This section is dedicated to stories about exceptions, identity and overcoming obstacles.

James Doty- The Magic Shop of the Brain

Brain surgeon James Doty is on the cutting edge of our knowledge of the brain and the heart: how they talk to each other; what compassion means in the body and in action; and how we can reshape our lives and perhaps our species through the scientific and human understanding we are now gaining. The backstory of James Doty’s passions is told in his memoir, Into the Magic Shop. In the summer of 1968, in Read More

Forge Meaning, Build Identity

Meet my real American family: Andrew Solomon

Is anyone else out there an Andrew Solomon fan? Ever since reading “Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression,” I have read and watched everything I can by him on depression. Some of us on The Collab have already talked about his two talks on “The Moth” (radio). In a separate topic, I’ll share/review links to some of his contributions on depression. Now there is another reason to admire Andrew Solomon. Someone just gave me a Read More

Andrew Solomon: On difference and depression

Here is the link to Andrew Solomon’s website, which is chock filled with various writings and videos. Briefly, Andrew is described as “a writer and lecturer on psychology, politics, and the arts; winner of the National Book Award; and an activist in LGBT rights, mental health, and the arts” (you can read more of his bio here). Recently Andrew Solomon has been featured in media a lot – and I’m glad. I created this page to share Read More

Insider knowledge: expert on mental illness reveals her own fight

I just read the New York Times article by Marsha Linehan, “Expert on Mental Illness Reveals Her Own Fight ” (and watched the video where she describes her deeply personal and transformational religious experience). For several days, this article – where Marsha Linehan of “DBT” fame shares her story –  was the #1 most emailed article in the New York Times.  Here she describes how she was able to create such a comprehensive treatment used Read More

Jane Fonda: “Life’s third act”

Within this generation, an extra 30 years have been added to our life expectancy — and these years aren’t just a footnote or a pathology. In this talk, Jane Fonda asks how we can think about this new phase of our lives.

‘The Lacuna’

  by Barbara Kingsolver Recommended by Jo Vilogen.

‘A gracious plenty’

by Sheri Reynolds Recommended by Jo Vilogen. Jo says, This is so rich in metaphor. I had to read it a few times!

‘Hooked: Secrets and highs of a sober addict’

by Melinda Ferguson   Recommended by Jo Vilogen. Jo says, Melinda is a South African journalist, celebrating her tenth year in recovery.  She says in her forward: “People often think that once you’ve stopped using the drugs and alcohol you are healed.  in reality it’s only when you’ve stopped that the hard work of unraveling the self really begins…. this is a book about my journey to fill the hole in my soul:  the secrets, the Read More

‘The Danish girl’

by David Ebershoff Recommended by Sonja Bar-Am. Sonja says, This is a lovely, lovely novel – a delicate rendering of a marriage in which the husband emerges as transgender – really fascinating tale about the intimacy of the marriage.

‘In my skin’

by Kate Holden Recommended by Sonja Bar-Am. Sonja says, This is Kate’s memoir about her life addicted to heroin in the streets of Melbourne’s seedy suburbs as a prostitute and making that a profession before getting clean. A remarkable and elegant story.  

‘I never promised you a rose garden’

by Joanne Greenberg Recommended by Sonja Bar-Am. Sonja says, I am reading this 1970s Mental Heath classic novel. This is my first time and quite honestly it is one of the most beautiful stories about one young women’s struggle with severe Mental Health disturbances. Peggy says, When I was a teenager, “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” was one of my absolute favorite books!  

Elyn Saks: A tale of mental illness — from the inside

Elyn Saks asks bold questions about how society treats people with mental illness. “Is it okay if I totally trash your office?” It’s a question Elyn Saks once asked her doctor, and it wasn’t a joke. A legal scholar, in 2007 Saks came forward with her own story of schizophrenia, controlled by drugs and therapy but ever-present. In this powerful talk, she asks us to see people with mental illness clearly, honestly and compassionately.  

Elyn Saks interview

Elyn Saks is a remarkable woman  diagnosed with  schizophrenia. Recommended watching! Here is an interview in two parts. Part one: Part two:

‘The center cannot hold’

by Elyn Saks Recommended by Peggy Sax. This is a remarkable memoir by Elyn Saks, a woman diagnosed with  schizophrenia who write eloquently about the effects of her illness throughout decades of her life. I listened to the audio version, and couldn’t stop til I was finished. I don’t want to give away the plot. Let us know if you have read it, and we can talk about it on The Collab. I highly recommend Read More


  by Ayaan Hirsi Ali Recommended by Peggy Sax.


by Ayaan Hirsi Ali Recommended by Peggy Sax.

Insider knowledge: expert on mental illness reveals her own fight

Elizabeth Gilbert: On genius

Regina recommended this TED talk by  Elizabeth Gilbert (the author of Eat, Pray, Love). Thank you, Regina, for this this video  about genius, the muse, life’s mysteries, the Divine, and the capriciousness of the creative process. Elizabeth externalizes and deconstructs genius and creativity. She speaks about “disembodied genius” and talking to the Creativity- and then puts creativity into an historic context, moving from ancient Greece, through the Renaissance and into rational humanism. She speaks about “taking Read More

Temple Grandin: the world needs all kinds of minds

Here is the link to an excellent TED talk by Temple Grandin. I recently saw the HBO film about her life, and now I am a fan. She really has some thought provoking things to say about  being on the autism spectrum and in particular, drawing distinctions between the specialist mind, pattern thinkers, music and math minds, thinking in pictures/visual thinking, the verbal mind, and sensory-based/categorized thinking. I love how she speaks to difference in Read More

Toni Morrison’s commencement speech

  Someone just sent me a very thought provoking quote by Toni Morrison in her 2011 commencement speech at Rutgers University. You can watch it here. It’s about not settling for the pursuit of happiness.  She puts words to what I have wanted to say for a long time. Here is the quote as addressed to new graduates:     …. the narrative of a worthy life is yours to write. I have often wished that Read More

About words

Guest post by Patricia. Since I was a child I discovered that the words were very important because all religions are made by stories. And nowadays I still thinking the same. I share with you a radio program about words. Click here to listen. I hope you enjoy it.

“What can a body do?”

Guest post by Will Sherwin. I’ve been interested in Spinoza and Deleuze’s question, “what can a body do?” and the potential it has to focus attention away from the usual “what’s an ideal body?” and “how do I become an ideal body?” Here’s a conversation between Judith Butler and Sunaura Taylor on walking, disabilities, social oppression, etc.   Here’s another video from a woman with autism standing up for her way of communicating with the Read More

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in” – Leonard Cohen

I want to share the song that touches me as none other. It is called “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen. I have been watching/listening to it again and again. I even looked to see if I could load it as the ringtone for my Iphone. I shared it with someone dear to me in the midst of a family crisis and she said, “oh my, this was the cry that was waiting. how beautiful. I’ll pass it Read More

Toni Morrison – 2011 commencement speech at Rutgers

Toni Morrison

Peggy Sax:  September 04, 2011 Someone just sent me a very thought provoking quote by Toni Morrison in her 2011 commencement speech at Rutgers Univesity that I want to share with you. It’s about not settling for the pursuit of happiness.  She puts words to what I have wanted to say for a long time. Here is the quote as addressed to new graduates:     …. the narrative of a worthy life is yours Read More