Hunger

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Wow. Wowowowowowkwkwkwkwksjdjxbxbdbxbxbdbxbxbdbxbxbxbxbdvxhxndbbcjnsbfbfjkdbfnxjdbdzksnbxjsndnbcnddjndnfbfjchjstryuuotipqryhnjkahfiyhohgafhjkhk

That is a sliver of what my brain did while reading this phenomenal memoir. Hunger. Used mostly as a verb throughout the text, with a morsel amount of usage as a noun. The table is set. Shall we?

I am shell-shocked at how delightful reading this was. It was comical, sassy, intriguing and intensely traumatizing. How is it that Roxane’s life story, written with such depth & intensity left me grasping for respite?! And as the last page turned I yearned for more. I was literally hungry to read more about Roxane’s life. She’s like my dad’s Pen Patat. She’s like black cod with miso from Nobu. Like Nonna D’s oatmeal lace ice cream. Like a chopped cheese from the bodega on 130th & Lenox. Like watching my guests eat my take on my mom’s homemade mashed potatoes with root vegetables & salmon. SAT-IS-FYING! I’m close to speechless at the ferocity in which she allows the reader to know her at the most unsatisfying junctures in her journey called life. Bingeing, purging, swallowing her trauma. Lonely, isolated, concealed with zeal. The bravery is astounding on the grand stage, page after page. The extent of self loathing that pounced itself around chapter here, paragraph there. At one point four chapters straight she pounded away at each pound of weight; accumulated tactfully day, month, year in & out. There’s no doubt that the torment & suffering was pronounced.

Ms. Gay.... a fellow 1st generation Haitian-American; though our sexual proclivities are not entirely the same her identification as a queer woman sealed the deal in purchasing her memoir opposed to testing it out from my local library or borrowing from a friend. I am going to continue to invest in her. I will continue to recommend her work as a fellow Bad Feminist. Via youtube videos of various talks she has engaged in, I have learned that she has quite a unique online presence via twitter. Yet & still no social media for me but I must admit I’ve looked her up a few times via my little sister’s handles lol. She’s corky with a dash of sarcasm that borders self deprecating in a relatable way, while still leaving a lot to be imagined & experienced. Hunger matched her personality and not all memoirs are true in that form.

What a spectrum of intensity. Chapter 72 was remarkable. Read the book if you haven’t already, there may be another chapter that captures your attention. The critical other, be it inside or out, within or without - allures my curiosity.

Yuen-Sing thank you for sharing this goodness with me!

Skah Shah (a well known Haitian band) stayed on rotation during house parties hosted by my parents during my childhood & was heavily played in our home during my adolescent years. Their music resonates now as I stew in Roxane’s vulnerable creation, Hunger. My identification with her Haitian roots brings up so many raw reverberating feelings and so I choose to share nostalgic music that is both beautiful, depressing & expansive in all of its glory!

Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination

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It requires both a poem & a silhoutte to capture the emotional viccissitude that Toni Morrison’s nonfiction literary work evokes in my right hemisphere. Audre Lorde’s poem enmeshed with Kara Walker’s silhoutte help me sing praise to the great trendsetter of artistic conceptualization of race in America; superb! Might I add, it is her fictional writing that usually entrances the masses. To adore the creative expression of truth surpasses intellect & beauty, I applaud her on my mothers birthday as one of her favorite writers:

INHERITENCE-HIS

I. 
My face resembles your face 
less and less each day. When I was young 
no one mistook whose child I was. 
Features build coloring 
alone among my creamy fine-boned sisters 
marked me Byron's daughter. 

No sun set when you died, but a door 
opened onto my mother. After you left 
she grieved her crumpled world aloft 
an iron fist sweated with business symbols 
a printed blotter dwell in the house of Lord's 
your hollow voice changing down a hospital corridor 
yea, though I walk through the valley 
of the shadow of death 
I will fear no evil. 

II. 
I rummage through the deaths you lived 
swaying on a bridge of question. 
At seven in Barbados 
dropped into your unknown father's life 
your courage vault from his tailor's table 
back to the sea. 
Did the Grenada treeferns sing 
your 15th summer as you jumped ship 
to seek your mother 
finding her too late 
surrounded with new sons? 

