Friday, March 8, 2013

Lost in America - Sherwin Nuland

subtitle: A journey with my father

I picked this up at Goodwill (one of my favorite used book stores) and discovered I'd read it before (2003) though I couldn't remember it.  Dr Nuland is a writer I greatly enjoy, having read his book How We Die and others when I was studying gerontology.  This story of his relationship with his father, a Russian Jewish immigrant in the late 1800's is heartbreaking, honest and revealing.

His father came here to escape persecution in Russia as a young man (19-20) and made a life in Brooklyn working in the garment district.  He never learned to write English other than his name and spoke a very altered version when necessary.  He was ill all of the time Sherwin knew him and he was an embarrassment and source of shame to his son growing up. His father had a strained relationship with his mother-in-law and sisters-in-law, who lived with the family for most of Sherwin's youth and created a seething tension in the household.  Despite the sorrows of their lives, there is a theme of fierce love and devotion to the children, (Sherwin and his siblings) that had to have contributed to his later success as a medical student at Yale and a career as a surgeon.

The book starts with an account of the severe depression the author suffered as a young adult and he explores how his relationship with his father shaped his later personality.  In a TED talk, he discusses how he was treated for the depression.  I recommend this book as insight into family, depression and their impact on who we are.

Published: 2003    Read: (again) 2013  Genre: Auto-biography

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