Songs from the Black Chair: A Memoir of Mental Interiors (American Lives)

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9780803212985: Songs from the Black Chair: A Memoir of Mental Interiors (American Lives)

Day after day, night after night, the desperate men come and sit in the black chair next to Charles Barber’s desk in a basement office at Bellevue and tell of their travails, of prison and AIDS and heroin, of crack and methadone and sexual abuse, and the voices that plague them. In the silence between the stories, amid the peeling paint, musty odor, and flickering fluorescent light, Barber observes that this isn’t really where he is supposed to be. How this child of privilege, the product of Andover and Harvard and Columbia, came to find himself at home among the homeless of New York City is just one story Barber tells in Songs from the Black Chair. Interlaced with his memoir, and illuminating the nightmare of mental illness that gripped him after his friend’s suicide, are the stories of his confidants at Bellevue and the “mental health” shelters of Manhattan—men so traumatized by the distortions of their lives and minds that only in the chaotic aftermath of 9/11 do they feel in sync with their world. In the intertwined narrative of these troubled lives and his own, Charles Barber brings to shimmering light some of the most disturbing and enduring truths of human nature.

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About the Author:

Charles Barber is an associate of the Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health, Yale University School of Medicine.

Review:

"Imaginative and beautifully written, with vivid imagery and wit. . . . Songs from the Black Chair should enjoy a wide audience."—JAMA, Journal of the American Medical Association (Marijo B. Tamburrino, MD Journal of the American Medial Association (JAMA) 2005-06-29)

"For those who work in mental health services, the best teachers are often those who are themselves mentally ill. Thus, personal accounts that bring us closer to the inner maelstrom of mental illness—books such as William Styron's Darkness Visible, Sylvia Nasar's A Beautiful Mind . . . and now Charles Barber's equally eloquent and insightful Songs from the Black Chair—have long made important contributions to the field. . . . As the title suggests, the book is often less a typical memoir than a 'song'—a free-flowing, lyrical, and imaginative story. . . . Barber's ability to convey the experience of mental illness is striking."—The New England Journal of Medicine (Sharon Salit The New England Journal of Medicine 2005-08-25)

"[A] perceptive gem"—Library Journal Recovery Memoir Roundup (starred review) (Lynne F. Maxwell Library Journal 2005-05-02)

“Barber has written a passionate and honest book about those with mental illness. He combines the personal and the political quite subtly. It is also original, which is something to be prized.”—Sue Bond, Metapsychology Online Review (Sue Bond Metapsychology Online Review 2006-01-09)

"Barber . . . Isn't afraid of words like 'crazy' or 'madness'; he'd rather render his 'clients' as human characters than as case studies. [Barber] relates [their stories] with detailed vitality and with respect for the tellers. As his obsessive-compulsiveness becomes a pathology, Barber evokes in this compelling and artfully crafted book a sort of cinematic tension; that he survived to tell the tale . . . Doesn't lessen the punch. As in first-person mysteries, Barber is alive and, though not unscathed, balanced at book's end."—Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)

"Barber draws a compelling and compassionate portrait of the struggle for peace and clarity of mind."—Booklist (Vanessa Bush Booklist 2005-03-16)

"A beautifully written, and very moving memoir—a story of hope and talent that persists, no matter the tragedies that await any of us at one or another point in our lives."—Robert Coles, James Agee Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard University, Pulitzer Prize–winner, and author of The Spiritual Lives of Children (James Agee)

“A complex and sophisticated memoir by a young man who survived a harrowing brush with mental illness and eventually became, by a roundabout route, a mental health professional. His account of his odyssey is compelling, disturbing, many-faceted, and highly imaginative. I’ve never read another book quite like it.”—William Finnegan, author of Cold New World: Growing up in Harder Country and staff writer for The New Yorker (William Finnegan)

“Written from inside the belly of the beast, Charles Barber’s Songs soars like a lovely melody above the din of the world, and in juxtaposition to the silence of those who suffer from mental illness of any sort. Engrossing, perceptive, and elegantly written.”—Carlos Eire, author of Waiting for Snow in Havana and winner of the National Book Award (Carlos Eire)

“A valuable, well-written memoir that skillfully interweaves the strands of Barber’s young adult life with his affinity for working with the mentally ill. The author provides many insights.”—Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database (Felice Aull Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database 2005-08-10)

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Charles Barber
Published by University of Nebraska Press (2005)
ISBN 10: 0803212984 ISBN 13: 9780803212985
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Book Description University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London, 2005. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. American Lives Series.. 203 pages. Hardcover with dustjacket. New book. MENTAL HEALTH. Day after day, night after night, desperate men come to sit in the black chair next to Charles Barber's desk in a basement office at Bellevue and tell of their travails, of prison and disease, of violence and the voices that plague them. Between the stories, amid the peeling paint, musty odor, and flickering fluorescent light of his office, Barber observes that this isn't really where he is supposed to be and reveals his privileged youth in contrast to his own nightmare of mental illness. By relating these troubled lives to his own, Barber illuminates some of the most disturbing and enduring truths of human nature. Charles Barber is an associate of the Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health, Yale University School of Medicine. "An amazing book. . . . Barber is a gifted writer, and the work he has produced is an important addition to the literature of both mental health and New York City."ÑJennifer Gonnerman, Village Voice "Imaginative and beautifully written, with vivid imagery and wit. . . . Songs from the Black Chair should enjoy a wide audience."ÑJournal of the American Medical Association "For those who work in mental health services, the best teachers are often those who are themselves mentally ill. Thus, personal accounts that bring us closer to the inner maelstrom of mental illnessÑbooks such as William Styron's Darkness Visible, Sylvia Nasar's A Beautiful Mind . . . and now Charles Barber's equally eloquent and insightful Songs from the Black ChairÑhave long made important contributions to the field. . . . Barber's ability to convey the experience of mental illness is striking."ÑNew England Journal of Medicine "[A] perceptive gem."ÑLibrary Journal (starred review) "[A] beautifully rendered look at other people's, and the author's, struggles with mental illness."ÑBloomsbury Review 2006 Connecticut Book Awards, sponsored by the Connecticut Center for the Book, biography or memoir category finalist. 2005 Pushcart Prize for title essay "Songs from the Black Chair." (Key Words: Memoirs, Mental Health, Charles Barber, Mental Illness, New York City). book. Bookseller Inventory # 66187X1

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Book Description University of Nebraska Press, 2005. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110803212984

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