Who did you bury to become the enforcer of the law 
the handsome legend 
before whose raised arm even trees wept 
a man of deep and wordless passion 
who wanted sons and got five girls? 
You left the first two scratching in a treefern's shade 
the youngest is a renegade poet 
searching for your answer in my blood. 

My mother's Grenville tales 
spin through early summer evenings. 
But you refused to speak of home 
of stepping proud Black and penniless 
into this land where only white men 
ruled by money. How you labored 
in the docks of the Hotel Astor 
your bright wife a chambermaid upstairs 
welded love and survival to ambition 
as the land of promise withered 
crashed the hotel closed 
and you peddle dawn-bought apples 
from a push-cart on Broadway. 

Does an image of return 
wealthy and triumphant 
warm your chilblained fingers 
as you count coins in the Manhattan snow 
or is it only Linda 
who dreams of home? 

When my mother's first-born cries for milk 
in the brutal city winter 
do the faces of your other daughters dim 
like the image of the treeferned yard 
where a dark girl first cooked for you 
and her ash heap still smells of curry? 

III. 
Did the secret of my sisters steal your tongue 
like I stole money from your midnight pockets 
stubborn and quaking 
as you threaten to shoot me if I am the one? 
The naked lightbulbs in our kitchen ceiling 
glint off your service revolver 
as you load whispering. 

Did two little dark girls in Grenada 
dart like flying fish 
between your averted eyes 
and my pajamaless body 
our last adolescent summer? 
Eavesdropped orations 
to your shaving mirror 
our most intense conversations 
were you practicing how to tell me 
of my twin sisters abandoned 
as you had been abandoned 
by another Black woman seeking 
her fortune Grenada Barbados 
Panama Grenada. 
New York City. 

IV. 
You bought old books at auctions 
for my unlanguaged world 
gave me your idols Marcus Garvey Citizen Kane 
and morsels from your dinner plate 
when I was seven. 
I owe you my Dahomeyan jaw 
the free high school for gifted girls 
no one else thought I should attend 
and the darkness that we share. 
Our deepest bonds remain 
the mirror and the gun. 

V. 
An elderly Black judge 
known for his way with women 
visits this island where I live 
shakes my hand, smiling. 
'I knew your father,' he says 
'quite a man!' Smiles again. 
I flinch at his raised eyebrow. 
A long-gone woman's voice 
lashes out at me in parting 
'You will never be satisfied 
until you have the whole world 
in your bed!' 

Now I am older than you were when you died 
overwork and silence exploding your brain. 
You are gradually receding from my face. 
Who were you outside the 23rd Psalm? 
Knowing so little 
how did I become so much 
like you? 

Your hunger for rectitude 
blossoms into rage 
the hot tears of mourning 
never shed for you before 
your twisted measurements 
the agony of denial 
the power of unshared secrets.

-Audre Lorde

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Kara Walker Silhouette

ATTACHED.

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I would imagine in years to come that this will be one of those books that are seen in the offices of various clinicians, catching dust on the shelf - waiting to be opened by someone. I’m realizing I don’t keep books in my office because people are the only thing I’m reading when I’m in there, original usage of the word read not the Urban Dictionary definition lol. The title of the book captures everything you need to know about its content, “Attached……The New Science of Adult Attachment”. Let’s take a swim through the pages.

Of all the books that I talk to my clients about, this one is top shelf. The authors put what can be confusing psychobabble into laymen terms and gift wrap what for some is a semester learned of attachment theory into less than 500 pages. Impressive considering the scientific accuracy, connection to the current times, and ease towards reading. In fact this happens to be one of the books I encourage my clients in relationships to read WITH their partner/s. It’s insightful, straight to the point and again I highlight that it is relevant to the times we live in. I have found that the textbooks, journal articles and research studies that primed me for my profession carry an archaic vibration that I find easy (thank goodness) to translate, but only from my own decoding capabilities. “Attached” makes attachment theory easy for those who are not engrossed in professions or studies of human behavior, and has tangible applications for the reader based on the books structure.

