Then one day it was a book, a commercial product, and I was on the road. The book launch was in Brooklyn and packed and I was jubilant. I did book events in Manhattan and Portland and San Francisco and Marin and Los Angeles and Providence and Cambridge and Kingston NY and Manhattan again. I head today to Miami and have a reading there tomorrow and on Friday in Tampa during AWP. I’ve got dates coming up in Woodstock, NY, Bard College (details forthcoming), South Hadley MA (with Adrian Nicole LeBlanc!), Chicago (with Jessica Hopper!), Iowa City (for Mission Creek!), Minneapolis, Missoula (with Anne Helen Petersen!), and then LA Times Festival of Books in April — with more dates being announced soon.
Folks have asked whether I’m going to D.C. and Seattle and Chapel Hill and elsewhere; I’d love to. Hopefully I figure out how to get there, how to get anywhere, everywhere. Maybe I’ll get a bus. There’s always a question of whether anyone will show up. There’s always a question of who’s paying. Write me though if you want me to go somewhere. I consider traveling, connecting with audiences live, a big part of my execution of Bob’s desire that I get the story “out there.” I grew up on a stage. It’s still true I’m happiest in front of a crowd.
It’s been exhilarating. It’s been draining. In every city I’ve been surprised by who’s showed up. In every city I’ve been surprised by some lovely interaction. Some people have asked the most thoughtful questions. Some have asked questions I truly didn’t expect. People have asked if I’m supporting their organization or attending their organization’s conference. They’ve spoken about the medication that changed their lives, or their family history, as if this story will somehow invalidate the one I’m here to tell. Some questions I have answered even as I’ve thought to myself why is this what you’ve asked? At several events the very first question shouted from the crowd— sometimes before the Q&A portion had even begun, was — is Bob dead?
A Man With Opinions (MWO) has attended several of my readings. He’s risen and pontificated for a bit. I’ve thought about how to handle him. Most recently I interrupted his monologue and said, “You had a question?”
People have waited in lines to get books signed for themselves, for others. People have described their line of work. They’ve told me about people they love and about people they knew once and questions they’ve had. In Portland, a week after publication, a couple said they’d read the book already, told me about their son, his schizophrenia diagnosis, and how he killed himself five years ago. They encouraged me to continue on. People have told me about themselves. In Cambridge, a girl with her mother remarked she understood what Bob meant when he typed on his manuscript’s cover page that he was “unable to identify with reality.”
All these things have happened. I’ve mostly tried to hang on, to witness, to respond when I feel I can. Every day brings a challenge, a demand that I do something I’ve never done before.
It’s hard. Terribly hard. It’s all worth it, of course. People are reading Bob’s story about his own life. They’re having their minds changed. How cool is that? A psychiatrist wrote describing how Bob’s story had shifted his perspective, how he had cried reading it even though he rarely cries. He said: “I can think of no book — including the DSM— that those of us treating mental illness need to be more familiar with than this one.”
It’s most exciting to me that people are reading the book who are seeing themselves in it. Within 24 hours of the book’s publication, I received an email from a stranger who’d already finished it. She wrote:
“I cried through most of the second half of the book because you so eloquently wrote about your uncle and his challenging journey in this life.
Please note I plan on buying several copies of the book and distributing them to individuals who could benefit from your insight, as well as the life experience of your uncle, with regards to MH.
Thanks for sharing Bob’s story. It is the story/experience of so many people.”
In a further correspondence, she added: “I was thinking about yr Uncle Bob today and how he earned his spot in heaven. Sometimes there are ordinary people who are Saints right here on earth and we don’t realize it until we recognize what a hard life they endured through no fault of their own.”
Deeply impressed by May Jeong’s tremendous piece about the murder of her friend Kim Wall (and about the world in which women report generally):
Read Amanda Chicago Lewis’ new Rolling Stone story about pesticides and pot.
A bad predictor for gun violence? Psychiatric diagnosis.
A good predictor for gun violence? Domestic violence.
A good way to curb death by gun violence? Fewer guns.
Of the available takes about why it’s bullshit to blame “the mentally ill” on gun violence, I’d most recommend this piece up at the Nation, by s.e. smith, which makes important points, especially about guns and suicide:
I wrote one too, for CNN Opinion:
Anyway, because apparently this needs saying: a lousy way to curb death by gun violence is to further limit the civil rights of psychiatric patients.
IYCMI, I published a personal essay on BuzzFeed Reader last week about what writing a book about schizophrenia made me think about, in terms of living in my own head, and in our society. It’s also about baking pie. In it, I’ve included my recipe for Yard Fruit Pie.
It features this rad illo:
p.s. A fun thing to do is take a #selfiewithbob
p.p.s. As I’ve written about here before, something else I talk about in the book is the power of student activism — specifically the history of the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley. It’s one of many topics Bob’s book made me research that have, in recent months and years, seemed startlingly relevant.
p.p.p.s. Here’s a video of my performance at Joe’s Pub (Michael Wolff was another of the authors on the lineup LOL). Assignment was 15 minutes, no notes, on the theme “Darkness Falls”: