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The Hospital Always Wins: A Memoir

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Issa Ibrahim’s memoir details in searing prose his development of severe mental illness leading to a horrific family tragedy, his acquittal by reason of insanity, and his subsequent commission to a mental hospital for nearly twenty years.  Raised in an idyllic creative environment, mom and dad cultivating his talent, Issa watches his family’s descent into chaos in the drug- Issa Ibrahim’s memoir details in searing prose his development of severe mental illness leading to a horrific family tragedy, his acquittal by reason of insanity, and his subsequent commission to a mental hospital for nearly twenty years.  Raised in an idyllic creative environment, mom and dad cultivating his talent, Issa watches his family’s descent into chaos in the drug-crazed late 1980s. Following his father’s death, Issa, grief-stricken and vulnerable, travels down a road that leads to psychosis—and to one of the most nightmarish scenarios conceivable. Issa receives the insanity plea and is committed to an insane asylum with no release date. But that is only the beginning of his odyssey. Institutional and sexual sins cause further punishments, culminating in a heated legal battle for freedom.  Written with great verve and immediacy, The Hospital Always Wins paints a detailed picture of a broken mental health system but also reveals the power of art, when nurtured in a benign environment, to provide a resource for recovery. Ultimately this is a story about survival and atonement through creativity and courage against almost insurmountable odds.


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Issa Ibrahim’s memoir details in searing prose his development of severe mental illness leading to a horrific family tragedy, his acquittal by reason of insanity, and his subsequent commission to a mental hospital for nearly twenty years.  Raised in an idyllic creative environment, mom and dad cultivating his talent, Issa watches his family’s descent into chaos in the drug- Issa Ibrahim’s memoir details in searing prose his development of severe mental illness leading to a horrific family tragedy, his acquittal by reason of insanity, and his subsequent commission to a mental hospital for nearly twenty years.  Raised in an idyllic creative environment, mom and dad cultivating his talent, Issa watches his family’s descent into chaos in the drug-crazed late 1980s. Following his father’s death, Issa, grief-stricken and vulnerable, travels down a road that leads to psychosis—and to one of the most nightmarish scenarios conceivable. Issa receives the insanity plea and is committed to an insane asylum with no release date. But that is only the beginning of his odyssey. Institutional and sexual sins cause further punishments, culminating in a heated legal battle for freedom.  Written with great verve and immediacy, The Hospital Always Wins paints a detailed picture of a broken mental health system but also reveals the power of art, when nurtured in a benign environment, to provide a resource for recovery. Ultimately this is a story about survival and atonement through creativity and courage against almost insurmountable odds.

30 review for The Hospital Always Wins: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    "The Hospital Always Wins", is written by an absolutely extraordinary graphic artist. Issa Ibrahim is also winner of the prestigious Edward R. Murrow & Third Coast 2014 Awards for Best News Documentary NPR's 'The Hospital Always Wins'....( an hour long feature) This book is a powerful memoir of incarceration, rebellion, sex, drug, death, race, and art. With peppery-high spirited prose he shares of his home life...and his institution life. Issa's parents were often using marijuana and he grew up i "The Hospital Always Wins", is written by an absolutely extraordinary graphic artist. Issa Ibrahim is also winner of the prestigious Edward R. Murrow & Third Coast 2014 Awards for Best News Documentary NPR's 'The Hospital Always Wins'....( an hour long feature) This book is a powerful memoir of incarceration, rebellion, sex, drug, death, race, and art. With peppery-high spirited prose he shares of his home life...and his institution life. Issa's parents were often using marijuana and he grew up in a chaotic drugcrazed environment. He developments severe mental illness as a young teenager....which leads to an accidental killing of his mother. He received the insanity plea and was committed to an insane asylum with no release date. We get the inside story of what a broken Mental health system looks like from the eyes of Issa who spent 20 years of his life in the 'asylum environment'. There were years when he was punished for sexual sins. There were legal battles for freedom...but my favorite parts of the book was when Issa begins to blossom from the power of his artwork. His art generously gets nurtured by the hospital staff...and it helps Issa with his recovery. It's really beautiful...it's a turning point of something positive within the hospital walls...(replenished my faith in humanity). Creedmoor Psychiatric Hospital in Queens County, New York, is where Issa spent his years. They have one notable program which allowed Issa to thrive and showcase his work...called "The Living Museum". The Living Museum is an art Studio dedicated to presenting the art produced by patients at the Creedmoor Center. Issa's life story was very sad...but his spirit is very inspiring. The guy is a survivor. It was clear to me that he loved his mother deeply. Her death is a deep scar... but my God...he has repented. I had the feeling that even his mother knew it was an accident and forgave him immediately...whereas Issa spent his entire life making peace with himself. No matter what I or anyone thinks of this story - or of things read about within the hospital walls ... the biggest lasting message - for me- is that it was a horrific mistake that Issa spent 20 years inside an institution. Insane... completely insane! Bless this talented artist, this man! ...may the rest of his life be fill with love - art - great friendships - and much joy! Thank You Chicago Review Press, Netgalley, and Issa Ibrahim,