What happens when you get activated? Why do you physically avoid your crush when you actually desire them? Shall you text back immediately or will it make you appear needy? Do you mind appearing needy? Etc Etc Etc In this day and age when ghosting is prevalent, monogamous relationships are no longer sine qua non & social media’s influence on Generation X (and generations to follow) has increased the expectations of instant gratification how do some of the early theorists stay alive and prevalent while the times are changing? Shall they turn into ghosts or remain ancestors to theories that have laid the foundation of how we view and study human behavior? I must say, I am a big fan of attachment theory. The work of Mary Ainsworth vis-à-vis John Bowlby (Tavistock Clinic alums seem to be everywhere!) goes back to Africa, Uganda specifically. Ainsworth studied the child rearing practices and all that comes with mothering in the first 2 years of a childs life entirely informed by observation and limited linguistic connection to the people she interacted with. When her findings were released she was not met with enthusiasm and a concentration and criticism towards how to conceptualize “attachment” clouded her innovative work and findings essentially by a room filled with men (cough cough patriarchy is that you hiding over there?) Yet she was able, with the support of John Bowlby, to expand on his work into what is today’s generally accepted model of maternal-infant attachment and it’s long lasting, sometimes irritating if you’re not securely attached, prevalence on adult behaviors. I loop back around to the book at hand, “Attached” and the knowing that is felt, thought and carried out when a person is attached to another.

I am hopeful that there will be an expansion of experiments observing and documenting early maternal-infant dynamics to include non-traditional aspects of “mothering”, that will integrate into the cemented foundation of attachment theory. We are living in a world filled with nannies, grandmothers as primary caretakers, older siblings as caretakers, children birthing children and various shadow parenting practices. “Attached” was a good read, I reference it often and I’d highly recommend it to anyone wanting to know a bit more about themselves.

Year of Yes

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Well well well…… it has been a 5 month hiatus from putting my thoughts into words pertaining to literary pieces that I’ve engrossed myself in. Within that time period there was immense academic writing & reading, words of reflection put together via paper and pen from my private practice, along with a sprinkle of poetry. In fact some of the best poems that I’ve written to date came out of my disengagement from leisurely reading books during this time period. Psychoanalytic articles and PhD research interest papers overtook most of my creative writing and free time. However, I am drawn towards summarizing my thoughts on the last book I read in 2018, gifted to me on my birthday: Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes.

Ms. Shonda Rhimes. The respect is there, it’s present and acknowledged in a similar fashion that I respect and acknowledge the accomplishments of several female entrepreneurs of color who are inspiring future generations of leaders. To be a woman - to be successful - to be a person of color, what does all of that mean in the context of our political climate in the Donald Trump era? How can you not like someone like her? She created the show that I had 2 or 3 seasons of enjoying during my undergrad years, “Grey’s Anatomy”, and one of the few shows that I currently watch: “How to Get Away With Murder”. She’s so likable, yet after reading her book I felt sure of myself concerning the fact that I don’t particularly care for her or her writing.

Let me jump into the book to provide further insight. The concept is tantalizing, being intentional about saying yes for a year in various areas of life especially towards yourself. Yes to feeling comfortable in your body, yes to feeling confident in saying no, yes to taking risks and stepping outside of your comfort zone, yes to setting healthy boundaries. Blah blah blah. That’s what it read as throughout the book, blah blah blah. Shonda even threw in very real anecdotes in which she did not say yes to herself before so eloquently laying track so that the reader could easily get from point A to point B concerning what it looks like when you do say yes to yourself. I want to add that I have difficulty reading surface level writing as I also have difficulty with memoirs that lack intimacy and vulnerability. In fact, that’s an area of growth for me, engaging with books and people who lack depth (insert Scorpio Moon here). I read the book to get to know her, allowing in the time and attention towards taking her words in, and [tried to] fantastically experience all that she was sharing. It left a lot to my imagination. It was frothy and read as a self help amalgamation. The track she laid lacked any real personal meaning; the track laying was used often throughout the book in reference to her process concerning how she creates. It works when you have someone like Kerry Washington, Viola Davis or Patrick Dempsey breathing life into the work. There were no actors in the book that usually accompany Shonda’s track laying.

