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The Art of Misdiagnosis: Surviving My Mother's Suicide
by Gayle Brandeis

Published: 2018-10-16
Paperback : 264 pages
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Gayle Brandeis’ mother disappeared just after Gayle gave birth to her youngest child. Several days later, her body was found: she had taken her own life in a random parking garage.

In this searing, formally inventive memoir, Gayle describes the dissonance between being a new mother, ...

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Introduction

Gayle Brandeis’ mother disappeared just after Gayle gave birth to her youngest child. Several days later, her body was found: she had taken her own life in a random parking garage.

In this searing, formally inventive memoir, Gayle describes the dissonance between being a new mother, a sweet-smelling infant at her chest, and a grieving daughter trying to piece together what happened, who her mother was, and all she had and hadn’t understood about her. The Art of Misdiagnosis delves into the tangled mysteries of disease, mental illness, and suicide and comes out the other side with grace.

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Excerpt

Prologue

DECEMBER 2009

After my mom hangs herself, I become Nancy Drew. I am looking for clues, for evidence. Answers. I put on a detective hat so I won’t have to wear my daughter hat, so I can bear combing through her house. I wrap my new baby to my chest with a bolt of green fabric—my baby born exactly one week before my mom’s death—and recommence the dig. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. What is the mother’s (Arlene) purpose of her art project and documentary film, The Art of Misdiagnosis?

2. Why do you think Brandeis wrote this book?

3. Who is the main character of this memoir?

4. Is Gayle a sympathetic character? Is Arlene? Who is the most sympathetic character in the book?

5. There is a healing scene fairly early on (in Bali) and then another toward the end with the character/friend Celia. What are the significance of these scenes (especially the last one)?

6. What is the central question of this one? Does the book answer it?

7. Did this book inspire you to think about suicide or suicide loss in a new way? How is suicide loss different from other forms of loss?

8. Brandeis writes in her acknowledgements that her sister, Elizabeth, gave her blessing to the writing of this book. If you were to write such a book, would your family give their blessing? Would you give yours?

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