  2. 4 out of 5

    Book Riot Community

    I can’t express how awesome I thought this book was. It’s morally complex, vivid in setting and character development, and the pacing of this memoir kept me turning pages into the night. I found it somehow reminiscent of On the Road, even though it wasn’t about a road trip; maybe more like if Kerouac, Richard Wright, and Vincent van Gogh had all gotten together and written One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. (Never mind that it’s temporally impossible for that to have happened.) – Susie Rodarme from I can’t express how awesome I thought this book was. It’s morally complex, vivid in setting and character development, and the pacing of this memoir kept me turning pages into the night. I found it somehow reminiscent of On the Road, even though it wasn’t about a road trip; maybe more like if Kerouac, Richard Wright, and Vincent van Gogh had all gotten together and written One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. (Never mind that it’s temporally impossible for that to have happened.) – Susie Rodarme from The Best Books We Read In April: http://bookriot.com/2016/04/29/riot-r...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ally

    A very sad and meaningful read. As many of you know, mental illness memoirs are some of my favourite (if that's the right word) types of memoirs to read. I find it absolutely fascinating to be in the head of someone experiencing life in an entirely different and unique way. Previous stories I've read, though shocking and scary (see, Wasted, Manic) almost paled in comparison to this young man's story. This is not at all to belittle anyone's experience of their own mental illness, but more to po A very sad and meaningful read. As many of you know, mental illness memoirs are some of my favourite (if that's the right word) types of memoirs to read. I find it absolutely fascinating to be in the head of someone experiencing life in an entirely different and unique way. Previous stories I've read, though shocking and scary (see, Wasted, Manic) almost paled in comparison to this young man's story. This is not at all to belittle anyone's experience of their own mental illness, but more to point out that previous memoirs I've read have related more closely to self-harm than harm to others, especially loved ones, which I found particularly horrific in this case. That being said, I didn't love the overall structure and style of this book. I understand why it was structured as it was, and I agree that it made it much easier for the reader not to prejudge this young man for the terrible crime he committed; however, I think just a year as the title of the Chapter would have made everything much clearer. Sometimes I had no idea if we were pre-hospital or not. I have seen this done effectively in other books, particularly Madness: A Bipolar Life, and Manic, but it really didn't work here for me. But I think the real and very important story here is Issa's experience of being hospitalized in a system determined to keep him locked up rather than to contribute to meaningful therapy and a transition into a 'normal' life. It is absolutely abhorrent that psychiatrists and psychologists continue to get away with kind of behaviour that only serves to retrench power dynamics in psychiatric institutions and likely further contributes to feelings of low self worth and depression. This is an important story about a man who overcame these obstacles, and fought for the life he deserved. Definitely worth a read if you're interested in drug-induced psychosis and experiences in the psychiatric ward. An advanced review copy was provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

  4. 4 out of 5

    Megalion

    NOTE: I don't feel comfortable rating this particular memoir in any official way because I feel that my 2 star reaction is specific to me and not quite indicative of how others might enjoy or not enjoy it. I was really looking forward to this book as I'm always wanting to read about how other people have dealt with being bipolar. I just could not get into it though. As I noted in my status update a couple months ago, I was having a hard time following the scattered narrative. Usually that's not NOTE: I don't feel comfortable rating this particular memoir in any official way because I feel that my 2 star reaction is specific to me and not quite indicative of how others might enjoy or not enjoy it. I was really looking forward to this book as I'm always wanting to read about how other people have dealt with being bipolar. I just could not get into it though. As I noted in my status update a couple months ago, I was having a hard time following the scattered narrative. Usually that's not a problem for me but I suspect that my inability to relate to his story was the main culprit. I set it aside intending to return but after two months of dreading trying to get into it again, I'm letting myself off the hook. One reason for not relating, I wasn't feeling any sympathy or empathy for his end. Augusten Burroughs similarly behaves like a brat at points in his childhood memoirs but in the context of his environment, it made sense that I remained intrigued by his story. However, I would like to strongly emphasize that this is a Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV) situation. Others have really gotten a lot out of this book and you may too. This is simply ny personal reaction to a memoir that is volatile enough to go either way for people. Thank you to the publisher for the free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Issa is an awesome writer, but he plays the victim way too much for me to fully sympathize. I completely understand that mental illness can take over rational thoughts and actions and I don't doubt that he wasn't in his right mind when he murdered his mom. He should be treated with compassion, but to feel slighted because you can't have your freedom after voices in your head made you murder is a bit too much.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Snem

