Fantastic Girls and Gilmore Beasts: A Links Round-Up

Happy Friday, team! It is a grumpy Friday for me because I have to work tomorrow, but I struggle on in spite of everything. Stay brave, friends, and have a wonderful weekend.

It’s not too late to ask me and Whiskey Jenny to pick out books for you to buy your loved ones this holiday season! Fill out our holiday gift guide form and you’ll received personalized gift recommendations on our December 14th podcast.

Rebecca Traister is a writer I’ve come to really respect, and her piece on blaming Trump on the people who fought the hardest against him is fantastic.

Also, here’s Rebecca Traister again and the equally fantastic Rembert Browne talking about moving forward with anger and/or optimism in the age of Trump.

What books were some of this year’s most awesomest writers thankful for? Buzzfeed has your list.

The state of Harry Potter fandom in the conflicted age of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

And speaking of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Gavia Baker-Whitelaw has some thoughts about queer subtext in that movie and queer-coded villains.

The Merriam-Webster social media team speaks out about their on-point Twitter game.

Long story short, I always thought that Gilmore Girls was problematic and that the Gilmore girls were assholes (but I also love it!), so I’m really enjoying all the thinkpieces that have come out lately reading the revival for filth on those very points.

Also Maddie Myers is one of my fave critics these days, and she has good things to say about the Stars Hollow musical and what a jerk Lorelai is about it. (Lorelai Gilmore is a jerk, pass it on.)

On myths of racial determinism and books like Hillbilly Elegy.

Look up, please: Y’all, this is what I’m talking about. If you witness something like this happening, tell the person to stop. It will suck, but nobody else will do it if you don’t. Be that person.

A history of the concept of political correctness.

On the dearth of famous black writers in sci-fi.

The Atlantic has been doing Trump Time Capsules, but stopped when the election was over. Here’s what they have to say on the future of time capsules.

Review: The Wangs vs. the World, Jade Chang

One of the side effects of this election is that I’ve become very clingy and emotional. I burst into tears over design specs at work yesterday, and it’s not because design specs are inherently moving. It’s a reminder from my dumb, finicky heart, I guess, that love is what we have when the world is dark. So The Wangs vs. the World fit nicely with my current mood — a book about how a family holds tightly to each other at a time when they have lost everything.

Wangs vs the World

Charles Wang came to the United States to make his fortune, and that’s exactly what he did, building a cosmetics empire from the ground up. But an ambitious new project, launched just before the financial crash at the end of the second Bush presidency, has reduced them to almost nothing. Charles, his second wife Barbara, youngest daughter Grace and son Andrew, all pile into an ancient clunker to drive across the country to live with Charles’s eldest daughter Saina, a disgraced art world it-girl who has retreated to a house in upstate New York to escape media attention.

Though The Wangs vs. the World does satirize the worlds and lifestyles of the very wealthy, its primary concern is the relationships between these family members. Jade Chang is wonderfully specific in her portrayal of these five people and what they are to each other.

Saina always enjoyed her sister so much more in the particular than in the abstract. Grace in person was funny and self-aware. Grace on the phone was unrelenting and concerned with the smallest of slights — in between visits, that became the only Grace that she remembered.

She also captures an element of sibling relationships that I rarely see writers do well, which is the lifetime of shared in-jokes and common vocabulary that ties them all together. Saina and Andrew and Grace are separated by years and years, but they remain tremendously fond of each other. When Andrew ditches the family road trip and stays in New Orleans to lose his virginity, Grace isn’t just mad that he’s left her alone with the adults; she misses him. At a time when I’m wanting to grab all my friends-and-relations in massive hugs and never let go, it was great to read a book about a family who truly enjoy each other’s company.

The book is also wonderfully funny, although I wouldn’t say that funny is the point of it. Chang refers to Saina’s “human-rights disaster of an engagement ring,” and the passage where she describes Saina’s various art shows is — to someone like me, who loves art and finds the art world incomprehensibly ridiculous — perfect. Chang is satirizing a lot of different things in this book, and as it hurtles towards its conclusion, its wonderful scope started to feel a trifle overstuffed. But it’s well worth overlooking this minor complaint for a book as joyous and sincere as this one.

