester, Larry Nassar.

In Abused: Surviving Sexual Assault and a Toxic Gymnastics Culture, Rachel details her experiences as a competitive gymnast and the painful realities of being one of Nassar’s many victims. With honesty and candidness, Rachel shares how the sport she loved that gave her so much—friendships, accomplishments, a college education—is also tangled in a dangerously toxic culture that needs to be fixed. In a world that was setting her up for a lifetime of recovery, she tells how faith, family, and an army of survivors made healing possible.

 

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

This story will grab you and not let you go until you reach the last word. It may even stay with you, with the atrocities and pressure that author Rachel Haines sustained buried deep in the back of your mind.

It is easy to think of gymnasts the same way we consider ballerinas: ethereal, feminine, able to perform superhuman feats of leaping and twisting that doesn’t seem possible. However, the two fields possess a few more similarities that are not so desirable. Both contain instances of eating disorders, perfectionism, toxic cultures….and abuse. In 2018 the prestigious New York City Ballet fired two male dancers after harassment charges had been brought against them. The history of abuse, both physical and sexual, is storied in the ballet world. Men (whether dancers or choreographers) hold all the power, and women are treated as second class citizens.

It seems that men hold all the power in gymnastics as well. Last year the horrific story about Larry Nassar’s hundreds of victims surfaced, which empowered other victims to come forward and share their story of the abusive culture they experienced. Coaches such as John Geddert and Bela Karolyi used their temper to mentally and physically abuse gymnasts under the guise of “encouragement” or to “toughen them up for competition”. The athletes were surrounded by a cloak of silence, looking inward and wondering if they were misreading Nassar’s “treatments”, which included taking pills and/or enduring digital manipulation (internal and external). As time went on, the gymnasts became inured to what was happening to them and accepted it as part of their lot in life. After all, they had chosen to be gymnasts, and to deny or expose this part would result in them being shunned or removed from the environment they knew and loved. As Haines notes, being a gymnast was her reason for living. No matter how painful or stressful it was, she was first and foremost, an elite athlete who performed gymnastics for a living. She knew of no other world, nor did she want to.

As Haines became more competitive, she sustained a horrific injury to her back (it was broken in multiple places) and had to work through pain on a daily basis. Nassar made sure to give her many “treatments” while telling her that while her back was injured, she was still cleared to perform her routines. As time went on, her legs grew numb. Her pre-competition ritual consisted of slathering immense amounts of Icy Hot on her legs, then punching them or cutting them so she would be able to detect a modicum of sensation. As I read further into the book, I was speechless at how she was able to keep performing (check out her videos on YouTube). Once, her legs betrayed her during competition. She bravely took a moment, then got back on the beam to complete her routine. If that is not courage, strength, pluck, bravery, and badassery, then I don’t know what is. Yet, through all of this, she was filled with self-doubt and impostor syndrome. Haines felt like she could never be equal to others and would often compare herself to other gymnasts. This left her wanting to be better, to be worthy, to be deserving.

Women are usually their own worst critics. The pressure Haines put on herself was unbelievable, as her fierce spirit held her in good stead throughout multiple years of practice, excruciating pain, and sexual abuse. Despite all her achievements, Haines still believed she was not good enough. This book will take you through her entire gymnastics journey, the highs and lows, the pain and the victories. It will also give you new respect for Haines and the other gymnasts who had to suffer through Nassar’s years of abuse. Haines bares her soul, her doubts, and her faith in this book, and I am sure it was not an easy task. Looking inward, then speaking out is one of the most intimidating things a woman can do; and Haines showed us her strength and wisdom, even as she confronted Nassar at his trial.

If this story does not move you or fill you with pride at how these women were able to overcome adversity, you had better check your pulse. Pick up your copy here.

 

DOCTOR by Andrew Bomback

A 3-year-old asks her physician father about his job, and his inability to provide a succinct and accurate answer inspires a critical look at the profession of modern medicine.

