Saturday, March 30, 2013

AsYou Desire Me by E.T. Aul

As You Desire Me: The Psychology of a Multiple Personality, E. T. Aul.  Alberta: J.W. White Publications Company, 2011,  ebook, 283 pps.

As You Desire Me is the autobiography of a Canadian woman who had endured childhood trauma.  Like many other stories of multiples that I had read, E.T. Aul's personality fractured into various alters and she went through tons of therapy.  Some of it helped and some of it was ineffective.  Unlike the other stories I had read, E.T. Aul had many well thought out things to say about psychotherapy and how the various expectations and prejudices of therapists can benefit or prove detrimental to the human being in distress.  

sapphoq reviews says: As You Desire Me should be required reading for college students studying to be therapists.  This book is especially valuable because it demonstrates how one woman had the courage to act on her own self-determination to be her own person in the midst of healing a system of personalities which came into being from severe childhood abuse.

Although in the States, it appears [to me] that the diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder [the new name for M.P.D.] is once again falling into disfavor after a period of frenzied over-diagnosis, trauma survivors-- who have split their personalities into compartments and those who haven't-- deserve to have compassionate, ethical and competent treatment just like everyone else also deserves to have.  It is unfortunate [in my opinion] that much of what passes for therapy is actually an ill-founded attempt to mold patients into acceptability.  Progress ought to be measured by something more than "compliance."  It continues to be my belief that self-determination and self-empowerment are far more valuable than being nice, respectable, and grateful for the "help" offered by the public mental health system.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Leaving the Saints, by Martha Beck

Leaving the Saints, Martha Beck.  New York:  Crown Publishers, 2005.  e-book, 272 pps.

Martha and John Beck are a young couple who both grew up in Provo, Utah in Mormon households.  They were married in an Latter Day Saints temple.  They moved east to Boston, had a child and then had another.  Child two has Down Syndrome so the couple decided to move back to their childhood town of Provo, Utah so they could have the support of the close-knit Mormon community.

What had begun to happen to Martha back east evolved into a full-blown mess.  Her father, a sainted pillar of the Church, had sexually abused her as a young child.  Her husband was [and remains] very supportive, which is far more than I can say for many of the relatives and neighbors.

Through the Becks' excursions into parenthood and their awakening self-awareness, first John and then Martha each make a decision that alters their lives permanently.  In deciding that to keep silent for the sake of the L.D.S. is spiritual death, the couple find a new way of being.

sapphoq reviews says:  As evidenced by the reviews on one book site, active Mormons without any misgivings about their religion are bound to despise Leaving the Saints.  Those who secretly or not so secretly harbor doubts will do well to read this book.  Atheists may or may not find the mystical talk to be more than they can chew.  Born again Christians will most likely object to the Becks not having found "the one true Jesus."  Folks like me who are curious about the question of how much abuse does exist among the brethren in Utah are bound to find some disquieting-- even if only anecdotal-- answers in this book.  Highly recommended to atheists who can tolerate some generic god-talk.  Also highly recommended to those who are curious about the Mormons and to readers who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse.    

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Little Brother and Homeland, both by Cory Doctorow

Little Brother, Cory Doctorow.  New York: Doherty, Tom Associates, L.L.C., 2010.  ebook, 833 pps.

Homeland, Cory Doctorow.  New York: Doherty, Tom Associates, L.L.C., 2013.  ebook, 826 pps.

In Little Brother, Marcus Yarrow is a 17 year old hacker living in San Francisco.  Homeland Security has pretty much locked down the city into permanent surveillance.  But the surrender of privacy in exchange for "security" is not enough because some nnamed terrorist bombs the city anyways.  

Marcus is hauled off to a prison where he is detained for awhile, even though he is innocent of any part of the terrorist plot.  There is a big meanie there whose love for water-boarding complements her vitriole hatred of her prisoners.  He gets out and swears revenge.

Homeland picks up the store at a Burning Man Festival in Nevada. Marcus and his cool girlfriend are there with the other techno-hippies.  No surprise that Burning Man is infected with Homeland Security agents, including the big meanie from Little Brother.

While stumbling around in a dust storm, Marcus and girlfriend stumble into the yurt of some techno-legends and he actually ends up with a job offer.

Back in San Francisco, Marcus is on the job but bad stuff keeps happening to him.  He goes to an Occupy protest, during which the cops kettle the people in.  Doctorow describes kettling perfectly for those readers who don't know what that is.  Doctorow also describes the Peoples' Mic for those not in the know.  Stuff happens and Marcus is involved with the Darknet and lives are altered.

sapphoq reviews says:  Both Little Brother and Homeland were very satisfying reads, again rendering hacker culture in superb detail and in a colorful fashion which left me both proud and breathless.  Both books had the gritty feel of a very possible future where people continue to mistake the very essence of the word "security."  Doctorow uses dystopian fiction extremely well as a device to educate those who wish it about the drive for gathering information and what that particular drive can mean as we continue to lose our freedoms in a post 9/11 world.
                                      Although some critics have a problem with the characterization of older folks as mostly accepting and embracing surveillance and younger folks remaining skeptical, my personal experience is that most people that I've encountered are either ignorant of what our government is doing to us the citizens or know and don't particularly care.  This apathy to me seems to be widespread regardless of  the age of the people involved.  The recently [officially] begun practice of The Big Five [cable companies] performing deep packet inspections is an indicator of this apathy.  There was no grand outcry among the masses and indeed this matter hardly made the news.  I've noted with alarm that some journalists on the Internet are reporting that the use of V.P.N.s. render us safe-- it does not.  The Big Five are also capable of meddling with them.  I'd bet my last dollar that they probably are.
                                     Kudos to Cory Doctorow for Little Brother and for Homeland.  Highly recommended to anyone who wants to know a bit more about what drives some hackers and why people like me no longer trust our government.

