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On KKZZ, Author Calls Mentally Ill Sister “Heart and Soul” of Family Memoir
On KKZZ radio in California, author John Paul Godges credited his sister, who has struggled with paranoid schizophrenia for more than 40 years, as being “the single most important reason why we have remained united and indivisible as a family.”
“If it weren’t for my sister Geri,” the author elaborated in his mid-December interview, “my family would have probably split apart and gone their own separate ways a long, long time ago. But we were blessed with having her in our family, because she taught us, from day one, the importance of learning to love someone whom, at first, you can understand the least. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that she is the one who has taught us how to love one another. I think that is the heart and soul of the book.”
Billy the Brain noted that the Godges family memoir, Oh, Beautiful: An American Family in the 20th Century, weaves together “really disparate family members, including immigrant laborers, religious conservatives, gays and lesbians, athletes, hippies, veterans, everything. But in the end, the least among them shall lead. And you chose a mentally ill character in your book as the unifying force in the story.”
The irony goes beyond the immediate family, said Godges. “You know, there’s an awful lot of intolerance in our society against those who are mentally ill. I’m hoping that one of the things my book can accomplish is that it could reduce the horrible stigma that we still see against those in our society who are suffering with mental illness.”
“I think anybody who does pick up your book and read it will get that sense and overcome the stigma, just by reading about the powerful character of your sister Geri,” concluded Billy the Brain.
In other segments of the interview, the author and radio host discussed the 2000 U.S. presidential election, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, individualism, communitarianism, generational patterns in American society, the intermingling of different traditions in America, and the definition of being American.
The audio file of the complete, 14-minute interview, as well as a transcript of the interview, can be found on this web page:
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Oh, Beautiful: An American Family in the 20th Century is a courageous family memoir that explores what it means to be American.