In sorting through how patients, insurance companies, advertising agencies, filmmakers, and comedians misconstrue a doctor’s role, Andrew Bomback, M.D., realizes that even doctors struggle to define their profession. As the author attempts to unravel how much of doctoring is role-playing, artifice, and bluffing, he examines the career of his father, a legendary pediatrician on the verge of retirement, and the health of his infant son, who is suffering from a vague assortment of gastrointestinal symptoms.
At turns serious, comedic, analytical, and confessional, Doctor offers an unflinching look at what it means to be a physician today.

 

Many thanks to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for a review!

DOCTOR is a book where I expected more than it delivered. Yes, I got insights on a doctor’s fears, and learned what they may think of “doctor” jokes, but all in all I felt that there was too much about his family to truly make it a book about a physician. I got the impression that he didn’t enjoy being a doctor at all, and that he was living in the shadow of his father, who was extremely well respected in the field.

The Spanglish conversations with his daughter detracted from the pace of the book, and I can imagine those unable to understand the words becoming frustrated. (Spoiler: don’t worry, you didn’t miss anything integral to the plot.) I also felt disconcerted as the author jumped from story to story; sometimes they tied in with one another, sometimes the transition was harsh.

The plot seemed to be about the personal life of a man who happened to be a doctor, not truly all about what a doctor does. If the author could make up his mind and concentrate on one or the other, I feel the book could have been more meaningful. Perhaps a different title would have steered a potential reader in the right direction as well. In any case, it wasn’t the worst book I ever read in this genre – but far from the best. I think if it was any lengthier it would have been a rare DNF for me.

Interested in checking it out for yourself? You can pick up it on Amazon.

 

 

 

Counting Backwards ( A Doctor’s Notes on Anesthesia) by Henry Jay Przybylo

For many of the 40 million Americans who undergo anesthesia each year, it is the source of great fear and fascination. From the famous first demonstration of anesthesia in the Ether Dome at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1846 to today’s routine procedure that controls anxiety, memory formation, pain relief, and more, anesthesia has come a long way. But it remains one of the most extraordinary, unexplored corners of the medical world.
In Counting Backwards, Dr. Henry Jay Przybylo—a pediatric anesthesiologist with more than thirty years of experience—delivers an unforgettable account of the procedure’s daily dramas and fundamental mysteries. Przybylo has administered anesthesia more than 30,000 times in his career—erasing consciousness, denying memory, and immobilizing the body, and then reversing all of these effects—on newborn babies, screaming toddlers, sullen teenagers, even a gorilla. With compassion and candor, he weaves his experiences into an intimate exploration of the nature of consciousness, the politics of pain relief, and the wonder of modern medicine.

Filled with intensity and humanity, with moments of near-disaster, life-saving success, and simple grace, Counting Backwards is for anyone curious about what happens after we lose consciousness.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

There is nothing as fascinating as anesthesia. The very idea of being in a state where your insides could be cut, manipulated, and sewn back together is mind-blowing; yet this happens on a daily basis all over the world. COUNTING BACKWARDS is the personal account of a person with intimate knowledge and respect for this phenomenon.

He shares stories of the good, the bad, and the ugly surgeries that he has overseen. From babies to gorillas, he has seen more than his share. The book is not just medical jargon; he recounts his interactions with patients and shares some of his most intimate thoughts with us. We learn what his routine is when setting up for a surgery – and why it never varies. We learn the history and development of anesthesia drugs – and why he creates a new plan for each patient. Dr Przybylo is a caring and meticulous man, one that I would want in the surgery suite with me.

This memoir came about when he enrolled in the MFA program at Goucher College; a step that is admirable and daunting. His professors must have loved encouraging and developing his writing style, as the story flows as smoothly as isoflurane into the lungs. The good doctor draws from his years of experience as he discusses patients, medicine, and humanity. Each story has a moral of sorts – they don’t always have a happy ending – but there is always a lesson to be learned.

It takes a special person to have the intelligence to understand the workings of anesthesia, while also possessing the compassion to care for people. The human race can be a frustrating and ugly bunch while sick and/or scared – I’ve been one of those people a few times. Dr Przybylo is kind enough, as well as strong enough, and that is what made this book stand out for me. There was just enough anesthetic detail and gore to keep me interested, while keeping the human condition firmly front and center. This book would be a wonderful addition to someone’s medical library.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”0393254437″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

MED SCHOOL UNCENSORED by Richard Beddingfield

[easyazon_link identifier=”0399579702″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]Med School Uncensored: The Insider’s Guide to Surviving Admissions, Exams, Residency, and Sleepless Nights in the Call Room[/easyazon_link]

An entertaining insider’s guide to the good, the bad, and the ugly of med school–with everything pre-med and med students need to know, from day one, to maximize opportunities and avoid mistakes.
Cardiothoracic anesthesiologist and recent med school grad Dr. Richard Beddingfield serves as an unofficial older brother for pre-med and incoming med students–dishing on all the stuff he would’ve wanted to know from the beginning in order to make the most of med school’s opportunities, while staying sane through the gauntlets of applying to and succeeding at med school, residency, fellowship, and starting work as a new physician. With advice from additional recent Ivy League med school grads and top-tier hospital residents, this all-in-one guide is a must-have for everyone who dreams of becoming a doctor.

 

Many thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

Richard Beddingfield is a kind and thoughtful man. Why do I say that? Because he spent a lot of time on creating a book to help pre-med students decide if that was the right career path for them. I can imagine graduates learning about this and saying “Why didn’t I have this to guide me??”.

MED SCHOOL UNCENSORED takes you from start to finish, explaining the tests, interviews, reasoning, and opportunities you will experience on the path to become a licensed doctor. He plays devil’s advocate; which I found refreshing – if your grades here are lower than peer X, then you need to do better on this; if your grades still don’t improve by this date, consider another career; no, there is no way to do this if you don’t do that; etc.

Each chapter represents a different step on the journey, with examples, personal stories, and the “why” behind it all. There is even some history thrown in comparing how things were done in the past and how they have changed. This is the kind of book that every type of career needs, to help someone make a decision on what learning path they want to take. The author notes everything important with great detail, using easy to understand examples. Nothing is sugar coated here – there is honest discussion of the ups and downs, pitfalls and joys of becoming a doctor. Bedingfield’s writing is clean and smooth, easy to digest, and generally benign.

There is not much of a plot to comment on in this review; but I will say I enjoyed the progression of the chapters. Things went from simple to complicated  in the order that they needed to; and it will be easy for the reader to grasp what comes next on the journey.

Anyone that is considering going to med school should pick this up before they finish high school, so as to obtain the proper education and extracurriculars needed to create an outstanding CV. This is exactly the book that should be in a parent’s or guidance counselor’s arsenal.

 

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”0399579702″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

The Joy Of Nursing by Juliana Adams

joy of nursing

Juliana Adams has lived her dream of being a nurse for 50 years. Her stories are stunning and startling; raw and revealing; heart wrenching and heart soaring. In her eye-opening experiences, she provides a deeper perspective … to always look beyond the diagnosis … because every nurse is more than just a nurse!
The Joy of Nursing: Reclaiming Our Nobility is provocative and riveting as the stories from new nurse to intuitive experienced nurse unfold. Far more than a memoir, it is a rich journey from novice to expert, a concept with historical roots for all who enter this profession.
-Are you a nurse or exploring nursing as a career?
-Are you wondering what is true about being a nurse?
-Does your nursing reality match the dream you once envisioned?

With courage, insight and optimism, Juliana Adams reveals the challenges and barriers that face the profession. To be a nurse is an honor.
She shares stories, her insights, and her dedication to nursing are exactly what the overwhelmed, disillusioned, innocent and anyone entering nursing needs.

Many thanks to the author and JKS Communications for gifting me this book for review!

Nursing is not an easy job – there is heartbreak, stress, and backbreaking work involved. THE JOY OF NURSING illustrates all that, but with an undertone of hope, pride, and strength.

