|Basic InformationMore InformationLatest NewsQuestions and AnswersLinksBook Reviews|100 Things Guys Need to Know3 NBS of Julian DrewA Guide to Asperger SyndromeA Tribe ApartA User Guide to the GF/CF Diet for Autism, Asperger Syndrome and AD/HDA Walk in the Rain With a BrainAdolescence and Body ImageAdolescent DepressionAfterAggression and Antisocial Behavior in Children and AdolescentsAll Alone in the UniverseAmelia RulesAmericaAnother PlanetAntisocial Behavior in Children and AdolescentsArtemis FowlAssessment and Treatment of Childhood Problems, Second EditionAutistic Spectrum DisordersBad GirlBetween Two WorldsBeyond AppearanceBeyond Diversity DayBig Mouth & Ugly GirlBill HensonBipolar DisordersBody Image, Eating Disorders, and ObesityBody Image, Eating Disorders, and Obesity in YouthBoyBoysBrandedBreaking PointBreathing UnderwaterBringing Up ParentsBullying and TeasingCan't Eat, Won't EatCatalystChild and Adolescent Psychological DisordersChildren Changed by TraumaChildren with Emerald EyesChildren’s Dreaming and the Development of Consciousness City of OneConcise Guide to Child and Adolescent PsychiatryConquering the Beast WithinContentious IssuesCrackedCutDancing in My NuddypantsDemystifying the Autistic ExperienceDescartes' BabyDilemmas of DesireDirtyDoing ItDoing SchoolDying to Be ThinEating an ArtichokeEducating Children With AutismElijah's CupEllison the ElephantEmerald City BluesEmotional and Behavioral Problems of Young ChildrenEvery Girl Tells a StoryFast GirlsFeather BoyFiregirlForever YoungFreaks, Geeks and Asperger SyndromeFreewillGeography ClubGeorgia Under WaterGirl in the MirrorGirlfightingGirlsourceGirlWiseGLBTQGood GirlsGoodbye RuneGranny Torrelli Makes SoupGrowing Up GirlHandbook for BoysHealing ADDHeartbeatHelping Children Cope With Disasters and TerrorismHelping Parents, Youth, and Teachers Understand Medications for Behavioral and Emotional ProblemsHollow KidsHow Children Learn the Meanings of WordsHow to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble and What to Do If You Can'tHug MeIntrusive ParentingIt's Me!It's Perfectly NormalJake RileyJoey Pigza Swallowed the KeyJuvenile-Onset SchizophreniaKeeping the MoonKilling MonstersKim: Empty InsideKnocked Out by My Nunga-NungasLaura Numeroff's 10-Step Guide to Living with Your MonsterLearning About School ViolenceLeo the Lightning BugLet Kids Be KidsLiberation's ChildrenLife As We Know ItLisa, Bright and DarkLittle ChicagoLord of the FliesLoserLove and SexLove That DogManicMastering Anger and AggressionMind FieldsMiss American PieMom, Dad, I'm Gay.MonsterMore Than a LabelMyths of ChildhoodNew Hope for Children and Teens with Bipolar DisorderNo Two AlikeNot Much Just Chillin'Odd Girl OutOdd Girl Speaks OutOn the Frontier of AdulthoodOne Hot SecondOne in ThirteenOphelia SpeaksOphelia's MomOur Journey Through High Functioning Autism and Asperger SyndromeOut of the DustOvercoming School AnxietyParenting and the Child's WorldParenting Your Out-Of-Control TeenagerPediatric PsychopharmacologyPeriod PiecesPhobic and Anxiety Disorders in Children and AdolescentsPINSPraising Boys WellPraising Girls WellPretty in PunkPrincess in the SpotlightProblem Child or Quirky Kid?Psychotherapy As PraxisPsychotherapy for Children and AdolescentsRaising a Self-StarterRaising BlazeRaising Resilient ChildrenReclaiming Our ChildrenRedressing the EmperorReducing Adolescent RiskRethinking ADHDReweaving the Autistic TapestryRineke DijkstraRitalin is Not the Answer Action GuideRunning on RitalinSay YesSexual Teens, Sexual MediaSexuality in AdolescenceShooterShort PeopleShould I Medicate My Child?Skin GameSmackSmashedStaying Connected to Your TeenagerStick FigureStoner & SpazStop Arguing with Your KidsStraight Talk about Your Child's Mental HealthStrong, Smart, & BoldStudent DepressionSurvival Strategies for Parenting Children with Bipolar DisorderSurviving OpheliaTaking Charge of ADHD, Revised EditionTaming the Troublesome ChildTargeting AutismTeaching Problems and the Problems of TeachingTeen Angst? NaaahThat SummerThe American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook Of Child And Adolescent PsychiatryThe Arctic IncidentThe Bipolar ChildThe Buffalo TreeThe Bully, the Bullied, and the BystanderThe Carnivorous CarnivalThe Depressed ChildThe Developing MindThe Dragons of AutismThe Dream BearerThe Dulcimer Boy The Einstein SyndromeThe EpidemicThe Eternity CubeThe Explosive ChildThe Field of the DogsThe First IdeaThe Identity TrapThe Inside Story on Teen GirlsThe Little TernThe Mean Girl MotiveThe Men They Will BecomeThe Myth of LazinessThe New Gay TeenagerThe Notebook GirlsThe Nurture AssumptionThe Opposite of InvisibleThe Order of the Poison OakThe Other ParentThe Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday LifeThe Real Truth About Teens and SexThe Rise and Fall of the American TeenagerThe Secret Lives of GirlsThe Sex Lives of TeenagersThe Shared HeartThe Spider and the BeeThe StepsThe Thought that CountsThe Unhappy ChildThe Vile VillageThe Whole ChildThen Again, Maybe I Won'tTherapy with ChildrenThings I Have to Tell YouTouching Spirit BearTrauma in the Lives of ChildrenTreacherous LoveTrue BelieverTwistedUnhappy TeenagersWay to Be!We're Not MonstersWhat about the KidsWhat Would Joey Do?What's Happening to My Body? Book for BoysWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for GirlsWhen Nothing Matters AnymoreWhen Sex Goes to SchoolWhen Your Child Has an Eating DisorderWhere The Kissing Never StopsWhose America?Why Are You So Sad?WinnicottWorried All the TimeYes, Your Teen Is Crazy!You Hear MeYoung People and Mental HealthYour Child, Bully or Victim?