(Oh, also, writers of America? In Louisiana, we don’t say “Nawlins.” We just do not. I am sorry you have been misled on this. You can say “New OR-lins” from now on.)

Frightening, Destabilizing Shit that Trump Has Done

Welp, I think we’re all going to have a bitch of a time remembering all the fucking awful things Trump has done, because he keeps piling them on. So I am constructing the ultimate Your Fave Is Problematic post starting today (29 November).

My policy is going to be that I’ll only include stories and links to things that Trump and his hires have said; i.e., Trump’s friends and supporters may say and do things that won’t make the list. I’m trying to stick to just the things that are official words and deeds coming out of the Trump administration. Will update as warranted. If you notice any mistakes, inaccuracies, etc., please comment and let me know!

If I don’t specifically mention where a link is headed in the text of my sentence, I’ll include a parenthetical note on the source. When referencing local stories I will do my best to cite local newspapers, TV, and radio rather than national. I don’t have time to watch video so I’ll be sharing articles rather than videos, nearly always. I will tend to cite neutral/conservative-leaning news sources over liberal-leaning ones where basic facts are concerned (though I’ll try to include both conservative and liberal analysis), since it’s been very difficult for right and left to agree on what actually happened at any given time.

2 December

Taiwan call

The Financial Times broke the news that President-Elect Trump called Taiwan, marking the first contact between the Taiwanese and US governments since diplomatic relations were cut in 1979. According to Fox News, the White House did not know about the call until after it happened; and the Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, said that China does not expect any alteration in US foreign policy towards China and Taiwan. China subsequently lodged a complaint (BBC News) about the call.

Trump tweeted (here and here) (still not threaded, please God someone teach the man to thread tweets):

The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you! Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call.

That is interesting. I have to go to work right now, but I will swing back by later and see if I can help the President-Elect out on this.

Victory rally in Cincinnati

President-Elect Trump’s totally normal, not at all disturbing series of victory rallies kicked off today in Cincinnati. According to Business Insider, he pointed out the members of the press assembled in the arena and said, “The people back there, the extremely dishonest press. Very dishonest people … I mean how dishonest.” The crowd booed enthusiastically. The Cincinnati Enquirer says that he then added, “I love this stuff. Should we go on with this a little bit longer?”

(You can watch all this on video, if you wish.)

So yeah. The rhetorical delegitimizing of a free press continues. It’s also alarming that Trump continues to point screaming mobs at specific people he doesn’t like.

Corey Lewandowski thing that I’m not going to worry about for now

A couple of people sent me this story about Corey Lewandowski, so I’ll address it quickly. At a Harvard event for Trump and Clinton staffers (which sounds like a shitshow (Bloomberg)), Lewandowski criticized Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times, for expressing his willingness to go to jail (CNN) in order to publish Donald Trump’s tax returns. Lewandowski cited Baquet’s words from earlier in the year and added: “He’s willing to commit a felony on a private citizen to post his taxes? . . . It’s egregious. He should be in jail.”

Lewandowski is not currently employed with the Trump campaign / administration, but some people are spun up about this comment in the context of the possibility that he will get a job in the Trump administration. If he does, I’ll keep this story here. If not, I’ll try to remember (or you can remind me!) to come back and delete it.

1 December

Global Warming Jesus Christ

Okay, this one can’t be blamed on Trump but it’s so fucked up that I’m sharing it here anyway. The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology (Wikipedia gives you an overview of its history and jurisdiction) retweeted (badly–can someone please teach our government officials how to use Twitter?) a story from Breitbart claiming that global temperatures had dropped by an unprecedented amount in the second half of the year.

The Breitbart story drew most of its information from a Daily Mail (I know) story by David Rose. The Washington Post explores which data Rose was using and why they present a very incomplete picture (short version: he used data that only measure land temperature, i.e., only 29% of the entirety of the earth’s surface).

