Liz Murray’s childhood was full of nightmarish experiences. Both of her parents were crack addicts who did nothing to hide their habit, leaving drug paraphernalia strewn about their filthy apartment. Each month the welfare check was spent in a matter of days, only a small portion of which went to purchasing groceries. Without enough food to eat and absolutely no structure, Liz began to slip through the cracks.
While her sister, Lisa, dealt with their chaotic life by imposing strict rules on herself, Liz ‘s life took a downward spiral. She felt responsible for making sure her parents were alright and subsequently began skipping school to take care of them. As her family falls apart, Liz’s truancy lands her in group home and eventually out on the streets full-time. After her mother dies from AIDS, Liz hits a breaking point and knows something has got to give:
My mind was racing. One minute I had a home, a family, a roof over my head, and loved ones to orient me in the world. And now I was on Sixty-fifth Street and Ma was dead, Daddy was gone, Lisa and I were separated. Everything was different. Life has a way of doing that; one minute everything makes sense, the next, things change. People get sick. Families break apart, your friends could close the door on you. The rapid changes I had experienced were hitting me hard as I sat there, and yet sadness wasn’t what came up in my gut…If life could change for the worst, I thought, then maybe it could change for the better. (p. 251)
Much of what Liz experiences is extremely difficult to read, but there is an overall message of hope in her story.
If someone were to ask me what Stiltsville was about, I’d have to say it’s about nothing and everything. It’s one of those books where the monumental is in the mundane, in the ordinariness of everyday life.
Set in and around Miami beginning in the late 1960s, Stiltsville takes us on the journey that is marriage. Frances and Dennis face the challenges of every couple in a committed relationship but the simplicity of their love for one another and their ability to understand what is truly important is incredibly heartwarming.
I don’t mean to make their story sound trite; Daniel’s beautifully powerful and emotional writing gives these characters depth and makes you feel as though you are a part of their lives. It’s been awhile since a book has moved me as much as this one did.
In this compelling memoir, Harriet Brown takes us down the rabbit hole of eating disorders and describes how the demon, anorexia, tried to steal her eldest daughter, Kitty. I’ve read other memoirs about eating disorders but they have usually been from the eating disordered person’s point of view. This is the first one I’ve read from a family member’s point of view.
Dissatisfied with traditional therapies, Brown, ever the resourceful journalist, sets out to find a method for dealing with anorexia that gave her daughter a better chance of survival. Through her research, Brown discovers Family Based Therapy (FBT), a system where the family is heavily involved in the patient’s recovery. It’s not a popular therapy and there are still far too few FBT certified therapists in the country, but studies have shown that for children under age 18, FBT has the best rate of recovery. That was enough for Brown to take on the extraordinary task of bringing Kitty back.
Brown documents the heartache, the struggle of getting Kitty to eat, and the agonizing torment of not knowing whether her daughter will ever be “normal” again.