Within the literary work Shonda acknowledged her aversion of intimacy, the comfort in privacy and essentially apologized to the reader for not going deeper. It’s to be appreciated, I guess. I have found a diminished lack of patience towards pieces of writing that are regurgitated information and masked as being innovative. I don’t believe that works for my generation, filled with individuals who are starved of genuine emotional bonds and overstimulated with information. We sniff out inauthenticity like a bloodhound sniffs out its prey. I tend to veer towards generosity with my language when describing the work from people of color who are easy to look up to, but perhaps 2019 will be a year of brutally honest critique towards all who consume my time and attention…… a bit of an exaggeration but you get the drift. I can not say I would recommend this book to anyone looking to know more of the woman behind the hit shows that grab the attention of viewers every Thursday night. I’d like to add that her TED Talk was from a chapter in her book, verbatim! I’ll continue watching HTGAWM but I highly doubt I’ll read another book from her.

What I am hoping readers can absorb from my take on this nonfiction literary piece is to take information from self help books (that’s what Year of Yes was) with a grain of salt, because after all it is made for the masses. The individuation that we as human beings have access to is what creates the recipe towards what will nourish and fulfill us. It’s rare to find the answers to problems or the guidance towards self actualization from an inanimate object. Read for the pure joy of it. Oh and Happy New Year!

BALM IN GILEAD: Journey of a Healer

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I have this rear view visual of myself on a secluded white sand beach; the clear Caribbean Sea slowly extending the fringe of land & water 10 yards in front of my bamboo lounge chair, with a plush over sized beige beach towel overflowing from the sides, slowly swaying with the light bilateral breeze. A quaint end table is to my right, nestled next to my chair with a clear tall glass of water. An identical glass of rum punch sweats next to the glass alongside a wooden plate filled with seafood, fruit & vegetables. The one item, vying for space on the end table is the book in which I am writing about now: Balm in Gilead!

I was gifted this literary piece by my neighbor during my 3 year stint as a Harlem resident. She was moving to Oregon & remembered one of our brief talks about my love of reading, then handed me 20 of her favorites. I had not recognized this biography on my shelf until this month. The timing put me in a state of wonderment as the book lay in my hand after an extended conversation with 2 of my peers concerning the history of psychoanalysis & our take on intersectionality being [for the most part] unaddressed concerning race, class, religion & gender. Published a few years after my birth, I am appreciative that Dr. Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot put into words 4 generations of her family's history, & in particular the life of her mother Dr. Margaret Cornelia Morgan Lawrence, the first African-American psychoanalyst.

I do not find myself compelled towards leisurely reading biographies, but with my knowing that one of Dr. Lawrence's titles are "psychoanalyst" how could I not read? My intrigue w/Dr. Lawrence began before I even opened the book. Dr. Veronica Abney wrote a thorough 17 page paper, a sliver from her dissertation about Black Psychoanalyst in the United States, which I came across in May 2018. After scribbling down all of her references, Balm in Gilead was quickly on my "Must Read" list; adding to the synchronicity of the book waiting to be found in my very real bookshelf.

The Harvard educator, Dr. Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, was intentional about weaving in as many aspects of her mothers experiences as possible while also capturing the 2 year interviewing process that she conducted for the book; a process her mother deemed as being similar to a second analysis. I must say I was under the impression that her actual analysis at Columbia Univ. Center for Psychoanalytic Training & Research would pour through the pages in detail concerning its transformative impact on her life & career, this was a 5x/week analysis! Despite putting into words what the experience concretely & symbolically meant to Dr. Lawrence it was merely a morsel of her life story as a black woman born & raised in the deep south of Vicksburg Mississippi with a preoccupation to help "her people". Of all things to be preoccupied with, I can relate concerning an unyielding determination towards servicing my community, my family & myself. The aspect of service is on a continuum that I can trace back via 4 generations, while comprehending as Dr. Lawrence did so eloquently in the biography, the relevance of being able to integrate in ego strengths intergenerationally, not solely the trauma. 

