Maria Katsonis is the child of Greek migrant parents. She spent her whole life being a high achiever, for herself and to make up for her parent's sacrifice in coming to Australia. At 39 she decides on a public service career and is accepted into a prestigious Masters program at Harvard University. Fast forward five years later and she is diagnosed with clinical depression and is a psychiatric patient.
Maria's story is particularly poignant as it shows everyone is vulnerable to being a victim of a mental illness. All that it takes is that the pressure of life is turned up too high, a few too many of life's curve balls, and the floodgates crumble.
i was humbled by Maria's honesty in writing about her life, her illness, and her acceptance of this new identity as a sufferer of a chronic mental illness. One in five people will be diagnosed with a mental illness in their lifetime and we need more people with Maria's bravery to share their stories and demystify this condition.
Ramona Koval always suspected that the man who raised her was not her biological father. At 45 years of age she embarks on a journey to find out the true story of her parentage, a journey that would take over a decade and many twists and turns.
Her parents are both survivors of the Holocaust. Ramona's mother died before she could share her story, and before she formulated the questions for her identity, and her relationship with her father was always fraught.
This memoir has been likened to a detective novel and I have to agree. Ramona shares her many false starts and searches for leads, and is very honest about her emotional reactions. Her acerbic wit made me laugh out loud a few times. This is a memoir about the way that the past shapes future generations, that to know who we are we need to know what came before. In her own words:
"We need our stories: they are the way we learn about the world, and the way we pass on what we learn to those who come after us. We are always looking for a plausible story, one that might fit the meagre facts, as they do in courts of law--never really able to know the whole truth but finding the most likely explanation, the most convincing thread."
This memoir shows how life is a mystery, that no matter how hard we want to search for the truth, sometimes we just have to accept that life doesn't give us a neatly packaged ending and the most important thing is for each of us to understand our own story. For Ramona to understand her parents, it means to understand what they were hewn from: the way that their survival from the Holocaust made them who they are, and how this has in turn shaped Ramona's story.
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Amra Pajalić is an award-winning author, an editor and teacher who draws on her Bosnian cultural heritage to write own voices stories for young people, who like her, are searching to mediate their identity and take pride in their diverse culture. She writes memoir, young adult and romance under the pen name Mae Archer.
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