    This was an interesting exploration of one man's mental illness and commentary on issues throughout the mental health system. The description of the madness during the actual killing of his mother was disturbing and really well done. While this was really interesting, it's written a little too wordy and overworked. I didn't find the author particularly likeable or compelling. Structurally the timeline jumping does reflect the psychosis of the author, but is jarring for this reader. I wish it was This was an interesting exploration of one man's mental illness and commentary on issues throughout the mental health system. The description of the madness during the actual killing of his mother was disturbing and really well done. While this was really interesting, it's written a little too wordy and overworked. I didn't find the author particularly likeable or compelling. Structurally the timeline jumping does reflect the psychosis of the author, but is jarring for this reader. I wish it was written in chronological sequence. The relationships with all the women in this book was disturbingly manipulative on the part of all parties including the author. Creedmoor holds a special place in my heart, but I only recommend this if you have a strong interest in mental illness books.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Whitney

    Full review with hyperlinks and whatnot on the blog: https://brownbooksandgreentea.com/201... Issa Ibrahim is institutionalized for a very specific reason: readers will find out the details later, but it’s not a spoiler to reveal that he’s murdered his mother. According to him, it was a marijuana-induced psychosis, i.e. the drugs were a deadly choice for someone with potential preexisting mental health issues. Because of this, Issa Ibrahim spends some time on Rikers Island, wins an insanity plea, Full review with hyperlinks and whatnot on the blog: https://brownbooksandgreentea.com/201... Issa Ibrahim is institutionalized for a very specific reason: readers will find out the details later, but it’s not a spoiler to reveal that he’s murdered his mother. According to him, it was a marijuana-induced psychosis, i.e. the drugs were a deadly choice for someone with potential preexisting mental health issues. Because of this, Issa Ibrahim spends some time on Rikers Island, wins an insanity plea, and gets transferred to Creedmoor Hospital. Here, he stays nearly two decades, learning to live with his crime, and move toward a life beyond Creedmoor’s walls. The Hospital Always Wins, perhaps a play on “the house always wins,”illustrates what an insanity plea really means. It’s an insider look at how the criminal justice system fails the mentally ill by placing them in facilities just as flawed as regular prisons. Ibraham describes both sexual relationships and assaults between patients and staff, as well as bureaucratic conspiracies to keep patients under lock down. It’s not pretty. In fact, on many occasions, it’s wholly disgusting. Effectively disowned by his remaining family, Ibrahim immerses himself in his art. He’s commissioned by staff to illustrate tattoo designs and uses the money to increase his stockpile of art supplies. Art takes him far, and his art shows become one of few ways he’s allowed to leave the Creedmoor campus (escorted by male staff, of course). Ibrahim’s artist statement: “My interest in the politics of race, mental illness, and popular culture informs my range of subject matter. I am telling a parallel narrative. My life as a psych patient, a flawed Superman, learning to navigate the many identities I had to assume in the system in order to survive various barriers to freedom, in addition to exposing the Everyman in the world at large. We are living in a comic strip, with plenty of super villains and heroes, love stories, cliffhangers, absurdist comedy and heartbreaking tragedy. With equal parts whimsy and warning, I use familiar icons in historical settings as reflections and metaphors for our own bankrupt culture.” Ibrahim intersperses the recollection of his time at Creedmoor with memories of his mother, the most loving figure in his life. It’s an effective storytelling tactic, that builds to the crescendo– when he recounts exactly what happened the night of her death. It would be crass to end there, but Ibrahim also discusses how he begins to find closure. The Hospital Always Wins is a purposefully cringe-inducing look behind a mental institution’s tightly closed doors. While Issa Ibrahim, for many reasons, is perhaps one of few who could tell this story, I found the people on the periphery a bit more interesting. I was personally turned off by what I interpreted as Ibrahim’s problematic relationship with women, with whom he seemed unable to build nonsexual bonds. For those interested in Issa Ibrahim, I’m a much bigger advocate of his work elsewhere, including this article, and this appearance in an HBO documentary from several years back. In the recommended links, you’ll find engrossing details about his crime, diagnosis, and institutionalization. Heavy on the serious content and light on the schoolboy sexual details about him and the hospital staff. I’d love to hear from some people who felt this book spoke to them. There is a discussion worth having about how mental health issues are handled in the criminal justice system, but this book missed a great opportunity to bring them to the fore. Disclaimer: I was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jenn

