Memory of Light
By Francisco X. Stork
Recommended by: Rose Reissman, United Federation of Teachers, Ditmas IS 62 Writing Institute director
Suitable for: Grades 9–12, guidance counselors, social workers
Why I chose it: The book begins after 16–year-old sophomore Vicky Cruz has overdosed and is in a psychotherapy group at a state hospital. By using Vicky as narrator, the book authenticates the puzzling disconnection from emotion, family, optimism and self-actualization felt by some teens. Suicide, mental illness, grief and sibling rivalries are integral to the plot. This engrossing novel, however, is about recovery.
What I like best: Through spirited interactions in the teen psychotherapy group, Vicky learns about the factors which led her to overdose. Ironically, it takes the sufferings of others in her group to show Vicky her value as a person. Stork's narrative also models how families can confront their history.
How teachers can use this book: Emily Dickinson poems illuminate Vicky's self-awareness. Students can analyze those poems, plus others by Robert Frost and Gwendolyn Brooks. The work is filled with metaphors for depression, which visually talented students can illustrate or which can inspire poetry. The author includes resources for mental illness research, as well as info about his own journey with depression. This book may just be the ray of illumination necessary to "save" some.
About the author: A lawyer, Francisco Stork, www.franciscostork.com, worked many years for a state agency dedicated to financing affordable housing. This is his sixth novel.
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