I Hate You – Don’t Leave Me – Jerold J. Kreisman, M.D. and Hall Straus

All page notations are from the 2010 paperback edition from Perigee Books.

I Hate You – Don’t Leave Me: Understanding the Borderline Personality by Jerold J. Kreisman, M.D and Hall Straus is a great educational tool for anyone who has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder(BPD) or for someone who has a loved one with BPD. While one book cannot explain how BPD affects everyone because as with any mental illness everyone experiences it differently I Hate You – Don’t Leave Me does a remarkable job showing how it affects several different people throughout the book. As it is an educational book it covers many topics from the history of BPD to classifications to therapies and their effectiveness, and how BPD affects a person and the people around them. This makes the book very comprehensive for the reader.

One thing that I really appreciated about this book is that it is very reader friendly. Medical jargon is used sparingly, often times it is used when it is the proper name for something or a classification, which is then explained in a more layman’s term. For example when they are talking about medications they talk about a class of drugs called “neuroleptics” and then add the more common term “antipsychotics” afterwards. Doing this made it really easy to understand and absorb without being overwhelmed with new terms.

I have seen a few complaints about this book one of them being that it is outdated and another being that it stigmatizes people with Borderline Personality Disorder. I did read the updated version from 2010, and it could use another revision and it references the DSM-IV-TR, but the DSM V is out now. The authors state in the beginning of the book that they will be using the term “borderline(s)” for the sake of clarity, with the agreement that it is being used as a shorthand for “human being(s) who exhibit(s) symptoms consistent with the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR)”(Note To Reader, XVI) and that they will be alternating pronouns for this purpose as well. This removes the stigmatization that can be seen through the usage of “borderline(s)” and is important to note for this reason. While it is an edition behind in the DSM it is a great start when it comes to learning about the disorder and a good tool for the diagnosed and their friends and family as well.

I learned a lot from reading this book and while it did get taxing to read at times because of all of the new information it was worth it in the end. It’s worth reading if you have an interest in mental health, Psychology, BPD or if you or a family member/friend has BPD and you want to understand the disorder more.

The Girl Who Smiled Beads – Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil

All notations are from the 2018 hardcover version from Crown Publishing Group.

“To this day I do not know how to respond and be polite. No, I want to scream, it’s not like the Holocaust. Or the killing fields in Cambodia. Or the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. There’s no catchall term the prove that you understand. There’s no label to peel and stick that absolves you, shows you’ve done your duty, you’ve completed the moral project of remembering. This—Rwanda, my life—is a different, specific, personal tragedy, and inside all those tidily labeled boxes are 6 million, or 1.7 million or 100,000 or 100 billion lives destroyed. You cannot line up atrocities like a matching set. You cannot bear witness with a single word.” pg 93-94 

The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil is a non-fiction book that follows Wamariya’s life from the age of six when the Rwandan Genocide began in 1994. From April 7, 1994 to mid July of 1994 it is estimated that 500,000 to 1,000,000 people were murdered. The majority of them being Tutsi, an Ethnic group in Rwanda, Burundi and The Democratic Republic of the Congo (then known as Zaire.) It’s estimated that up to 70 percent of the Tutsi population in Rwanda were exterminated during this time period. For Wamariya and many others this meant that they became refugees in the surrounding countries to avoid the certain death that would await them if they stayed in Rwanda. Wamariya and her sister, Claire, fled Rwanda leaving their family behind, hoping that one day they would be reunited with each other. From here they became refugees staying in several different refugee camps and in cities located surrounding countries from Zaire(DRC) to South Africa. Eventually the two find their way to the United States. Claire by then is married with kids, Wamariya is placed into the home of Mrs. Tomas which allowed for her to attend school, eventually going on to earn her Bachelor’s Degree in comparative literature from Yale University.

Going into this book I knew a little bit about the Rwandan Genocide, most of my knowledge coming from charity groups that visited my high school from time to time. With my limited knowledge I learned many things that I did not know before from the conditions the refugees insured to what caused the genocide to happen in the first place. I had no idea that it stemmed from the Bulgarians and their issuing of identification cards that marked someone as Hutu, Tutsi or Twa. These cards were handed out solely physical appearances like the circumference of one’s head, for example. How crazy it is to think that something that happened after World War I could cause such an extreme movement to happen almost a century later. Wamariya’s memoir focuses very little on politics, most likely because she was only 6 when the Genocide started.

At times the switch between the past and the present can be a little jaring and left me wondering how things came to be. However, by the end, all of my questions were answered, making this construction work for me for the majority of the time. When it didn’t it was very minor things that overall held small importance in the overall narrative.

Watamari’s beautiful language choices lead some passages to invoke philosophical ideas. Such as when she talks briefly about the Kinyarwanda word for rape, “konona” or being ruined. Expressing the overemphasis that is put on keeping one’s virginity in her culture. A woman is valuable for her body, and that value can be taken at any point and without it your family cannot get anything for you when you marry. No land. No animals. And there is no way to go back. Wamariya says that she works “everyday now to erase that language of ruin, to destroy it, and replace it with a language of my own.”(pg. 61) Having to change her own philosophy on how she was brought up to feel. Ending with “my body is destroyed and my body is sacred. I will not live in that story of ruin and shame.” (pg. 61)

Wamariya proves that our past does not have to define us, out of conflict she rose to become a strong and educated woman. Someone who could easily be a role model. Yes, war did have an effect on her life, she does not shy away from this fact at any point during her story. Poignantly saying, “when you’re traumatized, your sense of self, your individuality, is beaten up. Your skin color, your background, your pain, your home, your gender, your faith, it’s all defiled. Those essential pieces of yourself are stolen. You, as a person, are emptied and flattened, and that violence, that theft, keeps you from embodying a life that feels like your own.”(pg. 220) But her struggles allowed her to become who she is, meeting Oprah, Elie Wiesel, and becoming a humanitarian speaker. She further proves her point when talking about a story that her childhood nanny, Mukamana, told her. The story in which this book’s namesake is: The Girl Who Smiled Beads. Mukamana always started the story the same but when she reached a certain point she would ask Wamariya what she thought would happen next. Here Wamariya would make up her own story, molding it to be whatever she wanted it to be. The past is always going to be set in stone, but the future, the future can be what you chose to make it.