To have a career that spans 50 years is impressing and daunting in itself, never mind having to deal with human suffering for all that time. Imagine the innovations that one would see, watching the field grow and develop! Adams starts with  the beginning of nursing, as created by Florence Nightingale, and discusses how doctors would view these eager young women entering the field. She then ties that in with her own nascent desire to become a nurse, and describes her journey.

Patient care itself has not changed since the first nurse started doing her job; rather, it is the albatross of Health Insurance that has skewed how hospitals are run. The objectives are still the same; ease pain and suffering, provide a friendly face to those who worry about their loved ones, and advocate for those who have no voice.

Adams does all of these things and more – and tells how she tries to find joy in each day. One story that touched me a great deal was the gently used clothing bin she and other nurses created; for indigent patients whose clothing was soiled due to illness, or for those who simply didn’t have another change of clothes available. What a thoughtful thing to do – provide a basic human need at a time when it is needed the most.

As you read through this book, you will see that Adams is intent on keeping nurses in love with their job, by sharing her own struggles and solutions. Words of advice can be found on almost every page, with scenarios that show how Adams grew within her profession and how she overcame her own disillusionment. She is honest and open about her own strengths and weaknesses while telling us the lessons she has learned over the years.  It is easy to see how each of her patients has touched her as their lives intersected.

The underlying intent of THE JOY OF NURSING is obvious – Adams has done a wonderful job of sharing the love she has for her calling – and the message comes through loud and clear. The blurb notes that it is good for either new nursing graduates or for those who are feeling disillusioned.

We all need a bit of encouragement now and then; and this book will certainly provide that for nurses. Who will heal the healers? Adams understands that advice from someone who has “been there” is invaluable. She gives the field of nursing a valuable and necessary gift in this book.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”0997200324″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

The Conversations We Never Had by Jeffrey H Konis

Conversations cover

The Conversations We Never Had is a new memoir/historical fiction novel by Jeffrey H. Konis. It tells the tale of a grandson who had taken his grandmother for granted, but didn’t realize it until it was too late.

“My father remembers nothing about his real parents. They were dead by the time he was nine. Olga, his mother’s younger sister, not only survived the Holocaust, but was able to find my father at his hiding place – a farm in Poland – and later brought him to America to raise as her own. In all that time, he never asked her any questions about his parents,” says Jeffrey. “Years later, I moved in with Olga for a period of time, but I allowed history to repeat itself – a classic mistake – and failed to ask her the same questions my father avoided. Olga has been gone for more than twenty years, along with everything she could have told me. I am left with a sense of guilt and profound regret, wishing so badly that I could go back and have a second chance to get to know her better and learn more about my family from the only person in the world who knew them and remembered them.”

The Conversations We Never Had is a chronicle of Jeffrey’s time spent with his Grandma “Ola” and an imagining of the stories she might have shared had he only took the time to ask the questions. It is a heartwarming story that will leave you eager to spend time with your family and learn more about them before it’s too late.

Many thanks to Book Publicity Services for introducing me to this touching story. Many of us have regrets that we didn’t spend time with our family when we had the chance – myself included. Reading this story should encourage you to rectify that situation sooner rather than later.

Conversations Jeffrey H. Konis


Excerpt from Chapter 2 – Grandma Ola and Me

Over the following days, I found myself picking up the old routine of going to classes, hitting the library, getting a slice or two for dinner, going home and hibernating in my room. Grandma would occasionally check on me, I think more than anything to make sure it was indeed me and not some wayward stranger. I felt bad not spending more time with Grandma the way I had that night when we talked about her dad, but I guess I was too tired after my long days or unsure how to restart the conversation. I knew Grandma was lonely, lonelier with me around than she would have been alone. Then there was something of a break in my schedule. It was the weekend after Thanksgiving and, caught up with all my work, I decided to spend some time with Grandma and talk. Late Saturday afternoon, after the caregiver had left, I approached her.

