Press Releases

NAMI Outstanding Literature Awards

Authors To Be Honored, With Special Readings, At NAMI National Convention In Minneapolis

Jun 23 2003

Arlington, VA - The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) will honor three major authors, representing three literary genres, at its annual convention in Minneapolis on June 28-July 1, 2003. Together, their recent or soon-to-be released works provide important new perspective on the experience of children of parents with mental illnesses in confronting challenges at different stages of life.

Best-selling author and National Public Radio Morning Edition commentator, Bebe Moore Campbell, will open a convention program track on "Healthy Children: For Our Nation and Our Future" with a special reading and award presentation on Monday, June 30 at 8:15 AM (Convention Center/Auditorium 2) for Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry (G.P. Putnam’s Sons), a story for children about a young girl who learns how to cope with difficult moments in her mother’s struggle with bipolar disorder. The book will be released in September 2003.

Virginia Holman, author of Rescuing Patty Hearst: Memories from a Decade Gone Mad (Simon & Schuster), a memoir of her mother’s untreated schizophrenia and Lynette Brasfield, author of Nature Lessons: A Novel (St. Martin’s Press), will conduct a joint reading and book signing, Monday at 7:30 p.m. (Hilton Hotel, Marquette Room) and receive their awards at the convention awards banquet on Tuesday evening, July 1.

Holman and Brasfield draw on their childhood experiences as daughters of mothers with schizophrenia to explore similar themes—but with intriguing differences.  One year after Patty Hearst was kidnapped and robbed a bank in 1974, Holman writes, "my mother lost her mind and kidnapped my sister and me to our family cottage" in rural, coastal Virginia, because she believed that they had been inducted into a secret army and were "trusted with setting up a field hospital. We lived in that cottage for over three years." Holman’s book also explores the ways that the legal and clinical system during the 1970s and 80s prevented her family from getting her mother the treatment that she desperately needed. Holman has written for Redbook, Self, DoubleTake, USA Today, and theWashington Post. A portion of Rescuing Patty Hearst received a Pushcart Prize in 2001.

In Brasfield’s novel, a woman returns to South Africa after 20 years to search for her missing mother and truths about her family history under apartheid. It explores the strain in family and social relationships that arise from paranoia that can be rooted in mental illness or an oppressive political regime. Last week, Booksense 76 selected it for its list of Outstanding New Fiction for July and August 2003, considered by independent booksellers to be "unique and provocative." Booklist has described the novel as "gripping…part mystery, part dark comedy, part harsh political reality."

Both books show how psychotic delusions reflect a person’s surrounding culture; how what is "real" and what is "paranoid" may be confused, or depend on a person’s class or racial perspective; and the impact that each may have on a child’s past, present, and future.

Brasfield, Campbell and Holman also will attend or participate in other NAMI convention meetings.

On Sunday, June 29 at 6:00 P.M. the convention’s opening plenary session, "Confronting the Mental Health Crisis in America," will include a focus on children’s issues as part of a discussion on President Bush’s New Freedom Commission Report on Mental Health.

On Sunday at 8:00 P.M, NAMI also will present the national premiere of a documentary film, Out of the Shadow, a work-in-progress produced, directed and written by Susan Smiley, portraying her own mother’s struggle with schizophrenia and its impact on her family. Panel and audience discussion will follow.