The Breitbart piece also cites David Whitehouse of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a climate change skeptic that has about 80 annual members, doesn’t disclose its funding sources, and is directed by a social anthropologist and chaired by a Tory politician (i.e., actual climate scientists are not involved). David Whitehouse is a longtime science reporter whose science education and expertise is in astrophysics (space science), not climatology or any other branch of atmospheric science.

Also, the chairman of the House Science Committee writes for Breitbart sometimes. Not worrying at all.

Carrier Deal

Trump announced a deal with heating and cooling company Carrier to reduce by half the number of jobs the company will send to Mexico, receiving criticism from liberals and conservatives. Though we don’t have a ton of details about the deal, Carrier received $7 million in tax credits, and we can safely assume that their parent company, United Technology Corporation, was aware of the potential loss of federal contracts (NYTimes) if they failed to agree. Fox News explores what we do and don’t know about this deal:

The prospect that the White House might directly intervene is also a concern to some economists. The incentives needed to keep jobs from moving often come at the public’s expense. They note that Trump’s activism might encourage companies to threaten to move jobs overseas in hopes of receiving tax breaks or contracts with the government.

“It sets up a race to the bottom,” said Diane Lim, chief economist at the nonprofit Committee for Economic Development.

NPR explores some of the job problems that a Trump presidency will need to address in the next four years. Reuters notes that United Technology Corporation still plans to close a separate Indiana branch that employs 700 American workers. The economic minister of Nueva Leon, Mexico, said this deal was reminiscent of “[what] they call banana (republics) in the United States” (Reuters). The National Review called the deal “straight-up corporate welfare.”

Rafael Sanchez, an investigative journalist at Indianapolis’s ABC affiliate TV station, has covered Carrier’s proposed closures and the lives of its workers extensively. He was refused press credentials to the event where the Carrier deal was announced, apparently at the behest of the Carrier team rather than the Trump/Pence camp.

30 November

Trump released a series of tweets in the wee hours of the morning saying that he’ll give a press conference on December 15th to explain the disposition of his business assets. Newsday makes the case that handing the running of his business over to his children would be sufficient. Washington Post explores why it may not be. The Sunlight Foundation is now maintaining a running list of potential and confirmed conflicts of interests between Trump’s administrative duties and his business ties.

29 November

5:55 AM, Trump tweets:

Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!

Context: The Supreme Court cases Texas v. Johnson (1989) and U.S. v. Eichman (1990) (links go to Oyez.org) ruled that flag-burning is constitutionally protected speech under the First Amendment. Since these Supreme Court cases, constitutional amendments prohibiting flag-burning have been proposed over a dozen times.

Since everybody seems to think I have forgotten a thing I have in no way forgotten and indeed brought up semi-regularly over the course of the last election season: In 2005, then-Senator Hillary Clinton sponsored a law that would have made flag-burning illegal in certain contexts. These contexts were vaguely defined in the language of the bill, and it was never assigned to committee or sent to Congress for a vote. Clinton voted against a constitutional amendment against flag-burning in 2006.

Also, “loss of citizenship” is a thing nobody, until today, has proposed as a response to flag-burning. Because it’s, you know, horrifying.

27 November

Trump’s Chief of Staff Reince Priebus went on Fox News to discuss some of the President-Elect’s positions and said this about climate change (from the Fox News transcript):

As far as this issue on climate change — the only thing he was saying after being asked a few questions about it is, look, he’ll have an open mind about it but he has his default position, which most of it is a bunch of bunk, but he’ll have an open mind and listen to people.  I think that’s what he’s saying.

22 November

Trump scheduled, then canceled (via Twitter), then rescheduled a meeting with the New York Times. Three sources confirmed to the Times that chief of staff Reince Priebus, who had been urging the president-elect to cancel the meeting, incorrectly told Trump that the Times was changing the terms of the meeting, and that this was what led Trump to Twitter-cancel the meeting.

Okay, I’m not going back in time because it’s impossible for me to keep up, but real quick, here’s a New York Times article on some of Trump’s business holdings in foreign countries and why they are a problem.

