By: Blair Sorrel
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: August 21, 2023
Review Date: August 21, 2023
Author Blair Sorrel recalls vivid life experiences redolent with discipline, contradiction, confusion and ultimately, an acceptance of herself as psychologically burdened in her debut memoir, A Schizoid at Smith: How Overparenting Leads to Underachieving.
Sorrel’s memoir opens as she sits in a university Memoir Writing class, unable to put words on paper. She was looking back at her “over-parented” childhood with a methodical, distant father and a mother who strictly stressed the perils of even the smallest infraction, using a vocabulary that no small child could likely comprehend. What Sorrel did know was that, though she looked forward to summer camp and schooling as respites of the stresses of home, she feared the social interactions that would be required. Her parents were upwardly mobile, her father a medical man who took them on the so-called White Exodus of the early 1960s, to a posh Massachusetts suburb where she began school. Despite her clear intellectual gifts, she was constantly distracted, daydreaming instead of studying. Though she gradually eked out an academic path leading to study at the eponymous university, she was rarely comfortable among fellow students or any crowd, had few friends, and found her solace mainly in the popular music of the era. Many of her memories center on the singers, the bands and the rock philosophy of her teen years. It was not until she was in her thirties that she was diagnosed with SPD – schizoid personality disorder, an affliction that may go unheeded as the symptoms, she notes, “are not deleterious enough to others to warrant immediate concern.” But the SPD carrier will suffer, as she did, from the negative dominance and lack of warmth of overly scrupulous parents, and the extreme anxiety evoked by all social interactions.
Sorrel, who has become a diligent supporter of varying community causes, describes her book’s purpose as both open and cautionary. She seems to have withheld little in her highly descriptive, deep search for the truth about herself. She is able now to piece together the aspects of her family life that contributed to her suffering and warn parents of the damage that can be caused by status seeking and over-correcting - hopes for a child’s success can be marred by the compulsion to guide the child’s every footstep. Her book poetically and emotively articulates this unique perspective through her recollections of situations greatly distressing, mildly humorous, and always human.
Quill says: Sage self-explorer Blair Sorrel offers a tale of childhood woe, youthful sensitivities, and wisdom accrued in her search for inner peace in her memoir A Schizoid at Smith. It will appeal to those who share her specific psychological challenges, and by all who seek direction amid life’s unavoidable chaos.
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