    4.5 stars I picked up this book because I grew up jsut a block away from Creedmoor (the hospital where Mr. Ibrahim spends the majority of his incarceration). I always knew what Creedmoor was but didn't really know what went on inside it and thats what drew me to this book. It was fascinating (and disturbing) to hear a lot about what went on inside. I was particularly disturbed by Mr. Ibrahim being punished for his dalliances with two staff members. I agree that they were inappropriate but since he 4.5 stars I picked up this book because I grew up jsut a block away from Creedmoor (the hospital where Mr. Ibrahim spends the majority of his incarceration). I always knew what Creedmoor was but didn't really know what went on inside it and thats what drew me to this book. It was fascinating (and disturbing) to hear a lot about what went on inside. I was particularly disturbed by Mr. Ibrahim being punished for his dalliances with two staff members. I agree that they were inappropriate but since he was a patient and they were staff it seems that they should have been guilty of sexual assault for sleeping with a man who they knew to be be mentally ill and were entrusted with his care. I understand that Mr. Ibrahim did not feel that way but he is a seriously mentally ill person battling addiction. I feel bad for everything Mr. Ibrahim has been through and I hope he finds peace. And I enjoyed learning some about the institution next door to where I grew up.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kelly MacIver

    Wow I can't finish this. I expected an insightful look into the mind of a person who has suffered from a mental illness that tragically resulted in the death of his mother by his own hands, and is forever saddened by it and eternally remorseful. Instead, I get a memoir full of reasons why it's someone else's fault...sometimes society, sometimes his other family members, sometimes the fault of the dead woman herself. The last straw for me was his multi page complaints about his struggle to get a Wow I can't finish this. I expected an insightful look into the mind of a person who has suffered from a mental illness that tragically resulted in the death of his mother by his own hands, and is forever saddened by it and eternally remorseful. Instead, I get a memoir full of reasons why it's someone else's fault...sometimes society, sometimes his other family members, sometimes the fault of the dead woman herself. The last straw for me was his multi page complaints about his struggle to get a good haircut at the hospital, preceded by his tales of his use of women to get what he wants. I'm just not interested. But thanks to Edelweiss for the advanced readers copy.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alison Donnelly

    It's not really true to say I liked this book. Ibrahim's story is overwhelming and disturbing. Two narratives are interwoven, his early years leading up to his psychosis and subsequent horrific crime and his twenty year stay in state psychiatric hospitals. Both are devastating and reveal a man who somehow survived and a critique of shocking staff and clinician misconduct in mental health facilities. Not for the faint hearted. At all.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Nope. Just not for me. I found this writing pretentious and dull. Half way into the book, I admit, I skimmed. I fully understand that you don't always have to like your protagonists (even in non-fiction), but you should at least be interested. I'm not. After two months of trying to read this, I'm done. **I received this copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review** (less)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Polly Krize

    I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. A seemingly never-ending, dull journey into mental illness and its effects upon the author. Not meaning to be too critical, but this did not seem to be well-written and enunciated. Too wordy and plodding. Only my opinion.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Paul Spence

    Issa Ibrahim tells of his upbringing and ultimate incarceration in mental institutions due to a terrible crime he committed. His family life had a great influence on him as he turned to drugs, which may or may not have been a factor in his mental illness. But this story isn't merely about drug use and mental illness, it's also about rehabilitation and repentance. Growing up in a family environment that nurtured caring and creativity, Issa's loose family life also enabled him to be introduce to the Issa Ibrahim tells of his upbringing and ultimate incarceration in mental institutions due to a terrible crime he committed. His family life had a great influence on him as he turned to drugs, which may or may not have been a factor in his mental illness. But this story isn't merely about drug use and mental illness, it's also about rehabilitation and repentance. Growing up in a family environment that nurtured caring and creativity, Issa's loose family life also enabled him to be introduce to the drug culture of the 80's. Possibly his drug contributed to his mental illness which lead to his committing a terrible crime and his ultimate plea of insanity. The book documents his “incarceration” in mental institutions along with his recovery from his illness. His road to recovery was long and not as straight as it could have been. Briefly jailed in hellish Rikers Island, Ibrahim was ruled not guilty by reason of insanity and spent most of his years at Creedmoor, a huge state mental hospital in Queens Village, New York. He writes scathingly of its violence, homosexual sex, staff unprofessionalism, and administrative ineptitude. His talent for painting eventually got him to Creedmoor’s Living Museum, an art studio and sanctuary for patients, where he flourished. Issa's compelling story was a good read. He is an intelligent and interesting man with a lot to share. Some things you may wish he hadn't. Never knowing his crime until near the end made this a page turner. His story is quite thought provoking and may, or may not, change your opinion of the insanity plea and the role our mental institutions play in returning mentally disturbed individuals to a normal lifestyle. This occasionally overwhelming torrent of words reveals both an irrepressible individual with a talent for survival and a mental health system in dire need of repair. I would definitely recommend this book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mark Syron

