It’s a new year, which means a whole new set of books to read. Here are some forthcoming books from Bay Area authors, or authors with ties to the Bay Area, which I think will be worth your time:
examines how the U.S. has exported its views on mental illness around the world. Conditions like anorexia, first diagnosed in the U.S., are increasingly common around the world. The Japanese now buy $1 billion of Paxil, the antidepressant, each year. Who would have thought America would do such a good job exporting its problems? Ethan will hold a book launch party at Booksmith on Haight Street Jan 21 at 7:30 pm.
The Professor and Other Writings by Terry Castle – I was wandering around the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association convention at the Marriott in downtown Oakland in October when I came upon Castle and a stack of her books. It was the annual cocktail party where publishers bring authors to meet booksellers. (I was there as a guest) The room was packed, and crowds were gathered around high-profile authors such as Po Bronson and Annie Barrows. Castle’s table, by contrast, was relatively empty, so I went over and got a signed copy of her book.
A few days later I picked up The Professor and Other Writings and began to read. To my surprise, I couldn’t set it down. I had never heard of Castle before, but it quickly became apparent that I was in the minority. She is a professor of English at Stanford and writes interesting and thoughtful autobiographical essays for the London Review of Books, the Atlantic, and Slate. Susan Sontag declared Castle “the most expressive, most enlightening literary critic at large today.” (One of the essays in the book describes the pair’s peculiar and strained relationship) The book is a collection of Castle’s work and the essays range from one about looking for the grave of an uncle who died in World War I to one examining a relationship she had with one of her female professors. The pieces are absorbing and well worth your time.
Imperfect Endings by Zoe Fitzgerald Carter – Carter’s memoir, which will be excerpted in O, Oprah’s magazine, tells the almost unbelievable story of her mother’s suicide. Margaret, who has been living with Parkinson’s disease for 26 years, decides she has had enough and wants to die. But she insists that Carter and her two sisters help her plan her death. They are required to attend it as well. Imperfect Endings raises difficult questions about love and loyalty, but it is written with such style and sympathy that it is difficult to put down. Carter, who lives in the East Bay, has written for New York, Premiere, and other national magazines.
Impatient with Desire by Gabrielle Burton – This is a novel about the ill-fated Donner Party with a focus on George Donner’s wife, Tamsen. Burton, who lives in Los Angeles, has been fascinated by Tamsen Donner for decades and came out with a nonfiction memoir on the topic in 2008. (I wrote about Burton’s fascination and attempts to retrace Donner’s last steps here.) Now she has used her considerably writing skills to craft a moving and poignant novel done in a journal format. Impatient With Desire looks at Tamsen Donner’s resilience and her determination to get her children to safety.
The Kitchen Shrink: A Psychiatrist’s Reflections on Healing in a Changing World by Dora Calott Wang is a memoir that explores the high cost of managed care. When Dora first became a psychiatrist, she actually counseled and helped people with mental health problems. But managed care companies soon took over the health care industry and gave bean counters, rather than doctors, the power to approve treatments. In this well-written and moving memoir, Dora describes the dismantling of the mental health safety net. Hospitals close, ill patients are turned out on the streets, and others die because their insurance plans deny them much-needed medical care. In the middle of this gloom, Dora has a baby girl and the memoir recounts how she reconciles her desires to protect Zoe with her growing powerlessness to help her patients. Dora is a psychiatrist who resides in New Mexico but she received a master’s in writing at UC Berkeley and did her medical residency at UCSF.
The San Francisco Chronicle came out with a list of notable books coming out in January 2010.