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Diane Lane Chambers
Author of Engaging, Informative, and Inspirational Books
Book Reviews

 

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Fragile Minds: An Advocate's Story 

 

Review: by Ankita Shukla for Readers' Favorite

In her memoir, Diane Lane Chambers frankly converses with her readers about the many ways US law is unjust to people who struggle with a mental illness and also to their loved ones. In Diane's career as a professional sign language interpreter, she had the opportunity to work with patients at psychiatric facilities. These real-life experiences presented her with horrifying flaws in the current system. Whether it was the revolving door problem or the law that prohibited someone from being held in a psychiatric facility longer than 72 hours without their consent, Fragile Minds: An Advocate's Story provides a deep insight into how our current system has failed the people struggling with mental illness. The expectation of consent from a person with jumbled thoughts and incoherent emotions is nonsensical at best and cruel at worst.

Although Fragile Minds attempts to find justice for those who can't seek it for themselves, this memoir is not just about this one aspect. Diane Lane Chambers has dug into her extensive life experiences and presented several heartfelt anecdotes, creating an air of empathy. Her battle with breast cancer, the despair of losing her best friends, and her excruciating struggle with anxiety and depression are some of those honest admissions that create a bond between the author and readers. She doesn't try to place herself in a 'mightier than thou' position; instead, she expresses her failures, insecurities, and small victories to become more relatable. Her experiences with Cindy are both frustrating and entertaining. She has tied together the best and the worst of her ventures. In a conversational tone, sharing various incidents, and staying clear of a preachy style, Chambers has crafted the most effective memoir that supports a worthy cause. I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy reading a real-life story about a social issue.

 

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Bookwatch Review 
 
by Diane Donovan, Editor
Donovan’s Literary Services

 

 

Fragile Minds: An Advocate's Story is a memoir that journeys through bipolar disorder and mental illness. It tells of a family history of mental illness that affects Diane Lane Chambers in her fifties.

 

She'd been diagnosed with breast cancer, finished treatment, and become involved with fellow survivors, only to experience repeated deaths as her new friends lose their battles with cancer.

 

The road from repeated grief and loss creates a downward slide into mental instability: "They say there’s a link between stressful events and susceptibility to illness. The death of a loved one is one of the top 10 stressors. I hadn’t realized it, but the death of my father shortly after my cancer diagnosis, coupled with the loss of two friends from breast cancer, and then my beloved Bert, had taken a huge toll on me. I began spiraling downhill, aware that something was very wrong with me, but I had no idea what it was."

 

Her condition belayed her perceptions of what depression was and how it presented in life, and so Chambers missed many of the early signs that something was very wrong, until her illness could no longer be denied.

 

As she became more aware and knowledgeable about not only her own condition, but medical and government responses within the mental health system, Chambers came to realize the need to write about her experiences and revelations. And so Fragile Minds was born to tackle the issues not just from a patient's perspective, but from an advocate's mindset.

 

This approach sets Fragile Minds apart from many memoirs about mental illness. From her work on psych wards and the encounters with staff and patients that led to a startling revelation that many with severe mental illnesses were not being helped, but harmed, to her evolving fight for reforms and change, Fragile Minds juxtaposes personal and community thinking in a thought-provoking manner.

 

Readers who anticipate another memoir steeped in self-analysis will find that Fragile Minds differs from most. It juxtaposes discussions of mental illness, self-revelation and analysis, and greater involvement in community-building efforts.

 

Chambers takes the needed next step in moving beyond her experiences to address mental health system failures and how to address and correct them. Portraits of other sufferers contrast different experiences with the types of changes Chambers seeks to make through her own efforts and those of advocacy programs.

 

The result is a wide-ranging memoir that deserves not only placement in any library strong in mental health memoirs, but those interested in community issues and health community challenges.

 

Ideally, it will not repose on such shelves, but will become a flash point of conversation for book clubs, advocacy groups, and mental illness treatment professionals who will see in its stories and examples the roots of positive change.