    When Issa got to talking about his Mom at the beginning of the book I realized where this was headed. I could see it a mile away all be not quite sure that it was all due to drugs. My guess was a psychotic break from reality but I did not realize it will all be linked back to weed. But I do have to say once the excessive weed use of the family was described then I saw the connection. I personally have not tried weed. I don't know how to roll a roach but I do know that weed, in some people, can c When Issa got to talking about his Mom at the beginning of the book I realized where this was headed. I could see it a mile away all be not quite sure that it was all due to drugs. My guess was a psychotic break from reality but I did not realize it will all be linked back to weed. But I do have to say once the excessive weed use of the family was described then I saw the connection. I personally have not tried weed. I don't know how to roll a roach but I do know that weed, in some people, can create psychosis. Or worsen psychosis in a person already dealing with that condition. Issa was the former and it turned deadly to him. Knowing all that he did while locked up. The sex, for instance, made me want to stop the book. How could a hospital ket this go on to patient/person of power relationships go on for there lengths? But I went on to hear this book out literally since I listened to this book through the audiobook. The text can be enriching at times but then becomes too wordy and try hard to impress the reader. The book focused more on how the staff treated Issa rather than what therapy was like when regarding day to day therapy unless I had something to do with scandal or whatever report knocking Issa down. Overall I was drawn in by being in a hospital for such an extended time but left with a somewhat satisfied listen to. Wish more about the day was like- like therapies throughout the day- but ended p being okay with how it panned out.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mike Kelly

    I was interested this mainly because I am an artist and have bipolar, and have an interest in outsider art, although I would classify my art as outsideresque not pure outsider. He’s a very talented artist, although not my cup of tea, and he admits his twisted pop art is not outsider at all, I agree. Even so the parts about art and the living museum were the most interesting part of the book, along with his bohemian swinging parents. His psychosis I didn’t find that interesting other than the cri I was interested this mainly because I am an artist and have bipolar, and have an interest in outsider art, although I would classify my art as outsideresque not pure outsider. He’s a very talented artist, although not my cup of tea, and he admits his twisted pop art is not outsider at all, I agree. Even so the parts about art and the living museum were the most interesting part of the book, along with his bohemian swinging parents. His psychosis I didn’t find that interesting other than the crime; as long as he wasn’t smoking, he was not only ok, but highly successful artist in the hospital, and seemed to have no problem getting sex (seems lots of it described in detail) drugs and money on the inside with seemingly numerous jaunts to the outside. He didn’t suffer any kind of abuse as far as I could tell, didn’t seem to suffer much at all other than obvious guilt, but even then, tepid it seemed. He is also an intelligent articulate good looking guy, and arrogant by his own volition. Kind of perfect except the occasional completely avoidable psychosis (don’t smoke don’t run amok) But the crime, the different aspects of the insanity plea, were actually interesting. Mostly I found the book too ISSA-centric, he didn’t seem to have much empathy for the other patients or the staff, described more like cartoon characters. In the end I didn’t find him very likable, or cared much about his ‘struggle’ to get released, which prevented me from liking the book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Keeley