One of the stark themes within Balm in Gilead was the consistency of racially influenced discriminatory foreboding that never left the text; keep in mind this is a successful & significant black woman from a successful & significant family who raised successful & significant children. There are no aspects of victimization or strife in the literary text, I go as far as to say I'm pretty certain that they'll be a movie made in her honor. The complexity of how and why she forged paths for future generations of women of color to succeed within directly working with other people of color was clearly no easy feat. I question now what success means, within the read pages and present day. When she was not discriminated against (overtly) due to her otherness pertaining to her skin color there were threads of sexism. When those 2 aspects were not explicitly named as being present she was still left to fend off her otherness as a southerner being educated at all white Ivy League Universities not too long after the end of Jim Crow Laws. I dare to ask how the hell she did it even though I read the book lol. 

I circle back to the theme of race, identity, family lineage & all that remains ineffable within the experience of people of color as it relates to current psychoanalytic theories that were comprised in their entirety by affluent white individuals, far removed from claiming their own racial otherness & privilege. That reality does not negate the importance & proven value of those theories whether a person identifies as being Classical Freudian, Kleinian to the bone, Jungian, or Rogerian (to name a few), but it highlights the [overall] resistance & blind spots of the white collective unconscious as it pertains to addressing racism. Marshall Mcluhan has a poignant quote that captures what I have just scribed, "One thing about which fish know exactly nothing is water, since they have no anti-environment which would enable them to perceive the element they live in". I have sat with that quote and allowed it to resonate juxtaposed with the current political climate in the United States. I ponder what role I am comfortable claiming as an activist. 

 

Dr. Lawrence, at the enamored age of 103, is still living. Not only is she the first black psychoanalyst, but a living breathing historical icon. I am drawn towards her being an iconic female (Oprah as well) from Mississippi, a state which currently has the largest black population in the US. She inspires me to write about race & identity, to write about the experience of the black person on the couch, the black person across from the couch, the black person being taught in institutions not originally designed with their growth in mind, & with my exact words within those experiences as both subjective & objective. I am also inspired to collect data within all in which I just described. I wrap my thoughts together with this abbreviated quote from Hattie McDaniel:

 

I sincerely hope that I shall always be a credit to my race and to the motion picture industry

TELL MY HORSE

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On the heels of writing out my thoughts & experience reading PUSH I segue into the nonfiction literary work of Zora Neale Hurston, Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica. Often highlighted for her mastery in crafting “Their Eyes Were Watching God”; a fantastic read, which was written while she was in Haiti collecting folklore history for the book in which I am writing about now! I found solace in breathing in her art created from concrete exchanges that were had in the 1930’s spiraled with her lush vernacular. Zora as a novelist seduced my curiosity and Zora as an ethnographer & anthropologist played with my soul.

Tell My Horse follows her voyages to Jamaica and Haiti in an attempt to unmask the truths and intricacies amongst the accessible and nonaccessible populations within both societies. She starts in Jamaica and is unmoved at what is already known to her, the overt ways in which women were objectified and dismissed as unimportant layered with intense vicarious colorism that paraded itself around during her brief exposure to the culture in Jamaica. I would like to add that she was literally in the mountains, Accompong to be specific, during the 1930’s as an educated single black woman of “fair” skin, which is of utter importance pertaining to the access she was granted and denied based on the materials she was able to gift along with her aesthetic. I am reminded of a conversation I had recently in which I spoke about the importance of the aesthetic. The energy that a person, group or institute puts into their presentation, how they look and how they want others to take in the implicit messaging of their look. Why decorate your office the way you have it decorated, what are you communicating? And why? In those instances what a person is choosing not to communicate is also in the messaging. I digress. Zora balanced the realities of the secluded Maroon society from a place of truth & compassion. They were thriving based on their measurement of what thriving meant and she vacationed in their hospitality and simplistic daily rituals. I connected to Zora’s bravery while on a 5 day hog hunt in nature, uninhibited & unprepared lol. She literally threw herself into experiencing the rich culture in Jamaica rather than attempting to solely document what was being fed to her by others, and that continued and expanded as she floated her way into Haiti.

