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Current Book Selection and Meeting Time

COVID-19 Adjustments

NAMI Hunterdon Book Club’s next meeting will be virtual. We meet September 10 at 7:00 via ZOOM (and an invitation with a link to this platform will sent to members on September 9).

Our reading selections (please see details below) offer our group a chance to begin to discuss racism in America. On May 29 NAMI issued a statement a portion of which allows: While there is much we need to do to address racism in our country, we must not forget the importance of mental health as we do so. Racism is a public health crisis.As the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization, it is our responsibility to serve all. While as an organization we are still early in our intentional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion journey and have much to do, we have renewed our commitment to our values. We continue to strive to deliver help and hope to all who need it.

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism is a 2018 book written by Robin DiAngelo (Beacon Press, 2018, 194 pages) about race relations in the United States.

Katy Waldman writes in the New Yorker (July 23) White Fragility attempts to explicate the phenomenon of white people’s paper-thin skin. She argues that our largely segregated society is set up to insulate whites from racial discomfort, so that they fall to pieces at the first application of stress—such as, for instance, when someone suggests that “flesh-toned” may not be an appropriate name for a beige crayon. Unused to unpleasantness (more than unused to it—racial hierarchies tell white people that they are entitled to peace and deference), they lack the “racial stamina” to engage in difficult conversations.

Much of White Fragility is dedicated to pulling back the veil on these so-called pillars of whiteness: assumptions that prop up racist beliefs without our realizing it. Such ideologies include individualism, or the distinctly white-American dream that one writes one’s own destiny, and objectivity, the confidence that one can free oneself entirely from bias.

Our companion selection

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

In a review Goodreads describes The Fire Next Time as a national bestseller when it first appeared in 1963 that galvanized the nation and gave passionate voice to the emerging civil rights movement. At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin’s early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, the book is an intensely personal and provocative document. It consists of two “letters,” written on the occasion of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, that exhort Americans, both black and white, to attack the terrible legacy of racism. Described by The New York Times Book Review as “sermon, ultimatum, confession, deposition, testament, and chronicle…all presented in searing, brilliant prose,” The Fire Next Time stands as a classic of our literature.

Dig Deeper

NPR reports on the pushback DiAngelo’s book has received (Morning Edition, July 20). “The Washington Post’s Carlos Lozada said the book employs “circular logic.” Lozada writes that White Fragility views people of color as “almost entirely powerless, and the few with influence do not wield it in the service of racial justice.”
Columbia University professor and linguist John McWhorter, who is Black, echoes that criticism, writing in The Atlantic that the book “openly infantilized Black people” and “simply dehumanized us.”

Exploring other books:

Mental Illness and Incarceration

Waiting for an Echo by Christine Montrose

Dr. Christine Montross informs us that in the U.S. people with serious mental illnesses are far more likely to be incarcerated than to be treated in a psychiatric hospital. Montross studied systemic change in the Norwegian prison system, and what the U.S. might learn from it. Her new book is ‘Waiting for an Echo.’

To listen to this interview go to Fresh Air, July 16, 2020
Why The U.S. Prison System Makes Mental Illness Worse (And How We Might Fix It).

Summer Watching

HBO is streaming I Know This Much Is True based on the bestselling novel by Wally Lamb, written and directed by Derek Cianfrance, and starring Mark Ruffalo, this limited series follows Dominick Birdsey as he struggles to care for his twin brother, Thomas, while discovering the truth about his own family history.

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NAMI Hunterdon Book Club
Date: Thursday, March 12, 2020 | 7:00pm
Location: Panera Restaurant, Flemington

All are welcome – come as you are.  For further information Contact Louise Hartman at 609-468-6036 or louise.hartman@comcast.net.

Our book discussions are gentle and kind and explore the problems and possibilities of living with mental illness. We use the lens of the authors whose books we read to inform our discussions. But our group enthusiastically embraces digressions and invites participants to bring their own personal stories into our forum (if they so choose). And sometimes it’s not always possible for members to read the book prior to our meetings. That’s fine, we’re not sticklers on that front (or any front for that matter); we just encourage the free flow of compassion.

We look forward to seeing you!

Current selections:

Life Inside My Mind:  31 Authors Share their Personal Struggles edited by Jessica Burkhart. Simon Pulse, New York, 2018. 309 pp.

Your favorite YA authors including Kami Garcia, Ellen Hopkins, Maureen Johnson, and more recount their own experiences with mental illness in this raw, real, and powerful collection of essays that explores everything from ADD to PTSD.

Quotes from the book:

“You know how depression lies? Well anxiety is stupid. I did not just say people with anxiety are stupid. No, no. I mean that anxiety itself is stupid. If you asked anxiety what two plus two is, anxiety will think very hard and say “triangle” or “a bag of Fritos” or “a commemorative stamp.” Because anxiety doesn’t know what anything is. It will try to convince you that things that are totally fine are worthy of dread.”

Maureen Johnson, Life Inside My Mind: 31 Authors Share Their Personal Struggles

“Mental illness—having it, advocating for its understanding, living with it—has an image problem. A large part of the problem, I think, is the term itself—illness is something that automatically suggests rot and contagion, a short interim of bodily collapse that must and can be cured as quickly as possible. But the spectrum of mental disorders—which runs from low-grade depression to personality disorders to acute schizophrenia—suggests that this term is far from sufficient.

It is far too restrictive. It suggests two states, and only two states: healthy and sick, well and unwell.

But the truth is many people who live with mental illness are well and sick”

Lauren Oliver, Life Inside My Mind: 31 Authors Share Their Personal Struggles

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