And also here is the Southern Poverty Law Center’s report on hate crimes following the election.

Nonfiction November: New to My TBR

Well, Americans, how were your Thanksgivings? I hope you sternly noped any racisms you encountered from your relatives and ate plenty of delicious turkey. We are reaching the end of a wonderful Nonfiction November, hosted this week by the fab Lory from the Emerald City Book Review.

It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

I may as well confess now that I have not been as riotously active a participant in Nonfiction November as I intended. For one thing I was doing NaNoWriMo (I didn’t write a novel, I just wanted to write 50,000 words on the month total, including blog posts and things like that), which is a time suck; for another thing I had wonderful visitors visiting me off and on throughout the month; and for a third and emotionally wringing thing, this damn election happened and pulled focus away from rejoicing in books to, like, figuring out how I’m going to fight.1

Do not take this to mean that my commitment to nonfiction has dimmed. I love and cherish nonfiction and you wonderful nonfiction bloggers, and I will be taking your recs and screaming about nonfiction books with you for many months to come.ANYWAY. All of that to say that I wasn’t able to visit as many blogs and scream about as much nonfiction as I was hoping, this November. I did get some awesome recs, of which the one that excites me the most is Inconvenient People: Lunacy, Liberty, and the Mad-Doctors in Victorian England, by Sarah Wise. I got this rec from the new-to-me blog Curiosity Killed the Bookworm–thanks!! I’m always interested in ways the Victorians solved social problems, and the history of mental health commitments is particularly relevant to my current reading after I read the wonderful Committed earlier in the month.As always, thanks to all the wonderful hosts who made this event happen! I’m sorry that national events overshadowed it for me at times, and I’m already eagerly anticipating its return in 2017.

  1. The answer is “all the ways.”

Reading the End Bookcast, Ep.71: What We’re Thankful For, and Brit Bennett’s The Mothers

Happy Wednesday, team, and happy early Thanksgiving to all the Americans! This is our sad and subdued post-election podcast in which we nevertheless try to find things to be thankful for. You can listen to the podcast in the embedded player below or download the file directly here to take with you on the go.

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Ask us for our gift book recommendations over at the Holiday Gift Guide! We’ll be giving out recs on the podcast that airs on December 14th, so hurry and get your requests in!

Here’s my tweetstorm about how to be a good ally.

What We’re Reading

Tarcutta Wake, Josephine Rowe
City on Fire, Garth Risk Hallberg
Crooked Kingdom, Leigh Bardugo
The Wangs vs. the World, Jade Chang
Multiple Choice, Alejandro Zambra

(but not The Revolutionaries Try Again)

What We’re Thankful For

My Dad Wrote a Porno podcast
“Seriously,” by Sara Bareilles; performed by Leslie Odom, Jr.
the NBC show The Good Place
Writers I’m grateful for: Ijeoma Iluo, Ann Friedman, Gene Demby, Kat Chow, Wesley Morris, Wesley Lowery, Mychal Denzel Smith, Nikole Hannah-Jones, and Alexandra Petri (“Five Stages of Trump Grief”)

They Can’t Kill Us All, Wesley Lowery
The Reactionary Mind, Corey Robin
The Power Broker, Robert Caro
13th, dir. Ava DuVernay
The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander

Trump 2.0 Syllabus and Rape Culture Syllabus from Public Books

Watership Down, Richard Adams
Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
Gifted, dir. Marc Webb (heartwarming trailer here)
Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel

The Mothers, Brit Bennett

After recording the podcast, I found this article where Brit Bennett says she doesn’t want her writing career to be about translating black pain to white audiences. So hey, the thing I liked about this book was a thing she specifically set out to do. Yay!

Additional podcast note: Whiskey Jenny has told me several times that even if she’s dead for five years, it’s not okay by her for me to get with her grieving boyfriend/fiance/husband. We had this discussion when we were watching Arrow together, because I felt that Oliver was being totally unreasonable to object to Laurel dating Tommy. I told Whiskey Jenny she can feel free to get with my person if I have been dead for five years. We differ on this point.