by Francine Cournos
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Nov 12th 2002
Francine Cournos memoir of her
life focuses mainly on her childhood and the effects the loss of her parents
had on her. She was born in the 1940s, with
an older brother and a younger sister; her family lived in the South Bronx, and
her father died unexpectedly when she was three. Her mother developed breast cancer and endured many surgeries,
but her health degenerated until she died when Couros was just eleven.
Couros has surprisingly vivid
memories of her childhood. After her
fathers death, her mother never talked about him. Her mothers family all lived in the local neighborhood, and her
mothers parents moved in with them for a better financial situation. But after only two years, her Grandpa died
too. Couros whole childhood seemed to
be filled with unexplained and swift disappearances, and it is understandable how
this could have made her fearful about her future. She describes her relationship with her mother in detail, and
remembers how her mother kept working right through her illness, giving herself
injections, breathing hard.
Of course, Couros received little
explanation when her mother died, and she was the one who eventually had to
explain to her little sister that their mother had died. The children stayed living with their
grandma, but the old woman was not able or willing to keep up the
responsibility. Within two years, the
children were separated, and the family put Cournos and her sister into foster
care. She reflects with amazement that
her family was ready to do this, and it is no surprise that she feels somewhat
bitter about their action. Her new
foster mother was Erma, and Cournos had a stormy relationship with her. They lived in Lynbrook, Long Island, and her
foster father Jack commuted to work in Queens.
Cournos was close to her sister but became distant from her
brother. Once she went to college, she
virtually lost touch with her siblings for many years.
When she left high school for City
College, located in Harlem, Cournos soon moved into her own apartment. She had always been an excellent student,
and she knew she wanted to become a doctor.
She achieved her ambition despite the sexism of the profession and the very
few women in medical school. She married at 23 but was divorced within a few
years. Eventually she became a
psychiatrist. Although she peppers her
narrative of her past with scenes from her future, seeing patients who remind
her of her former self, she says little about her profession. She does say that she felt a sort of
communion with her patients, and would be exhausted by their emotional
problems. Nevertheless, she was drawn
to care for the sickest, poorest patients whom other psychiatrists were often
uninterested in, and when she was in a position of power, she fought hard for
those in her care.
After a period on her own, Cournos
married and had a child. Her life
became stable and fulfilled. Yet when
her daughter was not yet two, Cournos developed a deep depression. She went into psychotherapy, and her
therapist suggested that she eventually felt safe enough to let herself feel
the anger, fear and sadness she was not allowed to express as a child. Her depression lasted less than a year, leaving
one day in the middle of winter in 1980 one of the few welcome sudden
disappearances in her life. A couple of
years later she went into prolonged psychoanalysis, which she found very
helpful, helping a sense of inner peace.
But she still dreaded the return of summers, which brought on unhappy
memories of losses, and traveling to unfamiliar locations. After eight years she also started taking
Prozac, and it took her a long time to find the optimal dosage. Her fears decreased and her psychoanalysis
became richer. Furthermore, her dread
of fantasized disasters virtually stopped.
Even the anniversary day of her mothers death became an opportunity for
her to celebrate her mothers life.
City of One is written well,
and in compressing many facts into a short narrative, it has an admirable
terseness. It would have been
interesting to know more about Cournos view of the mental profession and the
trends and changes over the last decades, but she says enough for the reader to
be able to at least have a sense of her views.
The great strength of the book is to highlight her experience as an
orphan and the way she suffered as a result of her larger familys ineptitude
in taking good care of her. As she
points out in her Prologue, it is more common these days for children to lose
both parents than it was when she was a child, and so there is much to learn
from her memoir. Recommended.
© 2002 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.
Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island.
He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on
philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested in exploring
how philosophers can play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help
foster communication between philosophers, mental health professionals, and the