Zora’s historical accounts of the political upheaval and gruesome consequences of coup after coup in Haiti during the 1930’s ensued a reaction of humiliation and anger in me while reading; how dare she share the turmoil that went on “in my country” – it was jarring, brilliant and accurate. In fact the accuracy captivated me based on Zora’s otherness and non-identification within my cultural context. How did this stranger manage to not only get into the land, but within that entry become a willing and accepted participant rather than remain an observer – that is where the appreciation is derived from! I highlight the time period once again, 1930’s in the Caribbean; all within a little over a decade of when women were granted the right to vote in the United States. She expressively plopped herself into the culture of the other and within that difference embraced the similarities amongst children of the diaspora.

I can go into descriptive examples of how she was exposed to, initiated into and immersed in Voodoo while in Haiti pertaining to its mystical & cultural components but that would suck the novelty out of this piece of literary activism. She documented what she experienced while dissecting the frame in which Voodoo as a religion, Voodoo as a culture, and Voodoo as a symbolic metaphor is experienced within Haitian society. Absolutely breathtaking concerning the ways in which she integrated dignity into the negatively stigmatized practices that have been projected onto a way of life that has no origination in the western hemisphere. Voodoo, or rather Vodun in it's proper appropriation derived out of syncretism already present in the continent of Africa - so far removed from what we know now that the essence of its notoriety lies in its inaccessible aspects; hence its folklore designation as the "wonders" of its origin and magick tends to be passed through families as verbal secrets. Zora as the anthropologist shun light on the actual rituals and ceremonies in their primitive form and did not fall short of that which remained unknown, felt but unarticulated and various symbolism that threaded itself throughout her exploration. I stop myself here. Oh the parables that I could have jumped into from this tasty literary piece!

What a great read! Back to honoring my childhood entertainment, In Living Color...... this gets 2 snaps & a twist!

*Barracoon is due to be released this month via the ghost of the beloved Zora Neale Hurston

 

PUSH

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A [once] popular hashtag used in social media, #tbt to denote something from the past is my inspiration for this post. On this divergent Tuesday post mercury retrograde (we’re still in the “shadow” period) I pull on a recent reread of Push, after watching the movie Precious last night; written by the expressive Ramona Lofton aka Sapphire. What an alias to have & live up to! As an LGBTQ identified novelist and women of color, Sapphire utilizes her platform to bring attention to what has been kept invisible.

I originally read PUSH while in high school, during the era of Omar Tyree fictional novels flooding the lockers of my peers – and mine as well. I would scribble short stories in the empty pages of my brother’s unused 5 star notebooks and compare & contrast the narratives of my “make believe” characters & those in popular culture at the time. I dare say that PUSH exposed me to the raw rough reality of young black women in my age group, disengaged from services and love with trauma embedded in their everyday happenings. Disengaged from services, I’ll need to come back to that.

Sapphire left no stone unturned as she graphically described aspects of Precious’s life that were incomprehensible to my 16 year old mind. Teenage pregnancy, incestuous rape, HIV, illiteracy and a physically, emotionally abusive bully of a mother all wrapped into 140 pages. The phonetic language, inspired by Zora Neale Hurston, stunned me into racing through the pages. Reading the detailed graphic and metaphorically expressed experiences of Precious was humbling and similar to watching a scary movie while covering my eyes during the scary parts. This was a short reread, I devoured it this time around in 2 days. The artistic function of similes, spelling, grammar and the English language to fully encapsulate the personality of the protagonist was other worldly in its creativity. I highlight that to encourage the reading of the book before watching the movie because it’s the language that sets the stage in such a visceral way.

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I enjoyed this book and I also enjoyed meeting and talking to the author during her visit to Claremont McKenna Consortium back in 2010. Not only did she share insights into what inspired the creation of her novel, she also shared some poetry with me! I draw on her generosity in sharing herself with my own desires to share a bit of myself within this post. 

This read is real despite it being labeled fiction – and it’s a reminder of the privilege that those of us have who did not have to experience such laden trauma. Childhood trauma is emerging as a focal point in our society with pop culture assistance from philanthropists such as Oprah Winfrey, giving voice to the invisible pertaining to the impact of developmental trauma in children and ways in which it forges vulnerabilities that make them more susceptible to a number of things, such as mental illness and overall suffering.

Good read to have on the bookshelf.