 

 

Ellexa Press LLC

978-0-9760967-8-8                $17.99 Paper/$8.99 Kindle

https://www.amazon.com/Fragile-Minds-Diane-Lane-Chambers/dp/0976096781

 

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Fragile Minds: An Advocate's Story 

Review by Clayton E. Cramer, M.A, MA, History Adjunct Instructor, College of Western Idaho, author, My Brother Ron

"It is very easy for theorists to imagine people with severe mental illness as just being slightly eccentric, not really that different from the rest of us.  Diane Chambers' collection of stories of interpreting for deaf mentally ill people should correct that fantasy.  With love and concern, she recounts her encounters with people suffering both severe mental illness and deafness (and for one person, deaf, blind, and mentally ill).  There are moments of humor that relieve what might otherwise be a sequence of tragedies.  Her concern for the unmet needs of the severely mentally ill should cause all decent people to demand their state governments stop hiding behind a fantasy that puts hundreds of thousands of Americans in short-term mental care, often tragically ineffective group homes, and often as not, homeless until some incident, often criminal, again starts them on the revolving door of inadequate care."

 

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Hearing the Stream, A Survivor's Journey into the Sisterhood of Breast Cancer                                                                author, Diane Lane Chambers                                                                      

Review

by Ariel Smart, Santa Clara Branch, CA

 The National League of American Pen Women quarterly magazine, The Pen Women, Summer 2013    

"I am in the Bodleian Library, England, after having read Diane Lane Chambers remarkable and courageous, memoir and research on breast cancer.This study is more than a factual discussion of this dreadful disease with up-to-date information from medical authority... 

  ...In reading her intelligent, moving account of breast treatment and recovery, she certainly wins my support for this vital cause. Her memoir  moves me toward action."

 

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Hearing the Stream, A Survivor's Journey into the Sisterhood of Breast Cancer

Review

by Allan Burns, Editor, Colorado Springs, CO

     Like everyone else who receives a cancer diagnosis, Diane Chambers was initially shocked and scared. She knew only two people who had battle breast cancer:  her grandmother and a judge in whose court she had worked as a sign language interpreter. Both had died.  Despite daily flashbacks to her grandmother's tragic experience with disfiguring surgery, horrendous lymphedema in both arms, and burns from radiation, Diane accepted her diagnosis and began making decisions about what route to take with a competent team of doctors.  She chose the only treatment that made sense for her: a mastectomy and reconstruction.

     Six months later, as treatment and recovery began to fade like a bad dream, Diane began recovering her life.  She had worked as a sign language interpreter since 1977 and published an acclaimed account of her experiences, Words in My Hands (Ellexa Press, 2005). but she soon learned that after cancer there was no going back to "life before cancer."  There was only "life after cancer," and she quickly discovered it is not such a bad thing.  She forged powerful bonds with a sisterhood of survivors--all people who had been through emotions and physical changes similar to her own.  From Kim she learned the issues facing young single women with breast cancer.  From Pat she learned how older women cope with diagnosis and treatment and from Sue how the mother of a baby struggled to save her own life.  From Charlie she came to appreciate what men have to go through when diagnosed with a "female disease." 

     Above all, from the extraordinary Harriette Grober, who had been on chemotherapy for an unprecedented nine years, she learned about a determination she had never imagined and how to be thankful and happy in each moment.  She also learned to take Harreitte's advocacy as a model and became involved herself in raising levels of political and social awareness about the disease.  Currently, Diane is an active member of the National Breast Cancer Coalition and the Association of Breast Cancer Survivors and regularly participates in workshops, symposiums, and webcasts on cancer. 

      Hearing the Stream, the fruit of all she has experienced and learned as a cancer survivor, is an inspiring book that weaves together her own story and those of five others, thereby providing multiple perspectives on a complex disease that can be a different as the individual people dealing with it.  As Dr. Tim Byers of the University of Colorado Comprehensive Cancer Center says, "Accounts such as this of the human toll of breast cancer motivate me as a researcher--and should motivate us all--to redouble our many efforts to reduce further and someday eradicate this disease."

 

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Diane Chambers, Books