Showing 141 - 150 of 209 annotations in the genre "Memoir"

Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

A holocaust memoir, this is the painfully honest and unsentimental account of one physician's experience in the Warsaw Ghetto. The author, who was a Jewish medical student of 22 when Germany invaded Poland, remained from 1940 through most of 1943, serving as caretaker of sick or orphaned children in a ghetto hospital. During this time, she tells the reader, she made some decisions she has never been able to fully reconcile-- such as to perform multiple acts of euthanasia involving adults as well as children when the waves of slaughter and deportation increased in brutality and frequency.

Eventually, the writer joined the active resistance and was a part of the movement which ended with the complete razing of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1944. After the liberation of Poland, Blady Szwajger resumed her interrupted career in pediatric chest diseases. Only after 45 years did she choose to write of her experiences and, in her introduction, she articulates her reasons for remaining silent and for her ultimate decision to speak out.

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Annotated by:
Donley, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Nathaniel Lachenmeyer’s memoir is a reconstructed account of his father Charles’s battle with paranoid schizophrenia and Nathaniel’s inability or unwillingness to recognize his father’s need for help. After his father’s death, Nathaniel contacted many of the people who had known his father, both when he was a student and college professor and later when his illness forced him into mental hospitals, squalid apartments, and homeless living on the streets. Nathaniel’s search to understand his father after his death led him to interview the many health care workers, police, street people, restaurant staff, and others who knew Charles when he was very ill.

Charles was delusional, often hearing voices and talking to his mother, who had been dead for years. Typical of people suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, Charles did not see himself as mentally ill. Therefore he did not like to take medications and would refuse treatments when he could, although his health care workers could see substantial changes for the better when he was on medication. He believed he was the victim of a mind control experiment, forced on him by his persecutors. He died out of touch with his family, having suffered almost twenty years on his own with his illness.

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Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was born in Switzerland in 1926. She was part of a package deal--a triplet (and a two-pounder at that). That she survived the birth (as did her two sisters, another two pounder and a more robust six pounder) is something of a miracle. As she explains, her early childhood was filled with other more memorable experiences around death as well, including a long battle with pneumonia and deathbed scenes of neighbors in her small town.

In the aftermath of World War II, she was a volunteer in IVSP, International Voluntary Service for Peace. She spent time in Poland and then Germany, aiding survivors of the concentration camps, as well as the defeated Germans, to rebuild their lives. She returned to Switzerland and went to medical school, eventually marrying an American student studying there.

After practicing as a small town family doctor, she came to the U.S. in the 1950s. Her plans to serve a residency in pediatrics were changed to psychiatry (because they didn’t want someone who was pregnant). In Denver, after residency, she was asked to lecture to medical students. She chose a topic that was out of the ordinary, but something she felt at home with--death and dying.

In 1965, in Chicago, she continued her work in this area. At the urging of some theology students she began a weekly seminar with dying patients, health professions students, (and eventually ) their more skeptical teachers. This experience led to the publication, in 1969, of her book, On Death and Dying. It is in this book that the "stages" of dying are discussed. The remainder of The Wheel of Life deals with more controversial aspects of Kubler-Ross’s life.

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A Million Little Pieces

Frey, James

Last Updated: Jan-30-2006
Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

At 23 years old, James is brought by his parents to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Minnesota to get treatment for his alcoholism and drug addictions. Physically and emotionally shattered, he slowly recuperates, sometimes insistently conquering his addictions with his own willpower, and at other times with the help of those around him. The consequences of his addictions, his struggle against the platitudes of the Twelve Step programs, and his relationships with his counselors build the tension in the book; his relationship with his family and several of his fellow addicts forms the heart of it.

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My Friend Leonard

Frey, James

Last Updated: Jan-30-2006
Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Note that this annotation contains spoilers. The sequel to A Million Little Pieces (see this database), Frey's follow-up memoir begins with James serving time in an Ohio prison for crimes he had committed while an addict. On his release, he goes to Chicago where he plans to reunite with his girlfriend, Lilly, and start a new life. As soon as he arrives at the halfway house where she was living, he discovers that she had committed suicide the night before. Shattered again, he tries to establish himself in Chicago without relapsing (with notable bravado: working as a bouncer in various bars).

His friend and "father" Leonard, a mobster who unofficially adopted him during their stint in rehab together, as chronicled in A Million Little Pieces, tries to help him get on his feet financially. After a period as a runner for the mob, James decides to move to Los Angeles to become a writer, with some success. Leonard remains a benevolent father-figure and as their friendships develops, the larger-than-life Leonard and his mob henchman meet James's friends, his family, his girlfriends, even his girlfriends' families--until Leonard disappears. James eventually locates Leonard, and discovers that Leonard is gay, has AIDS, and the two of them spend Leonard's last few days together.

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The Year of Magical Thinking

Didion, Joan

Last Updated: Jan-30-2006
Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Joan Didion has written a very personal, powerful, and clear-eyed account of her husband's sudden and unexpected death as it occurred during the time their unconscious, hospitalized daughter was suffering from septic shock and pneumonia.