    I received this one from NetGalley for review. I have really mixed feelings about this one. I did really enjoy the writing style, but had some difficulty with the content. I'm finding that I'm not a huge fan of memoirs so this one may not be receiving a totally fair review from me. The Hospital Always Wins is a reflection on Issa Ibrahim's life growing up in a household full of both music and marijuana use as well as his time spent in psychiatric facilities after being found not guilty by reason I received this one from NetGalley for review. I have really mixed feelings about this one. I did really enjoy the writing style, but had some difficulty with the content. I'm finding that I'm not a huge fan of memoirs so this one may not be receiving a totally fair review from me. The Hospital Always Wins is a reflection on Issa Ibrahim's life growing up in a household full of both music and marijuana use as well as his time spent in psychiatric facilities after being found not guilty by reason of insanity (not the exact words but he was able to use an insanity plea) after killing his mother. He had a traumatic childhood which definitely can't be ignored when looking into what led him to where he ended up and that is something that the author also attempts to reckon with throughout the book. He is frequently blamed for his behavior while also excused for it because of the power differentials that exist between him and the other people involved. I didn't love this one and at times it made me really uncomfortable. Had it been a fiction novel I think I would have an easier time rating it, but since it's supposed to be a true account of what the author experienced I have to change my rating system and I'm apparently not good at that. If you're interested in reading memoirs about mental health issues, I would definitely recommend this one.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    Not really sure what I think about this book...Am I supposed to feel bad for a pot addicted murderer, who can't follow any of the rules of the institution he is in? Is he special and doesn't have to follow them because he is a talented artist? He ruined two staff members careers... although they definitely hold responsibility in their decisions, but the way this is written it sounds like we should sympathize with him for trashing the lives of people who were interested in helping him. At one tim Not really sure what I think about this book...Am I supposed to feel bad for a pot addicted murderer, who can't follow any of the rules of the institution he is in? Is he special and doesn't have to follow them because he is a talented artist? He ruined two staff members careers... although they definitely hold responsibility in their decisions, but the way this is written it sounds like we should sympathize with him for trashing the lives of people who were interested in helping him. At one time he was diagnosed with narcissistic disorder and seemed to have an issue with that and other diagnoses. Seems to me to be pretty accurate because the only person he seems to care about is himself. I must say that the book is well written and interesting, but I am not feeling bad for someone because they got a not guilty plea by reason of insanity plea and had to spend time in the psychiatric hospital. Especially someone who left a trail of destruction behind him everywhere he went...but oh yeah he was a talented artist soooo....It concerns me that this person is on the streets. And I must admit it troubles me that he seems to be capitalizing off of the murder of his mother.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Karin Mika

    Although Ibrahim tells the all too familiar tale of a flawed mental health system, I found him to be somewhat personally repugnant. He seemed not only directly responsible for most of his own problems, but somewhat unapologetically so. If there was something to feel sorry for in his situation and the things that occurred because of what he blamed as his flawed decision-making process, he made it tremendously difficult for me to feel any sorrow at all for him. It's not that he didn't "claim" to f Although Ibrahim tells the all too familiar tale of a flawed mental health system, I found him to be somewhat personally repugnant. He seemed not only directly responsible for most of his own problems, but somewhat unapologetically so. If there was something to feel sorry for in his situation and the things that occurred because of what he blamed as his flawed decision-making process, he made it tremendously difficult for me to feel any sorrow at all for him. It's not that he didn't "claim" to feel badly about things that had occurred, but it sure didn't seem as though he accepted much responsibility at all. His lack of self-awareness and ability to hurt so many others emotionally was rather alarming. The book was also hard to follow chronologically as it leaped from the present to past. I feel sorry for anyone with mental problems, and know that the mental health treatment facilities are horrific, but Ibrahim came off as a smug, arrogant, selfish, prick.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ann237

    Hoopla Library First this book is heavy on the foul language, explicit sexual description & drugs. With that said, the author tells the story of his life in a mental institution after a crime, and his fight to be able to leave the institution. He shares freely all the things he and others did, that was far from protocol for both patients and staff. the actions of the staff in this facility was far from therapeutic. Sadly I have heard nightmare incidents about other places people go for help. Som Hoopla Library First this book is heavy on the foul language, explicit sexual description & drugs. With that said, the author tells the story of his life in a mental institution after a crime, and his fight to be able to leave the institution. He shares freely all the things he and others did, that was far from protocol for both patients and staff. the actions of the staff in this facility was far from therapeutic. Sadly I have heard nightmare incidents about other places people go for help. Some have gone in for a voluntary admission, while others are done court order. I believe that depending on the type of mental health place plays a huge difference on the actions of the staff. But many seem to forget not everyone is insane. Some are very smart & regular people who just are experiencing a tough time. But behavior of some can be down right awful. It is sad that from the time he was a patient it seems somethings never change.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I picked up this book because memoirs are one of my favorite genres to read, and because I have known many people caught up in the mental health hospital system. I was interested to learn Issa's story as an insanity plea patient, and I found the book interesting enough to finish, but the way that it was written was at first a little hard to follow, and had way too much to do with the patient/author's womanizing/sex life for my taste in a book. Issa seems to teeter between feeling bad for the way I picked up this book because memoirs are one of my favorite genres to read, and because I have known many people caught up in the mental health hospital system. I was interested to learn Issa's story as an insanity plea patient, and I found the book interesting enough to finish, but the way that it was written was at first a little hard to follow, and had way too much to do with the patient/author's womanizing/sex life for my taste in a book. Issa seems to teeter between feeling bad for the way he has led his life and blaming everything that has ever happened to him on someone or something else. It's possible that this itself is a symptom of illness, but I found him and his writing a little too narcissistic to enjoy reading the book. The writing itself flows well, though. Thus, I'm going with goodreads' 2 stars - "it was ok."

