A good book can be so satisfying. Whether it’s an in-depth biography or an action-packed fantasy novel, reaching those final chapters leaves readers with a sense of accomplishment and knowledge. But what about a book that’s meant to leave readers broken? Clay Smith with Austin-based Kirkus Reviews stopped by the Standard to talk about a book that does just that.
Smith’s recommendation this month is “No One Cares About Crazy People,” which looks at mental health policy in the U.S. and tells the story of how mental health affects the author’s family.
Where did the title come from?
“Unfortunately it comes from an email that was uncovered by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. That newspaper had uncovered a huge scandal at a mental hospital in Milwaukee county. One of the patients had died from starvation, patients were being abused, and it was written by a woman named Kelly ReinFlisch, and she served as the deputy chief of staff to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker…of course she didn’t mean for that to become public, but it did. And when Ron Powers who has written this book found it, his heart kind of broke and he made it sort of an anthem for himself.”
Why did Ron Powers choose this as a topic?
“This is the beauty of this book. Someone could write a really affecting book about mental health policy in this country. But Ron Powers and his wife have two sons – had two sons I should say – and their younger son Kevin showed signs of schizoaffective disorder and killed himself. And then their older son Dean also has schizophrenia. He is under medication and is doing fine. But this book about why America doesn’t take care of our mentally ill citizens is really grounded in a very personal story.”
Why this book now?
“Our state leaders have made the choice to not fund mental health. This book in a very personal way sort of grounds you in that discussion…It’s his way of trying to make sense of what happened to his children and to get readers to act.”
Powers specifically says he does not want readers to walk away from this book feeling good. How does it feel to read?
“I won’t lie it’s a tough, jarring book because the ways in which some mentally ill patients in this country are kept and cared for reads like a harsh Victorian novel. It is depressing…it kind of speaks to, what are our values as a country?”