ETA: Mallory Ortberg kind of ruled on this in a recent Dear Prudence column.

(If it helps, I once had a weeks-long, only-sort-of-joking quarrel with a partner about how long each of us should wait for the other if we were lost at sea, so I know the pain of getting suckered into an argument about something that will probably never happen but feels deathly important. The correct answer, by the way, is a baseline six months out of respect/odds of a miraculous ocean rescue, plus one additional week of waiting for every month of the relationship’s duration.)

Get at me on Twitter, email the podcast, and friend me (Gin Jenny) and Whiskey Jenny on Goodreads. Or if you wish, you can find us on iTunes (and if you enjoy the podcast, give us a good rating! We appreciate it very very much).

Credits
Producer: Captain Hammer
Photo credit: The Illustrious Annalee
Theme song by: Jessie Barbour

Review: Multiple Choice, Alejandro Zambra

I didn’t do this on purpose, although I would have if I’d thought of it: The book I read immediately after the election turned out to be a work of experimental fiction that explores how life and education in a dictatorship narrows the range of thoughts that it is possible to think. Alejandro Zambra’s Multiple Choice, translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell, is a spoof on the Academic Aptitude Exam, required for all college-bound Chilean students, which Zambra took in 1993, when Chile was in transition to democracy following years of dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet.

Multiple Choice

In an interview with The New Yorker, Zambra says this:

Those tests have multiple “authors,” but when we were kids we thought there was only one, a single God-dictator-author, who knew all the right answers and hid them. While I was writing the book, I thought a lot about how those exercises were, in a way, the opposite of literature. They teach you to put stories in order, for example, following some kind of fixed structure—from the abstract to the concrete, chronologically, from the general to the particular.

This all sounds very somber, and Multiple Choice is anything but. If there can be good, un-cynical parodies of dictatorships, Multiple Choice is one, and in a reading week where my brain was 90% blank terror for the future of our democracy and only about 10% available for processing words in books, it was a lighthearted read that didn’t feel like a cop-out from what’s happening in the world right now. Zambra is kidding on the round, because while dictatorships are absurd, their absurdity is a rhetorical disguise for the very real oppression they’re trying to get you to overlook.

For instance, the fourth section asks you to choose which sentences may be eliminated from a paragraph without damaging the meaning of what’s being said. Zambra launches into the story of a good man who didn’t mean any harm: Sure, the narrator acknowledges that he hated gay people and knew about the torture and disappearances, but so did everyone, didn’t they? And he was still fundamentally a good guy. Not a villain. One of the answer options lets you eliminate all the sentences that mention specific crimes, leaving only this:

(1) I was his friend, I was his pal. I knew him. And it’s not true what they say about him. Some things, sure, but not all of it. I care about what they say, it hurts. It’s as if they were talking about me.

(12) Whatever they may say of him, it’s easy enough to badmouth him now that he’s dead. But I would like you all to know that my friend isn’t all that dead, because he still has me, come what may. I’ll always defend him. Always, buddy–always.

TOO REAL, n’est-ce pas?

A government-controlled structure like the standardized test forces you to choose between a finite set of options, of which zero might make sense — but getting it right (for the government’s definition of “right”) will shape your future and the possibilities that will be open to you. I tried not to apply Multiple Choice too literally to America’s situation, even though I feel real damn dire. But one thing I took away from it, as I read headline after headline in supposedly liberal newspapers that refused to identify Steve Bannon as a white nationalist and anti-Semite, is that the words we use over the next four years are going to be everything. We can’t back away from the truth, no matter how ugly it is.

Post-Election Links Round-Up

Manuel Gonzales

NK Jemisin

Nicole Chung

Mira Jacob

Masha Gessen

Vann R. Newkirk II

Rebecca Traister

Rembert Browne

Nikole Hannah-Jones

Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham

A whole bunch of writers of many genres

Stay safe, guys.

Nonfiction November: Book Pairing

Nonfiction November continues, hosted this week by Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves. This week we’re talking book pairings!

