Category Archives: Mental Health

Best Movies of 2021

  1. Quo Vadis, Aida?: This harrowing tale of one woman’s choice to save her family or save as many people as she can during the Bosnian War is as powerful as a film can get.
  2. Mass: Two sets of parents meet after one of their sons has killed the other in a school shooting to figure what happened. Along the way, they are forced to answer questions that are painful and difficult.
  3. Spencer: This fictional take on Princess Diana (Kristen Stewart) and what might have occured during Christmas in the early 1990’s is a unique take on the myth of the late royal.
  4. Belfast: A young boy is growing up during the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the late 1960’s. As he starts to transition from a child to a young adult, he begins to realize that nothing is ever a simple as it seems to be.
  5. Black Widow: After ten years, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) finally gets the movie she should have gotten. Trying to atone for her past while living in the present, she must face reality and make up for mistakes.
  6. Framing Britney Spears: This Hulu documentary took viewers in the life and career of Britney Spears and how it has changed since her father took control over both.
  7. West Side Story: Steven Spielberg’s adapation of this beloved musical takes it into the 21st century while retaing its message about prejudice and lack of opportunity.
  8. The Eyes of Tammy Faye: Jessica Chastain not only brings Tammy Faye Bakker back to life, she reveals the real person behind the punchline.
  9. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: This latest addition to the MCU is more than just the first all Asian cast. It is the story of a complicated father/son relationship and a young man who cannot run from his fate.
  10. Moxie: A shy teenage girl stands up to the sexist bullshit at school and empowers her fellow female students in the process.
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This will be my last post of 2021. Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing tonight, have a safe and happy New Year. See you in 2022.

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Filed under Fairy Tales, Feminism, History, Hulu, International News, Mental Health, Movie Review, Movies, Music, Netflix, World News

Best Books of 2021

  1. The Four Winds: Kristen Hannah has done it again. Her Cinderella-esque tale of a woman who resecues herself from a live of drugery, poverty, and low self esteem is one to be read again and again.
  2. Jewish Pride: Rebuilding a People: Ben M. Freeman‘s treatise on Jews, and Jewish history is a must read for anyone who for once and for all wants to defeat antisemitism and all forms of hate.
  3. Girly Drinks: A World History of Women and Alcohol: Mallory O’Meara‘s non fiction book explores how inspite of a certain image, women have been creating and drinking all forms of alcohol for centuries.
  4. I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J Trumps Catastrophic Final Year: The subject of you know who will be on the lips of writers and political historians for years to come. Authors Carol Leonning and Philip Rucker examine how the former President believed that he did not need help in running the country.
  5. Squirrel Hill: The Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting and the Soul of a Neighborhood: Writer and podcaster Mark Oppenheimer tells the story of how a single neighborhood was affected by the murders of eleven Jewish residents in 2018.
  6. Peril: Bob Woodward and Robert Costa take a deep dive into how close the American democracy got close to destruction.
  7. The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh: This JAFF by Molly Greeley gives the spotlight to Anne de Bourgh, a minor Pride and Prejudice character who has yet to be fully seen or appreciated.
  8. Three Ordinary Girls: The Remarkable of Three Dutch Teenagers Who Become Spies, Saboteurs, Nazi Assasins-and WWII Heroes: This fascinating and powerful tale of three young ladies who led an underground war against the Nazis during World War II.
  9. Why She Wrote: A Graphic History of the Lives, Inspiration, and Influence Behind the Pens of Classic Women Writers: Written by the Bonnet at Dawn podcast hosts, this book examines the life and works of the women writers we have loved and respected for generations.
  10. The Matzah Ball: A Novel: Jean Meltzer’s Chanukah themed rom-com about two people who are secretly in love, but cannot speak the words due to the current and past trauma.

Here’s to the books we loved in 2021 and the books we will love in 2022.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Fairy Tales, Feminism, History, Jane Austen, Mental Health, National News, Podcast, Politics, Pride and Prejudice

Carrie Fisher, 5 Years Gone

Carrie Fisher died five years ago today. Known for her role as Princess/General Leia Organa in the Stars Wars film franchise (among other roles), she was a respected writer and a mental health warrior. Dogged by mental illness and drug addiction for most of her life, it would have been easy to let both diseases get the best of her.