Monday, March 18, 2013


Yes, that's right.  I'm reviewing addiction today, including addiction to alcohol also known as alcoholism.  Because I feel like it, that's why.  And because even though I've read a bunch of books since I last reviewed one, I'm too jazzed up to write about any of them.

I was thinking about Steubenville, teens partying in Steubenville, the sexual assaults in Steubenville on a teen who was characterized as being very drunk, passed out, or "dead."

Not every teen who gets into trouble at a party is an alcoholic or has an addiction problem.  Not every teen who gets raped, even while highly intoxicated, is an alcoholic or has an addiction problem.  The vast majority of teens don't.  Some teens who drink and / or drug heavily will moderate as they get older.  A very very few will be unable to moderate even after they get older.

I qualified as an "unable to."  When I was raped, I was already in the throes of addiction.  I had alcoholic blackouts [not remembering a period of time afterwards] regularly.  I used until there was no more.

Do any of the teens in Steubenville qualify as an "unable to?"  I don't know.  I never met any of them.  And I don't qualify to say.  Maybe yes, maybe no, maybe maybe.  The jury is still out on that one.

There are many lists around of how to tell if one is some kind of an addict-- gambling addict, sex addict, drug addict, alcoholic [addict], overeater, food addict, restricter, binger, co-dependent [addiction to people, supposedly], internet addict [more will be revealed], hoarder [a sort of addiction to junk or sometimes to animals], and so forth.  If you think you have a problem, you might.  Or you might not.  Go find yourself one of the lists and answer the questions.  Seek out a professional if you want to and are able to in order to discuss the results with someone who is objective and not screaming at you.  Find a self-help group if that feels right to you.  Find some other ways to take your life back if a self-help group does not feel right for you.

Yes, here in the U.S.A., twelve-step programs dominate the recovery landscape.  Here is an incomplete list of other ways that people have used to stop addictive behavior: joining an ashram, Women for Sobriety, TOPS: Taking Off Pounds Sensibly, becoming religious and sticking with it, psychotherapy, Recovery Incorporated, continuing to be involved with Drug Court on a volunteer basis after completing Drug Court, Secular Sobriety [S.O.S. groups, or Save Our Selves], quitting cold turkey and never looking back.  The purpose of this review is not to present stats on which way of doing it is best or worse.  I'm just saying there are options.

Some people say that in order to recover, one must find a god or a higher power. That ain't necessarily so. When I stopped using, I was a believer. As the years passed, I lost my mysticism. And I don't want it back. There are people who manage to quit their addictions without any sort of diety. Not many perhaps, but yes we do exist.

Addiction is not freedom is an axiom that I believe.  Here's another one that I also subscribe to: Recovery is not necessarily freedom either.  If I want freedom, then I have to take on some responsibility.  The bottom line is that my addiction is not to be used as an excuse for my bad behavior.  My recovery is not to be used as an excuse for my bad behavior either.  Thinking that I am too fragile to show up at work or keep my commitments or become a knowledgeable citizen of my community and the world is a sell-out.  I did not come into recovery in order to remain trapped by my thinking and worldview.  I stopped using and sought out something better because my thinking and my actions were screwed up. 

We should never leave our brains at the door wherever we go.  We need to think.  One of the ways to get better at thinking is to think.  My best thinking told me that what I was doing was not working.  If I wanted something different, I had to do something different.

No matter where I go or who I am with, I pay attention.  I have found that if I listen carefully, most people will tell me who they are.  Do not assume that everyone sitting at that self-help group is okay or safe just because you are sitting in the same room.  Ask the people who died on the airplanes on 9/11 whether or not they still believe that their fellow travelers are safe-- oh, wait.  They are dead.  Get the point?  Trust has to be earned.  I do not have to trust you just because you and I are on the same airplane together, in the same mall together, in the same park together, in the same room together.

If you are a teen, know that you are a carrier of the future.  What you do today is important.  Make today count.  Because one of these days, us old folks won't be here anymore because we will be dead.  If you are a teen and you are drinking and /or drugging, pay attention to what you are doing.  If you find that you cannot moderate your useage of something or that you are having frequent blackouts or that you have a personality change when you are using, it might be worth a second look.  Whether you are addicted or not, you are valuable.  You are the future.  I believe in you.

sapphoq reviews says: True addiction sucks.  If you think you have an addiction problem, explore your options and get some help.  And be careful out there.  Not everyone has our best interests at heart.  Be well.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Banished by Lauren Drain

Banished: A Memoir, Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church, Lauren Drain with Lisa Pulitzer.  New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2013.  e-book, 267 pps.