Nonfiction November

This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

Mm, yes, I love a good game of Read This Then That. Nonfiction November has pegged me accurately in this regard. Let’s start with a creepy debut novel I read earlier in the year, Krys Lee’s How I Became a North Korean.

It’s an excellent look at the lives of North Koreans after they escape from their hometown, and I’m pairing it up with Suki Kim’s Without You There Is No Us, as an act of rebellion against everyone in publishing and the media who framed Kim’s book like a memoir instead of the work of investigative journalism that it is. Down with gendered bullshit!

Next I will be pairing up two books where maybe you’ll read this recommendation and say “Jenny is this just a thinly veiled plot to get us to read these two books you’re already obviously very excited about?” To which the answer is, of course, yes. Yes, that is what is happening. Sorry to have been so transparent.

Read Nisi Shawl’s Everfair, an alt-history Congolese steampunk fantasy that has dirigibles, deception, lesbians, and characters who use cats for spies.

Then when you’re finished and you have thousands of questions about which elements of the plot are from real history and which ones are from Nisi Shawl’s considerable imagination, get thee to David van Reybrouck’s Congo, a magisterial history of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It’s massive but engaging. I can’t recommend it enough.

Thanks to the Nonfiction November hosts for staying fabulous! What nonfiction are y’all reading this week?

Review: Committed, Dinah Miller and Annette Hanson

Note: I received a copy of Committed from the publisher for review consideration.

I maintain a master list of Claims that Require Heightened Scrutiny, and the number one item on my list — indeed the reason I started to maintain the list — is this: Any claim that a complicated problem has a simple solution. Nothing infuriates me more1 than people insisting that a complicated thing is actually very simple if people would just look at it in a new way. No! Systems are complicated! Even when there is a simple solution (e.g., we have a vaccine that prevents polio), the implementation of that solution remains immensely complicated, because there are a lot of other factors in play besides the obvious medical one.

So Dinah Miller and Annette Hanson’s book Committed: The Battle over Involuntary Psychiatric Care (pubbed by Johns Hopkins University Press) is balm to my soul, acknowledging as it does that the question of involuntary psychiatric care is a complicated issue to which there may possibly be no good solutions.

CommittedI come to this book with a history of being both a consumer and a provider of mental health care myself (I have depression, and I spent a number of years volunteering on a suicide hotline), and of knowing lots of people who consume and provide mental health care. People I love have been involuntarily committed, and people I love have recommended involuntary commitments, so while I am far from an expert, I am at least aware of some of the problems with both sides of this argument.

On one hand, involuntary commitment can be tremendously traumatizing. Standards of inpatient mental health care vary wildly, and underfunding of the mental health system means that many service providers are underpaid, under-trained, overworked, exhausted, and not remotely respectful or kind to people with serious mental illnesses. If you come to an emergency room with a mental health issue — often having tried to get outpatient mental health care from other resources and failed because we as a society have so massively under-prioritized those vital services — you may get an emergency room physician like this one:

If someone is suicidal, I can’t think of a time I would send them home. I’m very cautious about letting someone go home when they’ve changed their mind about being suicidal. I let the mental health professional make that decision, but when it comes down to it, if I am the physician of record, then I have to be accountable. So I give great deference to a mental health professional, but I don’t give them the complete latitude to discharge our patients. . . Once the flag is raised and I’m worried about someone, why wouldn’t we err on the side of giving them more services and not less?

What freaks me out is that he’s talking about suspending someone’s civil rights and then making them pay a really large amount of money for that suspension, and he doesn’t seem to realize that’s what he’s describing. His personal comfort with the idea that someone who has experienced suicidal ideation — regardless of the level of risk the mental health professional has assessed in their examination of the patient — is the deciding factor for whether a person is kept against their will. His comfort trumps research and experience, is what he’s saying, and unfortunately, this reflects exactly what I have heard from friends who work as mental health professionals in hospitals.

So that’s on one hand: The civil rights of mentally ill people are regularly taken away on the basis of one doctor’s opinion, which is informed more by a CYA mentality than the assessment of the in-house mental health professional. Legal procedures designed to protect patient rights are frequently perfunctory, with patients given inadequate representation and information about what’s happening to them.