Quintana, the couple's 24-year-old adopted child, has been the object of their mutual care and worry. That John Gregory Dunne, husband and father, writer and sometime collaborator, should collapse from a massive, fatal coronary on the night before New Year's Eve at the small dinner table in their New York City apartment just after their visit with Quintana can be regarded as an unspeakable event, beyond ordinary understanding and expression. "Life changes fast . . . in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends" (3).

As overwhelming as these two separate catastrophes are, the account provided by Didion evokes extraordinary descriptions of the emotional and physical disorientations experienced by this very lucid, but simultaneously stunned and confused wife, mother, writer dealing with the shock of change. Her writing conveys universal grief and loss; she spins a sticky filament around the reader who cannot separate him or herself from the yearlong story of difficult, ongoing adjustment.

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What Patients Taught Me

Young, Audrey

Last Updated: Jan-17-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This collection of stories describes "a medical student's journey" (the subtitle) through the difficult terrain of clinical education. In Audrey Young's case, this is also a geographical odyssey from Seattle to Swaziland to Pocatello, Idaho, as she completes her University of Washington clinical rotations and electives. In one sense the main characters of these narratives are the patients the author encounters in clinics and hospitals. As she writes in the Preface, "Patients teach things that the wisest and most revered physicians cannot, and their lessons are in this book."

In another sense, of course, Dr. Young herself is the central character of these stories; this is an account of her journey into doctoring. The author first takes us to Bethel, a Yupik Eskimo town on the Bering seacoast of Alaska, where she had her initiation into clinical experiences in the form of a summer preceptorship. There she learns that patients are far different from textbook examples, as she confronts the social and cultural factors that influence illness and its amenability to treatment. We follow the author to assignments throughout the WWAMI network. WWAMI is the University of Washington's decentralized clinical training program (Wyoming, Washington, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho).

In Spokane she delivers a baby for the first time, supervised by an opera-loving attending physician. In Pocatello she takes care of her first critically ill neonate. In Missoula her life becomes "one of resigned solitude" in her internal medicine clerkship, where she experiences sleep deprivation and experiences sunlight only "through dusty windows."

During her fourth year, the author finds herself treating desperately ill AIDS patients without a supervising physician (he had gone to Zaire for a funeral and might be back the following week) and also without anti-retroviral drugs. However, it is in Swaziland that she learns the deep power and dignity of medicine, as exemplified by a patient who invites her to a dinner in her honor that requires killing one of his precious chickens.

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Complications

Wasserstein, Wendy

Last Updated: Oct-04-2005
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

A chance meeting with her former and most compassionate fertility doctor brought Wendy Wasserstein (at age 48, and after 8 years of effort) back to his fertility clinic. Two weeks later she got the news that she was pregnant, and six months after that, just as she was getting ready to tell her friends "that the twenty pounds I had gained were not the result of bad habits and anxiety," she developed preeclampsia and was hospitalized.

What follows in this ’Annals of Motherhood’ memoir is an account of her hospitalization; her subsequent delivery 16 days later of 1lb., 12oz. daughter, Lucy Jane (Lucy’s waving hand sonogram picture reminded Wasserstein of "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds"); and her separation from Lucy, who spent two months in the neonatal intensive care unit.

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Elegy for Iris

Bayley, John Oliver

Last Updated: Aug-26-2005
Annotated by:
Taylor, Nancy

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This memoir of Bayley's life with novelist Iris Murdoch who, in 1994, began exhibiting signs of Alzheimer's disease, is divided into "Then" and "Now," with emphasis on the "Then." Bayley admits that their independent lifestyles, which had both bound them and allowed them freedom, kept him from knowing the "real" Murdoch; sadly, the novelist is almost as much an unknown to him as to us. He speaks of Murdoch's lack of any sense of superiority and her disinterest in social or artistic success; she simply did her work.

In the brief section titled "Now," Bayley presents seven episodes of their life together between January and December 1997. These pictures of Murdoch lost and at sea, following him around, uttering "mouse cries," collecting pebbles, moss, sticks, dead worms, and asking over and over "When are we going?"--these will be familiar to Alzheimer's families, as will his sometimes rage and his constant sense of frustration and loss.

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My Mother Dying

Johnson, Hillary

Last Updated: Aug-26-2005
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

The title of this variegated narrative hardly does it justice. Though some of the most eloquent passages are about the lingering death of the author's mother, Ruth Johnson, from esophageal cancer, it is, just as centrally, the writer's memoir of growing up with the woman she has just seen through her final years of diminishment and loss, and commentary on her mother's art as testimony to her quirky, original, unconstrained, sometimes jaundiced, often hilarious view of the human comedy.

Hillary Johnson returned to Minneapolis from New York to be with her mother and stepfather after years of only intermittent contact and in the process of reentering her mother's life, came to reassess her own. Ruth chain-smoked, drank freely, lived spontaneously, painted uninhibitedly (40 illustrations include examples of her artwork) and often bestowed her art without price wherever it was appreciated. She was a local celebrity and the daughter, who has achieved her own success, finds in her mother's life a new measure of her own. In retrospect, she recognizes the costs, both to her mother and to herself, of the bohemian way of life she knew as a child, and the pain she didn't at the time fully recognize as such.

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