” I know it’s been awhile but I was wondering whether we could talk some more, if you’re up for it, that is.”

“Up for it? I’ve been ‘up for it’ for the last two weeks. What do you think, that I’ll remember these things forever? You think my memory will get better as I get older?”

“I know, I’m sorry. I’ve been busy with school and…”
”Jeffrey, you barely say hello to me. How many grandmothers do you have anyways? Well?”

Interesting question but, of course, she was right. My maternal grandmother died when my mother was a young girl; I never knew her father, Grandpa Eugene, who died when I was two.

But Grandma Ola said something else that made me stop to think for a second: her memory would surely deteriorate, and in the not-too-distant future. Once that went, so did any chance of learning about my paternal grandparents. There was now a sense of urgency to my mission. Indeed, there were increasing signs that her mind was starting to slip.

The phone had rung, a few nights previously, and I gave Grandma first dibs to pick up the phone to see who it was, as this was pre-caller i.d. The phone kept ringing and I looked in on Grandma, who I knew was lying on the couch in her room. The scene upon which I stumbled was humorous, though it should not have been: there was Grandma, holding a pillow to her ear and talking into it, “Hol-low? Hol-low?” I quickly picked up the phone just as my dad was about to hang up. He often called to check on both of us, to make sure that we hadn’t yet killed each other, that we were still alive.

As willing as Grandma was to have me and as eager and grateful I was to live with her, we each had our own trepidations about this new living arrangement, this uncharted territory in which we were to find ourselves. Grandma Ola had taken in her first new roommate in over forty years. Grandma, I suspect, felt responsible for my well-being. For all she knew, I could be entertaining all sorts of guests and be a constant source of noise and irritation that she had been mercifully spared for so long. I, on the other hand, was moving in with an elderly woman whose mind was on the decline, someone for whose well-being I would be responsible. Not that Grandma expected this of me; then again maybe she did.

She had employed caregivers seven days a week from nine to seven, who would look after her needs, meals, laundry, baths, doctors’ visits, grocery shopping – everything. Grandma, who was a proud, independent woman, and did not wish to argue or appear unreasonable with these good- hearted people, particularly Anna, seemed to accept their help with graciousness and gratitude. Anna may well have a different story to share but this is what I had observed. Above all, Grandma was a realist; she was aware of her own limitations.

What did I add to this equation? Not a whole lot. I did provide Grandma with some psychological comfort in the evenings when I was home. Should some life-threatening event occur, a bad fall for example, I was there to help. My services had been called upon once in this regard, though the fall in question was more humorous than harmful.

I woke up to a yell from Grandma in the middle of one night. My first thought was that she was having a nightmare and ran to her room to check on her, only she wasn’t there. Puzzled, I was on my way to the kitchen but noticed the light was on in the bathroom. I knocked and opened the door a crack. “Grandma, are you in there? Are you okay?” I asked.

She cried that she wasn’t and asked for help. I walked in to find my grandmother stuck in the bathtub on her back from which she was unable to extricate herself. She explained that she had been about to sit on what she thought was the toilet, not realizing her error until it was too late. I scooped her up and carried her back to her bed. I made sure she was indeed okay and wished her goodnight.

I suppose I shouldn’t have found any of this humorous, that this was a sad result of aging, a dreaded process, and that I should have been more compassionate and understanding. True, I suppose, but my understanding under the circumstances consisted of making sure Grandma was all right, carrying her to bed and keeping a straight face through it all. But it was funny. The only thing that wasn’t so funny was that I would be exhausted in my classes the next day owing to my lack of sleep.

As her new roommate, I was also expected to provide Grandma with some company, particularly since she had recently lost her husband. My father, I knew, expected at least this much from me; I didn’t know, on the other hand, what she expected. She likely considered my presence a mixed blessing; I might be nice to have around but also something of an intrusion.


Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”1478767294″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

About the Author

After practicing law for many years, Jeffrey H. Konis left the profession to embark on a career as a high school social studies teacher. His first book, From Courtroom to Classroom: Making a Case for Good Teaching, offers a unique perspective for teachers who seek to inspire their students to learn for the sake of learning. His latest work, The Conversations We Never Had, was released in May 2016. Jeffrey loves reading, collecting fine art photography, soccer – especially Liverpool F.C. – travel, and his family most of all. He currently resides in Goshen, New York with his wife, Pamela, and sons, Alexander and Marc.

Readers can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Patient H.M. by Luke Dittrich

patient hm

 

In 1953, a twenty-seven-year-old factory worker named Henry Molaison—who suffered from severe epilepsy—received a radical new version of the then-common lobotomy, targeting the most mysterious structures in the brain. The operation failed to eliminate Henry’s seizures, but it did have an unintended effect: Henry was left profoundly amnesic, unable to create long-term memories. Over the next sixty years, Patient H.M., as Henry was known, became the most studied individual in the history of neuroscience, a human guinea pig who would teach us much of what we know about memory today.

Patient H.M. is, at times, a deeply personal journey. Dittrich’s grandfather was the brilliant, morally complex surgeon who operated on Molaison—and thousands of other patients. The author’s investigation into the dark roots of modern memory science ultimately forces him to confront unsettling secrets in his own family history, and to reveal the tragedy that fueled his grandfather’s relentless experimentation—experimentation that would revolutionize our understanding of ourselves.

Dittrich uses the case of Patient H.M. as a starting point for a kaleidoscopic journey, one that moves from the first recorded brain surgeries in ancient Egypt to the cutting-edge laboratories of MIT. He takes readers inside the old asylums and operating theaters where psychosurgeons, as they called themselves, conducted their human experiments, and behind the scenes of a bitter custody battle over the ownership of the most important brain in the world.

Patient H.M. combines the best of biography, memoir, and science journalism to create a haunting, endlessly fascinating story, one that reveals the wondrous and devastating things that can happen when hubris, ambition, and human imperfection collide.

 

Many thanks to NetGalley for this ARC.

This book is more than a memoir; more than an expose of the lobotomy trade; more than a poignant tale of a man whose life was largely lived in the present moment. It’s an unsettling view of a medical procedure touted as something to make willful women “compliant” and violent men “placid”. The imagery of the procedure itself is even more eerie – the author describes the hippocampus as “being sucked up” by the vacuum used to perform the surgery. Implements such as a trephine drill, a scalpel, and forceps are used to obliterate parts of the brain responsible for making each of us human. Patients vomit or sing during the surgery, their brain sending out chaotic impulses. Afterwards, they are a shell of their former self, sometimes mute, dull, or forgetful.

Patient H.M.  was the most intensively studied lobotomy “victim”, and his journey from epileptic to amnesiac is well chronicled here. Adding to the drama is that the grandfather of the author (Dr William Scofield) is the surgeon that operated on H.M.

There is backstabbing and intrigue within the medical community as well; one of H.M.’s fiercest protectors, neuroscientist Suzanne Corkin, may have destroyed much of her written notes on H.M., thereby casting a shadow over how much of her research was actually correct and reliable. It is mind boggling to learn about the amount of “experimentation” done on men and women, all in the name of advancing scientific knowledge. Consent at times was dubious, even after the Nuremberg Trials.  The doctors thought they were doing the best for these patients, but as the author puts it, their hubris and audacity changed lives not always for the better.

Towards the end of the book, there is a section on H.M.’s actual thoughts on himself and his memory. He tries to put a positive spin on things, noting that always living in the present makes things interesting. I suppose you can’t miss what you never had; but I also was very deeply touched by the portrayal of this man who underwent a lobotomy because he was desperate to end his constant seizures. Was the quality of his life made better by suctioning out parts of his brain? That’s the gist of PATIENT H.M. – there are uncomfortable questions and sometimes dubious answers that make sense at times, but in actuality heinous, unspeakable deeds were committed against innocent people.