Though her death was and still is tragic, the fact that she was able to find a way to survive both for as long as she did will forever be a huge inspiration to me.

I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on. Better me than you.

May her memory forever be a blessing. Z”l.

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Spencer Movie Review

Spending time with the family during the holidays can be a wonderful and heartwarming experience. It can also be emotionally fraught with unspoken emotions and arguments that have yet to be resolved.

The new movie, Spencer, takes place over Christmas in the early 1990s. Princess Diana (Kristen Stewart), as tradition commands, is spending the holiday with her husband and her in-laws. Her “fairy tale” marriage to Prince Charles (Jack Farthing) is at its breaking point. Reigned in by Major Alistar Gregory (Timothy Spall), the only person she can trust is her dresser, Maggie (Sally Hawkins). As her mental health declines and she begins to see the ghost of Anne Boleyn (Amy Manson), she has a choice. Diana can continue to stay where she is and spiral out of control or break free, knowing that her life will never be the same.

OMG. Spencer is not only one of the best films of the year, but also a surefire contender come award season. Stewart’s Diana is truly exceptional. This is a woman who just wants love, but is treated as a commodity by the ones who are closest to her. She tries to fit in, but it is quite obvious that Diana sticks out like a sore thumb. I have zero complaints about this movie. The tension starts with the opening shot and does not let up until the credits roll. It is gloriously uncomfortable to watch, knowing what we know about Diana’s all too short life.

My favorite aspect of this film is that it destroys the myth that American actors cannot play British characters. While we generally accept British actors (i.e. Man of Steel) playing American characters, the same cannot be said when the situation is flipped. The most frequent complaint is that the accent the performer uses is more of a caricature than the real deal. Stewart is so good in the role that I almost forgot that I was watching a piece of fiction and not a documentary.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Spencer is currently in theaters.

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Floating in the Deep End: How Caregivers can See Beyond Alzheimer’s Book Review

Losing a loved one to Alzheimer’s disease is akin to a slow and painful torture. Watching this person deteriorate into a shell of their former selves is infinitely one of the most difficult experiences anyone could have.

Actress and writer Patti Davis knows about this all too well. Davis, the daughter of the late President Ronald Reagan, watched as her father wasted away to become someone who was physically recognizable, but emotionally different. Her new book, Floating in the Deep End: How Caregivers can See Beyond Alzheimer’s, was published in September. In addition to her writing and acting, Davis also runs a support group for family members of those who are suffering from Alzheimer’s. Combining everything she has been through, Davis walks the reader through all of the stages of this disease and the effects it can have on both the person who has been diagnosed and those they care about.

This is a topic that is unfortunately, hitting a little too close to home for me. The thing that popped out was that she kept stressing how important mental health is for everyone involved. Not just for the person whose life is forever altered, but for the caregivers whose entire world has just been turned upside down. She encourages the reader to be compassionate and forgiving, not just of themselves, but any anger/resentment they may have against the person whose mind is being slowly destroyed.

Balancing the clinical aspects and the complicated emotions involved, Davis’s approach is gentle and understanding. She encourages the reader to take things day by day and not let everything that is happening overwhelm them. In doing so, it takes some of the weight off of everyone involved and allow them to take a deep breath before moving forward.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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The Glass Castle Book Review

Flannery O’Connor once said the following about writing:

“Anyone who survived childhood has enough material to write for the rest of his life.”

If one were to judge writer Jeannette Walls by that quote, they would be able to say that she has enough stories for a lifetime of writing. Her 2006 memoir, The Glass Castle, is the story of her deeply unconventional and sometimes troubling childhood. Her father deeply loved his children. When he was sober, Rex Walls was dedicated to expanding the education of his offspring beyond the classroom and encouraging them to life live to the fullest. But he also had a penchant for drinking too much, often becoming destructive and abusive. Her mother, Rose Mary, was artistic and free-thinking. She was also not exactly the most maternal of mothers, forcing Jeannette and her siblings to basically raise themselves.

One by one, each of the Walls kids eventually made their way to New York City. Though Rex and Rose Mary followed their youngsters to the Big Apple, they continued in their chosen way of life and became homeless. Choosing a more conventional way of living, the second generation of the Walls family thrived.

