|The Jagged Years of Ruthie J.|
Winnipeg 1963. Eighteen-year-old psychology student Ruthie J. is the bane of her traditional Jewish family. Briefly married, she drinks, swears, has casual sex and mixes with questionable characters. She also argues incessantly with her father. When a bizarre car accident lands her in court, the confused teen is sent for testing and diagnosed with epilepsy – then considered a mental illness. Against her wishes, Ruthie’s family admits her to a posh Maryland mental hospital, Chestnut Lodge, of I Never Promised You a Rose Garden notoriety. Put in the care of a sadistic psychiatrist who threatens to have her committed for life, the spunky adolescent finds herself at the mercy of an insane institution. Through the friendship and love of her fellow patients and the subsequent help of a remarkable therapist, Ruthie J. frees herself, discovers her true sexual orientation and perseveres in her dream to become a physician. Told with humour and drama, Dr. Ruth Simkin’s memoir The Jagged Years of Ruthie J. is a powerful reading experience that will inspire all who struggle with illness, adversity or sexual identity.
Ruth’s journey through the netherworld of 1960’s psychiatric treatment in a ‘prestigious’ institution is an intensely honest personal memoir and a tribute to her indomitable spirit, nurtured by two steadfast, understanding therapists who refused to allow her to be devoured by an absurd system. As a psychiatrist who lived through this period, I think this book is a must for those who aspire to help people in psychological distress.— Phyllis Goldin, M.D.
Born in Winnipeg,
Manitoba, Dr. Ruth Simkin practiced family medicine for several decades
and subsequently became a specialist in palliative care. She has studied
in Canada, the US, Israel, China, England and Russia. She is the author
of medical articles on women’s health as well as Like an Orange
on a Seder Plate, a feminist Passover Haggadah. Retired from medicine,
she now lives and writes in Victoria, BC where she shares a home with
her animal companion Reenie.
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