In the final months of 2015, my much-beloved partner of eleven years, Jason, was the victim of two brutal attacks. After the second, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In August 2019, after a failed attempt to check him into a behavioral health crisis center, we realized that our mental health and our relationship weren’t improving. They were eroding, close to collapse.
I am an academic and an investigative journalist. When faced with an existential threat or deep question, I research. I write. I read books. After the failed hospitalization, I took a break from regular journalism (I usually focus on technology and social justice) and challenged myself to learn more about PTSD. In PTSD Bookclub, I share my journey through great books about trauma and its aftermath.
Starting April 2021, I’ll re-read the twelve books that most helped me cope: provided a crucial new insight, made me feel seen and validated, or simply offered hope and courage. I’ll read a book a month, posting weekly short reflections on the book’s most resonant contributions, insights drawn from my own experience, interviews and related research.
I hope that we’ll develop ways to interact and discuss your experience, too, as the series unfolds.* I know I’m not alone! Eight million people in the United States are currently diagnosed with PTSD, and at least eight million more are supporting, loving, and caregiving, accompanying their suffering loved ones the best they can. The worst part of my journey was feeling isolated — like I was the only person in the trauma whirlwind. I hope this project helps you feel a little less alone.
Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five [April 2021]
- Slaughterhouse-Five, Part 1: Trauma Time
- Slaughterhouse-Five, Part 2: The Tyranny of Generosity
- The Space between Books: Kurt Vonnegut, Meet Micaiah Johnson
- Slaughterhouse-Five, Part 3: The Blind Innkeeper
Pat Barker, Regeneration [May-June 2021]
- PTSD Bookclub: Introducing *Regeneration*
- Regeneration, Part 2: Non-traums
- Regeneration, Part 3: The Male Mothers of Trauma
- Regeneration, Pt 4: Explosive and Erosive Trauma
Mac McClelland, Irritable Hearts: A PTSD Love Story [July 2021]
- PTSD Bookclub: Introducing *Irritable Hearts*
- Irritable Hearts, Part 1: Earning the Diagnosis
- Irritable Hearts, Part 2: The Perplexing Language of PTSD
- Irritable Hearts, Part 3: Find the Thing You Won’t Give Up
Terese Marie Mailhot, Heart Berries [August-September 2021]
- PTSD Bookclub: Introducing *Heart Berries*
- Heart Berries, Part 1: PTSD Mouth
- Heart Berries, Part 2: Loyalty to Monsters
David Morris, The Evil Hours: A Biography of PTSD [October 2021]
Shaili Jain, The Unspeakable Mind: Stories of Trauma and Healing from the Frontlines of PTSD Science [November 2021]
Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma [December 2021]
Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence–From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror [January 2022]
Resmaa Menakem, My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Healing Our Hearts and Bodies [February 2022]
David Wood, What Have We Done? The Moral Injury of Our Longest Wars [March 2022]
Healing and the Future
Zach Norris, We Keep Us Safe: Building Secure, Just, and Inclusive Communities [April 2022]
Staci Haines, The Politics of Trauma: Somatics, Healing, and Social Justice [May 2022]
* While there will be room to talk about the traumas that brought PTSD into our lives, from sexual assault to military service to systemic racism, this space won’t be geared toward peer support or group therapy. There are other great venues for that important work. Check out the Trauma Book Club, the Spouses & Family Members’ PTSD Support Group, or find a PTSD support group through NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness).
If you or anyone you know is in danger or crisis, here is a good list of numbers to call or text or TTY for support: https://autistichoya.net/resources/crisis-resource-list/ (via the indomitable Lydia X. Z. Brown).
If you are a US veteran who needs support, contact the Veterans Crisis Line:
- 1-800-273-8255, press 1
- Send a text to 838255
- Chat online Confidential Veterans Chat