It would have been easy for Walls to either be extremely judgemental of her parents or spend years in therapy due to a childhood that had the potential to be psychologically damaging. But she chooses to present them on the page as she knew them and let the reader decide how they feel.

I admire the author for having chutzpah. Pulling herself up by her bootstraps, she did what had to do, which included getting away if she wanted a better life in adulthood than she had in her younger years. My problem is that the book was not as compelling as I thought it would be.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Children Under Fire: An American Crisis Book Review

There is no doubt that the issue of gun control has created a crisis in this nation. Too many Americans, young and old, have been directly or indirectly affected by the unnecessary loss of life. More often than not, those who have survived have walked away with emotional and physical injuries that will last for the rest of their lives.

John Woodrow Cox‘s new book, Children Under Fire: An American Crisis, was published back in March. Following two young children, Cox talks openly and honestly about the long-lasting damage created by gun violence. The subjects of the book are two young children: Ava and Tyshaun. Ava watched her best friend die when a former student entered her school and started shooting. Tyshaun’s father, who he adored, was killed steps from where his son was receiving his education. He looks into the many attempts of reforming the gun control laws, interviews family members, academics, and politicians, and follows both children as they live with the after-effects of those tragic days.

If I could have hugged both Tyshaun and Ava and found a way to wipe their memories clean of the day their innocence died, I would have. When it comes to events of this kind, the subject of mental health and the perpetrator is inevitably brought up. But we don’t think about the survivors and the lasting consequences that they will be with them for the rest of their days. This book is long and hard to read. But it is one that I believe must be read by every adult and more importantly, even parent. We are failing our children if we do not stop this epidemic. It is possible to respect the 2nd amendment while keeping our kids safe. For foolish reasons, it is just not being done. Which pisses me off to no end.

Do I recommend it? Without a doubt, yes.

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Happy Birthday Carrie Fisher

Today is the birthday of the late, great, Carrie Fisher.

I could extoll the virtues of this all around badass, writer, icon, and mental health warrior. But I will let her speak for herself.

Happy Birthday, wherever you are.

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Rita Moreno & Mental Health: A Revelation That Needs to be Heard

Rita Moreno is more than an icon. She is a trailblazer who opened the door for non-POC performers to not only have a career, but to play roles than were more than the servant or the background character. She also dealt with mental illness and lived to tell the tale.

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It premiered a couple of weeks ago on the PBS series American Masters. The documentary follows her life and career from her early days playing “ethnic” characters to her current status as one of the most respected performers in Hollywood. Best known for her role as Anita in 1961 film adaptation of West Side Story, it was one of the first (if not the first) fully fleshed out Latino characters on the big screen. Up until that point, Latinx performers either had to hide who they were (a la Rita Hayworth) or play a stereotypical characters ( e.g. Carmen Miranda).

While I was not surprised that she was sexually assaulted. Then, as now, women are still seen as sex objects to be used and thrown away when our usefulness outside of the bedroom has vanished. What I was surprised is that she has lived with mental health problems for decades and survived a suicide attempt. I found her honesty to be refreshing and comforting. It was as if she was saying “I did it, you can too”.

If I could, I would send an invite to watch this film to anyone whose life is complicated by mental illness. If it provides one person at least a brief respite from the mess in our heads and the push to ask for help, I would be satisfied.

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It is available for streaming on the PBS website.

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The Reckoning: Our Nation’s Trauma and Finding a Way to Heal Book Review

Healing is never easy. It requires strength, fortitude, and the courage to face your demons. Though this is often applied to difficult life challenges and mental health, it can also be applied to a shared historical or cultural past.

Mary Trump‘s new book, The Reckoning: Our Nation’s Trauma and Finding a Way to Heal, was published in August. Combining a new examination of American history and her professional background as a psychiatrist, Trump forces the reader to ask the difficult questions that few have had the courage to even consider. She goes deep into the institutions that have built up this nation and how they have been changed, for better or for worse. The throughline is if we can trust both the individuals and establishments that are supposed to keep this nation going. If we can’t, what needs to be done to rebuild that trust?

I enjoyed this book. Trump’s approach is both firm and supportive. She is challenging all of us to take a hard look at what needs to be done and be unafraid to do it. Which may come, at the end of the day, making hard decisions.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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