Recovery in the Media: #38. January First

January First

This book, told by the father of a schizophrenic daughter, is honest and eye-opening.

38. January First by Michael Schofield

When I picked up the book January First, I did not know what to expect. To be honest, I almost sent it back to the library several times without reading it. The cover did not appeal to me (yes, we do sometimes judge books by their covers unfortunately), and I have little time to read with school. However, something made me keep it. After reading it, I am so thankful for giving it a chance. From the first page, the book held me captive and entranced. Many reviews for this book hated Michael Schofield’s response to his daughter as chronicled in January First, but it touched me deeply. As it addresses schizophrenia, this seemed like the right choice for Media Monday even if it has some controversy attached.

Synopsis: January was always a special girl. Her imaginary pets controlled her, temper tantrums made her uncontrollable, and her intellect soared far above the average three-year-old. However, Michael Schofield was proud of his daughter and believed her simply highly creative and smart. If only his wife and he could find other children like her, everything would be fine. This book is the true story of how Michael helped his young daughter through schizophrenia while trying to hold his family together.

Recovery Pluses: Whether or not you agree with how the Schofields try to care for their daughter, it is clear how much they love her and wanted to do the best thing for their family. Throughout the book, Michael and his wife give up so much trying to keep their family together and find a way to help January. Although it took a great deal of heartbreak and agony, the right diagnosis and treatment for this little girl finally were found. There are people who will fight for helping others. Reading this book reminded me of that fact.

Another great aspect of this book is the light that it sheds on mental illness especially schizophrenia. This is not something just in a person’s head; it is a dangerous and painful thing. Hearing all of the difficulty that the Schofields had getting January the right help is awful, but it makes other aware that something needs to change. Also schizophrenia is often stereotyped and  misunderstood. I learned so much by reading January First with an open mind. Our care for mentally ill children and adults needs to change as does our society’s perception of them.

Cautions: There is some strong language in the book as well as some cringe-worthy violence. Several times, suicide attempts are described. However, all of this illustrates the honest life of raising a child with schizophrenia. Nothing is sugar-coated or made simple. This is the cold, hard truth.  Teenagers and adults would be the most suitable audience for this book.

Reading January First riveted me. Some parts reminded me of my own parents and their struggle to care for me. The Schofields made mistakes in their raising of January as all parents do. However, this is an incredible novel of their desperate search to understand and care for their beloved daughter. Even if you dislike their responses, there is something to be gained from understanding how the family is impacted by mental illness. I suggest reading this with an open mind to learn about schizophrenia and other mental illness.

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