  21. 5 out of 5

    Candra Hodge

    Inside look into the mind of a schizophrenic and a mental hospital As a psychiatric nurse, I was intrigued by what this book could offer me and I was not let down. This book is a great inside look into the rationale of a schizophrenic. It is also a look into the negative side of mental health treatment. I do wish the book was written more chronologically, however.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    A memoir fan, this book was very interesting to me. Sad, disturbing at times, overall educational to me.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    eye opening read. this was not a page turner, but I learned a lot about the interaction between the Justice system and mental health system. there's a lot of sexual acts in this story.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    The take-away for me was that marijuana can actually trigger psychosis and schizophrenia in some people. Very well written and pretty horrifying.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Leslie McRobbie

    I enjoyed the content of this novel but greatly disliked the narrative structure. It felt jostled and haphazard, making it an occasionally confusing or jumbled read. There was a great deal of depth of meaning in this but the delivery was, in my opinion, flawed.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Penny Schmuecker

    At a time when we are questioning and re-evaluating mental health services in the US, Issa Ibrahim has written a riveting memoir that details his life both before and after a tragic event resulted in his commission to a New York mental hospital. However, there is much more to the story. From the beginning Ibrahim writes of his loving family, especially his mom, and his permissive upbringing in the 70’s and 80’s. His father, a musician, and his mother, a painter, regularly smoked marijuana in thei At a time when we are questioning and re-evaluating mental health services in the US, Issa Ibrahim has written a riveting memoir that details his life both before and after a tragic event resulted in his commission to a New York mental hospital. However, there is much more to the story. From the beginning Ibrahim writes of his loving family, especially his mom, and his permissive upbringing in the 70’s and 80’s. His father, a musician, and his mother, a painter, regularly smoked marijuana in their home and in the presence of Issa and his siblings and it wasn’t uncommon that they would have parties where marijuana was readily available. However, Issa preferred to concentrate on his artistic abilities and didn’t join in with the rest of the family until the death of his father when he started smoking marijuana heavily as a means of coping with grief. Two years later, Mr. Ibrahim writes that he has an addiction but he rationalized his usage by saying to himself, “Well, at least I’m not doing crack or some other shit.” At the time his drug use was increasing, he began exhibiting signs of schizophrenia and Issa points out that “it’s not cannabis use by itself, but that cannabis consumption interacts with the genetic susceptibility to schizophrenia.” And so, undiagnosed and smoking marijuana frequently, Issa commits a single regrettable and unspeakable act and pleads insanity. He is committed to a mental hospital where sentences are ambiguous and there is a different set of rules. His release always seems to be the carrot that dangles in front of his nose and just when he thinks he is about to be released, he learns there is another reason for him to remain. It should be said that Mr. Ibrahim has always taken responsibility for his behavior. His story is enlightening and he is a strong voice for those who’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness. Thanks to the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for allowing me to read an ARC. I would highly recommend this memoir.

  27. 4 out of 5

    The Book Girl

    Mental illness has affected my life in many ways. My mother has schizophrenia so when I was this book was avaliable for review I need to give it a chance. This book is perfect for the time. We are currently evaluating and fighting for change with the United States mental health services. This memoir is a sad and riveting tale that shows the devastating affects of the lack of mental illness services in this country. The memoir follows Issa Ibrahim life both before and after a horrible event that Mental illness has affected my life in many ways. My mother has schizophrenia so when I was this book was avaliable for review I need to give it a chance. This book is perfect for the time. We are currently evaluating and fighting for change with the United States mental health services. This memoir is a sad and riveting tale that shows the devastating affects of the lack of mental illness services in this country. The memoir follows Issa Ibrahim life both before and after a horrible event that causes him to be admitted into New York's mental hospital. In the beginning of this story we are told about his lovely family, wonderful upbringing and interesting parenting skills of his family. The story get more tragic as the pages turn. About two years later, he writes about an addiction that he has. He uses justifications of not doing harder drugs and begins to exhibt signs of schizophrenia. He feels like there is a link between him using marijuana and his mental illness. I am unsure if this is the case and not sure how I feel about this. Ultimately he commits a horrible act and pleads insanity like many people do. He is committed to a mental hospital to carry out his sentence that frankly is borderline unfair in my opinion. The state of his sentence was rather ambiguous and open ended. They play around with him being able to be released. While I feel like he did take some responsibility for his behavior and actions. I feel like he plays the victim a bit much. There was a bit of a pitty party and sort of undermines people that have been diagnosed with mental illness. Thank you so much for sharing your story Issa Ibrahim. I was provided a free copy from Chicago Review Press for an honest and unbiased review.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