Boy Erased – Garrard Conley

“Was this what the Church was warning me about the whole time? And if this was the punishment I had received on earth, how much worse was it going to be in the afterlife?” pg. 117

In the Boy Erased: A Memoir, Gerrard Conley recounts his time in Love in Action, a Christian Ministry specializing the the conversion of Homosexuals into Ex-gays. Conley’s story is focused to 2004, with some backtracking to things that happened earlier in his life, though he uses his “homework” assignments from LIA to show the majority of these. Conley talks in detail about the steps of LIA as well as the tactics used in attempt to convert him.

Conley did not decide to write his memoir in a way that I expected. I expected this to be written more like smaller life stories that added to the overarching story, but the majority of the novel takes place is 2004 when he was in the LIA. When he does include things that happened outside of 2004 he does so using journals that he recalls writing for the first step of the program. Boy Erased read a lot more how I would expect a fiction novel would read. Which after learning more about the author makes sense as he goes on to finish college and get a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing. This did not make the memoir unenjoyable, it was just unexpected.

One of the most shocking things to me about this novel was the Conley was admitted to Love in Action in 2004. I was eleven in 2004 and it is terrifying to think that these horrific things happened in the United States during my lifetime. He does a good job of bringing the year into perspective by describing himself playing Final Fantasy VIII on the Playstation and later going to see The Passion of the Christ in the movie theater. These two things I was alive for the release.

I spent the majority of this memoir thinking that Conley willing admitted himself into the program, but I came to find out later on that his father, a Baptist Pastor, forced him into it.  This was appalling to me, who would willingly put their child through Hell just in the hopes that it would make them not be gay anymore? This hell did not use physical abuse, only verbal abuse justified by Bible. At one point Conley says that he felt as though being Gay would lead him to “messing around with someone’s dog if [he] didn’t cure himself.” (pg.6) The therapy made him believe that being a homosexual was no different than being a pedophile, a murderer or participating in bestiality.

Conley also struggles deeply with his faith throughout the year. Conley grew up in a deeply religious family, his father becoming a baptist preacher later in his life. Conley recalls as a kid being terrified of Armageddon and he would be left alone because his parents’ faith was stronger than his. The Baptist faith was deeply ingrained into his being but because of the LIA he found himself wondering if any of the bad things happened to him was because of his homosexuality and that it was God’s way of punishing him for his sins. He does not understand why God would allow him to be a gay or why, no matter how much he prayed, it refused to go away. Conley never comes to terms with this and in the epilogue mentions that his faith in God never recovered.

Conley says, “I wish none of this had ever happened. Sometimes I thank God that it did.”(Author’s Note) I, truly, wish that the things that happened in this book never happened to you, but I am proud of the bravery you had to share your story with millions of people. Thank you for your courage.

A River in Darkness -Masaji Ishikawa

A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea is a heartbreaking memoir of Masaji Ishikawa’s life and escape from North Korea. This memoir is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for those looking for a happy ending. I found this memoir difficult to get into, but I am glad that I pushed through it to finish the memoir completely.

While I openly admit that I only knew the basics of how North Korea operated, this novel made things much more clear for me. Not from a historical viewpoint, as concrete facts and dates are few and far between, but from the viewpoint of someone who experienced it first hand. Not just a scholar who learned it through lecture. By not bogging the memoir down with dates it makes it much easier to see what happens as something the truly exists. It’s important to note that Ishikawa’s mother was Japanese and his father was South Korean. He was born in Japan and his father was conned through North Korean propaganda promising of a better life to move his family. Ishikawa mentions multiple times about how they were forced to use the Junche method when it came to farming rice. In which they were told to plant the rice close together. Those who were farmers knew better than to do this as it would lead to overcrowding and as a result a poor harvest. They had no choice and did as they were told, increasing the severity of starvation every year. Eventually the famine became so bad that Ishikawa, and many others, were forced to steal just to survive.

While I had hope that this memoir would end happily, this would be far from the truth. In 1996, 36 years later, Ishikawa would would escape across the Yalu River into China, but he would do so alone leaving his wife and children behind. The rest of his family was either dead or missing by this time. Through the Japanese Consulate managed to make it back to his homeland in Japan. Here, even his Mother’s Family refused to speak with him and he again found himself, jobless and without friends and family. He learned eventually that his wife had passed away, and in 2005 his daughter as well. He received a letter from his son 1998 , saying that he was looking for a job with his four children in tow. But this would be the last time that he heard from him as his letters abruptly stopped after that. He knows that if he had stayed in North Korea he is sure that he would have starved but he laments that “at least I’d have died in someone’s arms with my family gathered around me.” He closes out his novel saying, “people talk about God. Although I can’t see him myself, I still pray for a happy ending.” I hope that he finds one in the end.