Madness and Survival in the Memoir

January 14, 2014 § 2 Comments


Jay Neugeboren offers up a fascinating account of how he navigated the ethics and emotional territory of writing a memoir about his brother’s mental illness in the NY Times this morning:

Imagining Robert: My Brother, Madness, and Survival” was published in the spring of 1997 and, the week of publication, I brought a copy to Robert. …. He opened the book, looked at the photo of us that faced the title page — me at 5, holding him, an infant 3 months old, in my arms, the two of us in a sunlit field of grass. He smiled, his eyes welling with tears, and took my hand. “This is something they can never take away from us, Jay,” he said.

Robert read the book, and he not only thanked me for having written it, but came to take pride in it. But during the time we worked on it together, he could not know, in advance, if what I wrote would hurt him, or compromise his privacy. He could not know if what I wrote would accurately reflect his sense of our growing up together, and of his life.

Read the full account here.


§ 2 Responses to Madness and Survival in the Memoir

  • I read this post with great interest since I am also writing about a loved one with mental illness. Thank you for posting it.

  • katherine Dering says:

    My brother’s mental illness inspired me to write, as well. Shot in the Head, will be out in April. It is so infuriating that we, as a nation, do not do a better job of caring for our mentally ill brothers and sisters.

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