Lauren was a regular teen in Florida who was doing regular teen stuff.  She had a little sister, a mom, and a dad.  Her mom was a Roman Catholic and her dad was an atheist.  Lauren's parents had an early bout with a fundamentalist religion when she was young and her sister had just finished a successful treatment for a rare childhood cancer.  That lasted for a short time.  Dad had a falling out with his Christian Bible Study buddy over the idea that Christians will live forever.  Lauren's dad then became a sort of hippie and continued being a professional student.  Her mom was upset over financial debts incurred from this and also over his friends, especially the younger women.  Lauren's dad finally completed a Master's degree.  

In high school, Lauren made the dance team but her dad refused to allow her to do this.  He used the word "slutty" in his description.  That was rather upsetting but she continued to excel academically and on a softball team.

Dad decided to do a docu film on the Westboro Baptist Church.  He objected to their intolerance of homosexuality.  He figured that he could get exposure through such a film.  So he went off to D.C. and came back in the throes of some sort of religious fervor.  He was then invited to Topeka to interview some members of the church and he went.  When he came back, he got each member of the family a King James Bible.  There was now family Bible time on Sundays.  Lauren wanted to date and her dad said no dating.  He wanted Lauren to report straight home after school and dump her friends.  Her dad became verbally abusive.  Then he pulled her out of school and enrolled her in a home school sort of thing on the Internet.  He cut off Lauren's internet privileges and began slapping her around in addition to calling her names.  Lauren became isolated.  Her little sister Taylor was still allowed to attend public school and to have friends.  Through her dad's intercession, Lauren became pen-pals with some of the W.B.C. girl teens.  Then her dad decided to move the family to Topeka to a small house on church property.  So off they went.

In order to survive, Lauren had to buy into the ideology of the people around her in Kansas.  Most of the folks at the Westboro Baptist Church were related to Fred Phelps, the pastor.  Under his tutelage and the guidance of various others, Lauren began to go on pickets.  She hung out only with the other girl teens from the Church enrolled in the high school-- who all happened to be Phelps'.  But she got in trouble anyway because she like any regular teen wanted to date.  After high school, Lauren was told that she could study to be a dental hygienist or a nurse.  She picked nursing and went off to college.  Two more kids were born in the family and she took on much of the day to day care of them.  After college, Lauren got a job in the hospital and a long distance boyfriend.  The Church decided to dis-fellowship her and Lauren was forced to live on her own.  Similar to dis-fellowshipping in the Jehovah's Witnesses faith, Lauren was cut off from her mother, father, sisters, and brother.  She was not allowed to talk with anyone still in the church.  She had a difficult time adjusting to not being told what to do or think, or where to go and how to get there.

In spite of everything, Lauren managed to move away and get a new job in the new state.  She met some regular Christian folks.  She studied the Bible with one woman in particular.  She remained a Christian but successfully broke away from the beliefs of the Westboro Baptist Church.

sapphoq reviews says: Banished was an easy but interesting read.  Although Lauren didn't go much into the cultish aspects of the W.B.C., the signs were clearly in evidence throughout the book.  Her dad also fit the profile of an abuser, something which his conversion to fundamentalism did not help at all.  Not all fundamentalist Christian faiths are cultish and not all fundamentalists are abusive.  But Lauren's dad was.  And so was the W.B.C.  The culture of abuse surrounding the Westboro Baptist Church was most evident by the treatment Lauren got at the hands of folks that had been family and friends to her after she got dumped.  Recommended.  


Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Swift, Brutal Retaliation by Meghan McCarron

Swift, Brutal Retaliation, Meghan McCarron.  New York: Doherty, Tom Associates, L.L.C., 2011, 2012.  e-book, 58 pps.

Sinead and Brigid are two sisters who are grieving their brother Ian's death.  Dad is a drunk and Mom withdraws from the family.  Ian's classmates bring over a bunch of lasagna.  Sinead and Brigid run into Ian's spirit who actually is not a nice sort of ghostie at all.

sapphoq reviews says: This particular short story would appeal most to Junior High readers.  Although it lacks a bit of sparkle, the description of a family in mourning is quite realistic.  Swift, Brutal Retaliation exhibits some unique twists.  Because of the twists, this short story is recommended for pre-teen readers, especially any who are curious about the craft of writing and different ways to write a story.

The Finite Canvas by Brit Mandelo

The Finite Canvas, Brit Mandelo. New York: Doherty, Tom Associates, L.L.C., 2012.  e-book: 87 pps.

Molly is a doctor working at a clinic on the old Earth when a stranger comes to the door seeking assistance.  The stranger's name is Jada.  Jada had fallen on hard times.  Jada offers Molly a story in return for her services.

sapphoq reviews says: The Finite Canvas is an exquisite and haunting short story.  Both main characters are believable.  Jada especially reminded me of someone that I used to know.  The setting is an integral part of the telling.  Worth a read, and maybe several.  Staying power.  Highly recommended.