    The story of Issa Ibrahim could easily have been mine. If I'd been a little more violent. A little more heavy handed with the chemicals. A little more black-in-America (not a thing to discount). It makes it hard to write this. I've been threatened with being sent to Creedmore more times than I like to remember. Sometimes, I wish I had been. Most of the time, I'm not that crazy. Creedmore has been broken (and breaking) almost since it's inception. It hasn't been more than a warehouse for the insa The story of Issa Ibrahim could easily have been mine. If I'd been a little more violent. A little more heavy handed with the chemicals. A little more black-in-America (not a thing to discount). It makes it hard to write this. I've been threatened with being sent to Creedmore more times than I like to remember. Sometimes, I wish I had been. Most of the time, I'm not that crazy. Creedmore has been broken (and breaking) almost since it's inception. It hasn't been more than a warehouse for the insane in living memory. Part of me assumes they're making it better, the realistic part of me cynically wonders how much better a modern oubliette can get. This is the story of a man who fell off the edge, and then was held there by the very people who were supposed to help him up. Day to day reminiscences of life on the ward, interposed with vignettes of a youth somehow gone horribly, horribly wrong. In the end he made his own way out of the hole, through art, music and a clumsily chosen form of medication. The writing is colloquial in nature, and never gets as graphic regarding patient treatment in the notorious hospital, although he frequently hammers on about the under-educated and callous staff. He focuses more on the experience, as opposed to the aspects of treatment and diagnosis. Overall I think this makes a good contribution to the literature on Psych Hospitalization, as a patient's view is usually depicted through their treatment, not their everyday life. Besides, now I know if I ever do get tossed in Creedmore, I can order pizza. Note: See the author/artist's work at http://issaibrahim.com/blog/

  29. 5 out of 5

    Anissa

    This memoir was deeply disturbing. The author grew up in a home rife with chaos and a large family of siblings and parents that partied and smoked marijuana together. Issa Ibrahim grew up in a neighborhood plagued with crack and was working hard to better his life. His West Indian family ignored his cries for help to see a psychiatrist or psychologist when he asked. He eventually began to smoke marijuana to self-medicate and quiet the voices in his head. In a fit of psychosis he saw his mother a This memoir was deeply disturbing. The author grew up in a home rife with chaos and a large family of siblings and parents that partied and smoked marijuana together. Issa Ibrahim grew up in a neighborhood plagued with crack and was working hard to better his life. His West Indian family ignored his cries for help to see a psychiatrist or psychologist when he asked. He eventually began to smoke marijuana to self-medicate and quiet the voices in his head. In a fit of psychosis he saw his mother as a demon and killed her. He then spends years in a mental institution for the criminally insane and continues to exhibit dysfunctional behavior, having an inappropriate relationship with a nurse and his psychologist. Both women were fired but it does cause the reader to wonder why the patient was blamed for his behavior considering that he is supposed to be protected from this predatory behavior of the women. He is in an institution in which he is declared criminally insane and is therefore unable to consent. He is a poor uneducated black male and is America’s worst nightmare. Like a flower through the rocks, the author still manages to survive and thrive, creating beautiful pieces of art and music. It causes one to wonder if he would have gotten better help if his family had not equated mental illness with demons. His mother never deserved to die; her life was ended to soon. If he received the medical attention he desperately deserved instead of seeing holistic healers and being ignored his mother might have still been alive. Issa Ibrahim’s life may have taken a very different turn.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    I felt myself going back and forth about this book. At times, I really enjoyed it and others, I found myself drifting off and not paying a lot of attention to what I was reading. This is a memoir about Issa, who is raised by parents, while both into the arts, also like to partake in some Mary Jane every once in awhile. Ok, who are we kidding? They smoke ALOT. It seems to be a habit that most of the family seems to pick up although Issa is more reluctant than most. From here we are told the story I felt myself going back and forth about this book. At times, I really enjoyed it and others, I found myself drifting off and not paying a lot of attention to what I was reading. This is a memoir about Issa, who is raised by parents, while both into the arts, also like to partake in some Mary Jane every once in awhile. Ok, who are we kidding? They smoke ALOT. It seems to be a habit that most of the family seems to pick up although Issa is more reluctant than most. From here we are told the story of how he ended up first in a psychiatric center, then prison, and finally in Creedmoor Psych Center for 19 years and his journey with mental illness and the treatment he receives while there, which more often than not is by people that are not qualified or in a profession fit for them. The writing goes between past and present and I didn't mind this at all and it didn't affect my reading or understanding the story. I never found myself confused between settings either. I can't say that there's a lot I didn't like. I think I was just left with wanting more. Possibly more details about rehabilitation and some of the other patient's stories about how they came to be in this hospital. I understand this story is about Issa but I just felt something missing. If he happens to do some more writing, I would definitely be interested in picking it up! 3.5/5 stars.

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