On the other hand, advocates of involuntary treatment like E. Fuller Torrey argue that mentally ill patients who display anosognosia (a lack of awareness that they are ill) require medication and therapy before they can meaningfully consent or withhold consent for treatment.2 If we blanket oppose involuntary treatment, what becomes of suicidal and homicidal patients who won’t seek help for themselves? Do we permit patients who are a danger to themselves and others to leave the hospital untreated, or do we have a responsibility to help them (even if it’s against their will)?

See. It’s tricky.

Miller and Hanson explore the issue from a wide range of perspectives, speaking with experts in the field, medical professional, mental health care professionals, patients with both good and bad experiences of inpatient mental health care, and police departments that have implemented mental health training for their officers (chronically mentally ill people who don’t get treatment often get funneled into the criminal justice system, which is very ill-equipped to deal with them). They consider the various — and they truly are various, since there are no nationally accepted standards for inpatient mental health care — policies that govern the use of seclusion and restraint, forced medication, and even involuntary electroconvulsive therapy. They explore evidence into the links between gun violence, particularly mass shootings, and untreated mental illness, and whether involuntary mental health care offers a solution to those problems.

Unfortunately — for people who want things to be simple — the answer, if there is an answer, is that if we want to achieve both the goal of protecting the civil rights of mentally ill patients and the goal of minimizing the chances that such patients will harm themselves or others, we’re going to have to pay for it, with time and money. Many of the ethical and medical problems around involuntary commitment arise because these patients have no other treatment options. The emergency room, which should be the last resort, becomes the first resort, simply because community mental health care is lacking. Hanson and Miller note that in half of all US counties, there are no mental health professionals at all. And the more money we pour into involuntary commitments, the less money is available for maintenance mental health care.

At the end of the book, Hanson and Miller make a number of policy recommendations, most of which require — surprise! — investment in a mental health infrastructure. This data nerd reader would also love to see better record-keeping on involuntary commitments nationwide, as I suspect that race, class, and gender are all factors in the decision of whom to commit against their will. Committed provides an insightful, balanced look at the many complex factors that influence involuntary mental health care. If you’re remotely interested in mental health or civil liberties, I highly recommend this excellent book.

  1. Well, probably some things do, but I can’t think of them right now.
  2. You’ll have spotted this leads to kind of a Catch-22: If they know they are sick they’ll want treatment; if they don’t want treatment, they must not know they are sick and thus should have treatment.

Reading the End Bookcast, Ep. 70: Funny Books and Dirk Gently

It’s super weird listening to this podcast (that’s why I’m posting it late) because Whiskey Jenny and I were so young and innocent when we recorded this. Now we are old and sad. You can listen to the podcast in the embedded player below or download the file directly here to take with you on the go.

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Ask us for our gift book recommendations over at the Holiday Gift Guide! Fill out the form by November 30th, and we’ll be giving out recs on the podcast that airs on December 14th.

What We’re Reading

Do You Want to Start a Scandal, Tessa Dare
Acute Reactions, Ruby Lang
The Secret Heart, Erin Satie
Integrity, Willow Scarlett
Crooked Kingdom, Leigh Bardugo (both of us!)
Gotham Academy, vol.2

Funny Books

Big Trouble, Dave Barry
Island of the Sequined Love Nun, Christopher Moore
The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, Christopher Moore
Catch-22, Joseph Heller
Roald Dahl
My Man Jeeves, P. G. Wodehouse
Inherent Vice, Thomas Pynchon
One Plus One, Jojo Moyes
Where’d You Go Bernadette, Maria Semple

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Douglas Adams

For Next Time

The Mothers, Brit Bennett

Get at me on Twitter, email the podcast, and friend me (Gin Jenny) and Whiskey Jenny on Goodreads. Or if you wish, you can find us on iTunes (and if you enjoy the podcast, give us a good rating! We appreciate it very very much).

Credits
Producer: Captain Hammer
Photo credit: The Illustrious Annalee
Theme song by: Jessie Barbour