The author does a wonderful job of forcing the reader to consider these broken people as tragic creatures, unknowing fodder (sometimes referred to as “material”) for the surgeons who were all eager to try out this new and groundbreaking procedure.

Also broken are the main characters: the surgeon Scoville, the neuroscientist Corkin, and the brain researcher Jacopo Annese, who took possession of H.M.’s brain after the famous amnesiac died. After live streaming the dissection of the brain, there followed a volatile custody battle between Corkin and Annese over who was the “real” owner of the organ. Everyone wanted a piece of H.M. , either in life or death – and akin to Henrietta Lacks, he was never truly compensated for it.

I dare you to read this book and not be moved. PATIENT H.M. is educational, thrilling, and serves as a reminder of just how far medical science has come – and the depths it has gone to in order to reach this point.

You can pick up your copy [easyazon_link identifier=”0812992733″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

Becoming Unique by James Charles

 

becoming

 

Becoming Unique is a moving and informative account of one man’s journey towards Autism Spectrum Disorder. Whilst delivering practical and constructive advice for those living with autism, Charles also examines the positive attributes of the disorder, which he calls a diffability. Becoming Unique is also a story of faith, as Charles examined his relationship with God and how he made peace with his diagnosis. A rare and valuable first-person narrative about living with autism, James Charles’ story will stay with the reader forever.

 

James Charles grew up in County Leitrim, Ireland to a family of seven children.  In Ireland James received his education and a good awareness of the Catholic faith.  James moved to England aged 20, but never considered himself an immigrant due to England being the country of his birth.  Despite that, James had difficulty with people understanding his Irish accent and frequently changed jobs within his first year in England.  James began to feel more like his old friends still living in Ireland, when he started college part-time in September 1987 and a few months later he worked as a care worker in a hospital caring for adults with learning disabilities and this was to influence much of his career.

After a few years in care work, James quit concentrating on being a full-time student and where he gained a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Public Administration.  However James returned to Ireland in 1992 due to limited job opportunities in Luton and being unable to get a further grant to complete his degree.  James was a full-time student in 1993 at University College Cork (UCC), where he hoped to gain a Bachelor in Social Science degree with the aim of becoming a Social Worker.  While James succeeded in England working on continuous assessments and no exams, James faced the exam nightmare just like when he was a boy, resulting only remaining a year at UCC.  Yet James remained living in Cork prior to returning to England in 1995.

James returned to care work, but this time in mental health care settings in London.  James would later say “it was not exactly an experience of being thrown in the deep end”, as James had experience of people with mental health problems both when working in learning disabilities but also through people he got to know over the years.  After six months James was finished agency work in mental health and returned to one of his old jobs in July 1995.  James had no intention of further job moves and remained in his post as a care worker in learning disabilities, till he moved to Stafford to become a student nurse in mental in 1998.  It was here James met his future wife, James later said “she was the only stable thing in my life”.  While James often had many struggles in more than twenty five years of working, ten of them years were spent working as a mental health nurse.  In 2008 James and his wife moved to one of the British islands, where they lived and worked for five years and it was while working here, it was discovered that James had Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

This is a book about a man who was bullied, a victim of discrimination and experienced difficulty on many occasions with his communication.  It is also about growing up in Ireland and like many James emigrated to England in the 1980’s, as well as trying to integrate into the socialising environment.  As well as struggling with many changes, struggling with faith played a big part throughout his life, but the book also shows that faith is not through one religion.  The book looks at the challenges and misunderstandings faced by many Autistic people, even those on the so called high functioning Autistic spectrum.  Yet the book also looks at a future for Autism and what Autism can contribute to the world.

