Sunday, October 2, 2011

currently reading: My Lobotomy

Title:  My Lobotomy - A Memoir
Author:  Howard Dully (with Charles Fleming)
Genre:  Biographical Non-Fiction
Pages: 304

As a psychology major, I've been interested in this book for awhile.  Each time I saw it on the shelf of Barnes and Noble or another bookstore, I made a mental note to look for it at the library, but never followed through on that idea.  A few weeks ago, Borders was having a huge going-out-of-business sale.  And guess what was one of the few books still left on the almost-bare shelves?  This one!

I started reading this on the flight to Tampa for our honeymoon.  And I finished it a few days later on the cruise.  It was a fairly quick read, although it took a little bit for me to adjust to the style of writing.  It is written as if Dully is narrating it, which made it a bit hard to follow at times.

Dully describes the events leading up to and the events following his lobotomy.  At the age of 12, Dully was  admitted to a hospital where Dr. Walter Freeman performed an "ice-pick lobotomy."  This essentially means that Freeman took a "knitting needle" type object and poked it through Dully's eye socket and rotated it around in his brain for a few minutes.  Dully did not "qualify" for a lobotomy (a procedure which  is no longer valid in the medical world - it does more damage than good).  Freeman was eager to have a patient to work on and Dully's step-mother was eager to have her step-son "altered" or forced to move away.  Dully began a journey to find out about his lobotomy (and why is was ordered) which was documented by NPR.

This book is chilling.  The account is so personal and you cannot help but sympathize with Dully.  I could not help but wonder how Dully slipped through the cracks of doctors, teachers, social workers and government workers.  Dully wrote multiple times that no one ever taught him responsibility and that he had never learned a skill.  Didn't any of the people around him see that?  This made the book personal to me.  I was forced to ask myself, "Are there people standing right in front of me who are just as in need of help as Dully was?"

I really appreciated the ending where Dully wrote about being a victim.  He wrote that while horrible things happened to him, he saw that we were all victims at some levels or another.  I thought that this was an appropriate ending to the book as it was a challenge to all readers and as it issued freedom for Dully - he no longer needed to live in the shadow of his past.

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