A Mind Apart: Travels in a Neurodiverse World

A Mind ApartThis beautifully written exploration of “the unusual abilities of those who are differently wired” (Psychology Today) received a Ken Book Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness for outstanding literary contribution to the world of mental health.

In this fascinating literary memoir, Susanne Antonetta draws on her personal experience as a manic-depressive, as well as interviews with people with multiple personality disorder, autism, and other neurological conditions, to form an intimate meditation on mental “disease.” She traces the many capabilities–the visual consciousness of an autistic, for example, or the metaphoric consciousness of a manic-depressive–that underlie these and other mental “disabilities.”

A stunning portrait of how the world shapes itself in minds that are profoundly different from the norm, A Mind Apart urges readers to look beyond the concept of cures to the gifts inherent in many neuroatypical conditions. Employing a wide-ranging approach to her subject, Antonetta provides a rare glimpse into the wildly varying landscapes of human thought, perception, and emotion.

Awards

  • Winner of the 2006 NAMI/Ken Johnson Award

Reviews

As inventive and full of mischief and deep feeling as Diane Ackerman, as adept at translating experience into life lessons as Anne Lamott, and an excellent adjunct to Oliver Sacks, Antonetta fashions an intriguingly meandering narrative as she describes her atypical neurological experiences . . . Once again, Antonetta alters our perception of ourselves and our place in the biosphere as she makes unexpected connections, traverses rarely charted territory, articulates provocative observations, and leaves readers pondering a startling question, is neurodiversity as essential to life as biodiversity?

—Booklist, starred review

“It would be strange,” writes Susanne Antonetta in A Mind Apart, “if something like the human leg — if it were born sometimes two, sometimes eight, sometimes clawed, sometimes toed — showed the same variation as consciousness.” As Antonetta, a poet with manic-depressive disorder, explores in this book, minds are formed in many ways, some of which have been deemed illnesses — autism, attention deficit disorder and so forth. While not rejecting the drugs “that tether me to your world,” she argues that “the word cure is the wrong word, and that we must begin to respect the mental processes of the individual, think in terms of helping to get the gifts to emerge while the challenges become as manageable as they can.” But A Mind Apart isn’t a polemic, it’s a “bipolar book . . . alinear, associational,” in which Antonetta wonders how anyone could “resist the lusciousness of others’ minds, moving around us, with us, all the time, like a gallery of veiled art?”

—The Washington Post

On the eve of an era when the genetic eradication of multiple-personality disorder, manic depression, Tourette’s, and autism has become a real possibility, Antonetta not only warns us against a world impoverished by the absence of the future Van Goghs, O’Keeffes, Virginia Woolfs, and William Blakes, she suggests that given the slipperiness of consciousness, and the fine lines between creativity, adaptability and madness, the rest of us may not be as neurotypical as we think.

—Pam Houston, O: The Oprah Magazine

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