Becoming Unique is the voice of someone Autistic rather than the views of a clinical expert.  Having an Autistic voice is important, especially where many Autistic individuals often cannot communicate.  Becoming Unique also shows that Autistic individuals can have common interest like football and music, as this is shown in the Chapter Glasgow Celtic.  The book also shows that more work needs to be done to support Autistic individuals, but also many other individuals struggling with a disability.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”1909477907″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

Guest Post by Kevine Walcott, author of INSTITUTIONALISED

 

Vas Constanti - Book Cover - 1 A (background)

Kevine Walcott was a successful businesswoman living a peaceful, prosperous life in the United Kingdom. In 2009, she opened a YouTube account and joined the social media world. She didn’t realize that this innocent decision would unravel her happy life.

Walcott, who was once a devout Christian, posted videos about her faith and viewed some clips about ancient Egyptian religions. Suddenly, vile and threatening messages from mysterious people flooded her YouTube in-box. At first, she asked the harassers to stop. Then, she simply ignored the messages. When they began posting videos about her and sharing her real name and personal information, Walcott turned to the authorities for help.

Ironically, seeking assistance would be her greatest mistake. Walcott discovered links between government agents, the National Health Service, and the cyber attacks. Soon, the attacks would make the leap from cyberspace to the real world, and Walcott would end up in a government psychiatric ward.

Her explosive new book exposes the terrifying dangers of unchecked government control, antiquated mental health laws, and the corrupt ties between the two.

Walcott’s discovery of the links between the NHS and law enforcement almost got her shut away for life. With the release of Institutionalised, she’s fighting back.

 

What if you wake up one day and find yourself at the centre of online trolling (abuse), and only months and years later to be told you are mentally ill when talking about your experience? What happens when the only witness of what goes on in your home is you and your perpetrator? When the police, intelligence services and doctors are in bed together there is no end to your suffering. Being told it is all inside your head and having no place to run and no one to turn to for help. These scenarios may sound like a nightmare, but for victims of government harassment these experiences are real. One in four of the population will suffer from a mental health condition at least once in their life, but to have mental illness being used as a punitive psychiatric policy is too much to stomach.

I was once a globe-trotting business owner; confident, happy and seemingly untouchable. However, after becoming the victim of YouTube cyber-attacks, I found myself institutionalised at an NHS facility and under the control of the country’s medieval mental health laws.

In ‘Institutionalised’, I bare all. Most shocking is that the cyber-attacks were not initiated by teenage trolls or a disgruntled former lover; but agents working for the UK Government. Prepare to learn about a shocking new form of modern oppression, because I have one searing story to tell.

My shocking and frightening new memoir describes my online victimisation at the hands of UK Government operatives, leading to my being institutionalised under the British government’s punitive psychiatric strategy. Fusing a memoir with activism, I pull no punches when exposing the illegal relationship between intelligence services and the NHS, while calling on readers to spread the world and end this new digital form of Governmental oppression.

 

“It is vital that the NHS separates and distances itself from Police and Intelligence Services. Right now, they are virtually in bed with each other.”

“Health professionals cannot make correct diagnoses while Government agents are part of the process and abusing their powers for the sake of control.”

“As a result, I became involved in the judiciary in ways I could never have imagined, and that entire process was also moulded around the Government’s mandate to control. If any case appears to be exposing Government abuse or their illegal activities, the Court will throw it out. It’s unbelievable, but true.”

People with a story to tell may also come under fire simply for putting pen to paper but these stories of truth must be told.

“They threatened to institutionalise me again just for wanting to tell my story. I now live my life treading on egg shells; a far cry from the beacon of confidence and independence that I was before. My advice to everyone is to watch your movements, be careful what you seek out online and – above all – trust nobody.”

Want your own copy? Click [easyazon_link identifier=”B00OJFOHY2″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

About the Author:

Kevine Walcott is a property professional with a masters degree from University College London. She had found herself at the centre of an online hate campaign after accessing videos on ancient Egyptian religion on YouTube. She had discovered that some of her harassers were government agents. She had fought with her harassers who took their campaign offline and onto the streets and into her home. She had documented her experience in this thrilling memoir where the accounts are frightening. She told how her experience left her institutionalised by those using mental health as a disguising veneer to cover up abuses by law enforcement and the intelligence services and the role religion and history places in these unfortunate events.

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