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Reflections on the #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I discussed different book genres/categories. Each day, I gave a few details about the genre/catego...

April 11, 2018

Of Scars & Courage: 10 Stories of Facing Life's Challenges (sponsored by @talkspace)

by Donna Huber

This post is sponsored by TalkSpace which offers on-demand therapy and counseling from licensed therapists on your Android device. Get private and anonymous help for depression, stress, and more.

We know reading can have a number of health benefits. It can help you unwind and de-stress after a long day at work or give you much needed "me time" from dealing with the pressures of taking care of a family. Turning off the television and picking up a book before bed can lead to a better night's sleep. Not to mention, getting lost in a good book can be like taking a mini-vacation.

Books can also be a safe way to explore issues that are difficult to talk about. Many authors have used their writing to share their own experiences with mental health, abuse, and other life challenges. I've selected 10 books that allow you to explore mental illness as well as read stories where authors share their personal experiences.

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden
1. I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Hannah Green and Joanne Greenberg
This is probably one of the first books that I read which really focused on mental illness. I found it so fascinating that I read it several times.

Hailed by The New York Times as "convincing and emotionally gripping" upon its publication in 1964, Joanne Greenberg's semi-autobiographical novel stands as a timeless and unforgettable portrayal of mental illness. Enveloped in the dark inner kingdom of her schizophrenia, sixteen-year-old Deborah is haunted by private tormentors that isolate her from the outside world. With the reluctant and fearful consent of her parents, she enters a mental hospital where she will spend the next three years battling to regain her sanity with the help of a gifted psychiatrist. As Deborah struggles toward the possibility of the "normal" life she and her family hope for, the reader is inexorably drawn into her private suffering and deep determination to confront her demons.

Playing the Genetic Lottery
2. Playing the Genetic Lottery by Terri Morgan
I learned about this book a few years ago when Terri asked me for marketing help. I thought it was a well-researched novel where I often forgot the characters weren't real life people.

The main character is the daughter and sister of schizophrenics. She grew up with a chaotic childhood and as an adult lived in constant fear of one day also developing schizophrenia.

Until I read Playing the Genetic Lottery, I didn't really have an understanding of what it would be like for a child to grow up with these circumstances.

22 Scars
3. 22 Scars by C. M. North
Features writer C. M. North has discussed his own battles with depression and how it influences his writing in several of his monthly columns here at Girl Who Reads. 22 Scars is an edgy story focused on a depressed teenage girl who self-harms.

Raised with apathy and spite, Amy’s life is a monotonous drone of deep despair, broken only by coffee and nights out with her best—and only—friend. She battles depression daily, fighting to keep her sanity in a world that, to her, is set on destroying her soul.

Her future is bleak, overcast with shadow and doubt; her past harbors terrible secrets that even those closest to her couldn’t begin to guess. When tragedy strikes someone she holds dear, will she succumb to the crushing weight of despair, or will she find the strength to fight—to live?

An Acre of Fools
4. An Acre of Fools by Aden James
This was a powerful story. Particularly the passages on why there is evil in the world, why bad things happen, and the internal struggle a man has with choosing the right path. An Acre of Fools deals with a number of stresses and fears that parents face.

After battling a long illness, Peter Stewart’s daughter, Austin, finds herself in a nightmarish addiction that thrusts her and her family into a world they never imagined.

As she buries herself deeper and deeper into the narcotics culture of shameless selfishness and deeply personal manipulation, Peter’s unwavering hope for her drives a wedge between him and the less forgiving family members.

But when Austin finally chooses to embrace all that the life of addiction offers, Peter is forced to choose between his faith and a family too broken to hope.

Echoes of Family
5. Echoes of Family by Barbara Claypole White
Barbara Claypole White often writes about mental illness in her novels. In Echoes of Family, the main character struggles with manic depression.

Marianne, spiraling out of control, decides to return to England - where she grew up and where her past secrets are long buried. She feels that if she confronts her past, it may help her future. The first person she meets in the small town she grew up in is Gabriel, her first love. He is now the minister at the local church. She left her husband and daughter behind in North Carolina while she goes to face her demons. While in England, she creates chaos for Gabriel who thought that he wanted and needed to forget her. As her life spirals out of control, she tries to find answers in her past.

Change of Season
6. Change of Season by A. C. Dillon
In Change of Season, Dillon weaves a suspenseful tale that incorporates mental illness and the stuff of urban legends.

What's happening at Casteel Preparatory Academy is more than just school lore. Autumn heads to boarding school to escape from an abusive dating relationship but soon finds herself in the middle of something straight out of a horror flick. Is room 308 truly haunted or is it just another symptom of Autumn's PTSD?

These first 6 books are largely works of fiction, even if inspired by the author's real life. The next four are non-fiction works that share personal stories from the author's life.

Broken Pieces
7. Broken Pieces by Rachel Thompson
Since revealing her own history of sexual abuse, Rachel Thompson has become a strong advocate for victims of sexual assault. She hosts a weekly chat on Twitter, #SexAbuseChat, to help empower and offer healing.

Not easy subjects -- love, loss, sexual abuse, date rape, grief -- but real ones, told in pieces (thus the title). Broken Pieces is a work of non-fiction.

Poetry, prose, and essays to let you into one woman's life -- a searingly raw examination of topics most people avoid.

Broken Places
8. Broken Places by Rachel Thompson
Award-winning author Rachel Thompson courageously confronts the topics of sexual abuse and suicide, love and healing, in her second nonfiction book of prose: Broken Places.

The sequel to Rachel's first nonfiction book, Broken Pieces, Rachel bares her soul in essays, poems, and prose, addressing life's most difficult topics with honesty. As you follow one woman's journey through the dark and into the light, you will find yourself forever changed.

Rachel's first book in this series, Broken Pieces, has been a #1 best seller on Amazon (eBooks) on Women's Poetry and Abuse. Please note: this book discusses serious topics, and is intended for mature audiences only.

9. Neurodiversity by Barb Rentenbach and Lois Prislovsky
Barb Rentenbach is a woman with autism spectrum disorder that renders her mute, and she communicates by typing. Lois Prislovsky is her therapist, and also has ADHD. In Neurodiversity, the authors share personal stories and practical advice.

The authors hope to entertain and educate readers about how different people think and why to encourage us all to lean in to our strengths. Barb and Lois are two characters who are friends and business partners who have two very different skill sets but have found a way to connect and lead joyous and productive lives - not despite of their "disabilities" but because of them.  

The Slave Across the Street
10. The Slave Across the Street by Theresa Flores
I read this memoir about 6 years ago and it was very eye-opening. While I knew sex trafficking occurred in the U.S., it wasn't until I read The Slave Across the Street that I learned victims weren't always kidnapped and hidden away.

In this powerful true story, Theresa Flores shares how her life as an All-American, blue-eyed, blond-haired 15-year-old teenager who could have been your neighbor was enslaved into the dangerous world of sex trafficking while living in an upper-middle class suburb of Detroit. Her story peels the cover off of this horrific criminal activity and gives dedicated activists as well as casual bystanders a glimpse into the underbelly of trafficking. And it all happened while living at home without her parents ever knowing about it. Involuntarily involved in a large underground criminal ring, Ms. Flores endured more as a child than most adults will ever face their entire lives.

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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  1. Many thanks for this marvelous list! I adore reading the books that tell the stories about life challanges. At least, we can observice the characters's experience so that we can learn something through their errors. Thanks again.