Sandra Allen, author of A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise: A True Story about Schizophrenia in conversation with Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, author of Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx

When: Thursday, March 29, 7:00pm
Where: The Odyssey Bookshop
Sandra Allen did not know their uncle Bob very well. As a child, they had been told he was "crazy," that he had spent time in mental hospitals while growing up in Berkeley in the 60s and 70s. But Bob had lived a hermetic life in a remote part of California for longer than Allen had been alive, and what little they knew of him came from rare family reunions or odd, infrequent phone calls. Then in 2009, Bob mailed Allen his autobiography. Typewritten in all caps, a stream of error-riddled sentences over sixty, single-spaced pages, the often incomprehensible manuscript proclaimed to be a "true story" about being "labeled a psychotic paranoid schizophrenic," and arrived with a plea to help him get his story out to the world.
In A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise, Allen translates their uncle's autobiography, artfully creating a gripping coming-of-age story while sticking faithfully to the facts as he shared them. Lacing Bob's narrative with chapters providing greater contextualization, Allen also shares background information about their family, the culturally explosive time and place of their uncle's formative years, and the vitally important questions surrounding schizophrenia and mental health care in America more broadly. The result is a heartbreaking and sometimes hilarious portrait of a young man striving for stability in his life as well as his mind, and an utterly unique lens into an experience that, to most people, remains unimaginable.
Sandra Allen is a writer. Their debut book, A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise: A True Story about Schizophrenia was published by Scribner on January 23, 2018. It's about their Uncle Bob, who was involuntarily hospitalized and diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was a teenager in the early 1970s. It's based in large part upon his autobiography, which he typed on his typewriter and mailed them several years ago. 
Allen's essays and features have been published by or are forthcoming in BuzzFeed News, Pop-Up Magazine, Pacific Standard, and them. Their reporting and research in recent years has focused on schizophrenia and mental illness/health more generally, including the past, present, and future of mental health care. They've previously written about such things as climate change and wine, fake hate crimes and mock trial. They've profiled Ina Garten,  Tig Notaro and Sandy Allen, the late tallest woman on earth, with whom they happen to share a name. Their pieces have been named Notable Selections by Best American Essays and Best American Science and Nature Writing. In 2017, they were the recipient of a UC Berkeley-11th Hour Food and Farming Journalism Fellowship and were a fellow at the MacDowell Colony.


In her extraordinary bestseller, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc immerses readers in the intricacies of the ghetto, revealing the true sagas lurking behind the headlines of gangsta glamour, gold-drenched drug dealers, and street-corner society. Focusing on two romances--Jessica's dizzying infatuation with a hugely successful young heroin dealer, Boy George, and Coco's first love with Jessica's little brother, Cesar--Random Family is the story of young people trying to outrun their destinies. Jessica and Boy George ride the wild adventure between riches and ruin, while Coco and Cesar stick closer to the street, all four caught in a precarious dance between survival and death. Friends get murdered; the DEA and FBI investigate Boy George; Cesar becomes a fugitive; Jessica and Coco endure homelessness, betrayal, the heartbreaking separation of prison, and, throughout it all, the insidious damage of poverty.
Charting the tumultuous cycle of the generations--as girls become mothers, boys become criminals and hope struggles against deprivation--LeBlanc slips behind the cold statistics and sensationalism and comes back with a riveting, haunting, and true story.
Adrian Nicole LeBlanc's first book, Random Family, was a New York Times Bestseller, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the winner of The Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and the Ridenhour Book Prize. LeBlanc's work has been published in The New York Times MagazineThe New Yorker, Esquire, Elle, Spin, The Source, The Village Voice, and other magazines. LeBlanc lives in Manhattan.
Event date: 
Thursday, March 29, 2018 - 7:00pm
Event address: 
Odyssey Bookshop
9 College st.
South Hadley, MA 01075
A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise: A True Story About Schizophrenia Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501134036
Availability: Not in Stock - Hard to Find
Published: Scribner - January 23rd, 2018

Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx Cover Image
ISBN: 9780743254434
Availability: Not in Stock
Published: Scribner - February 10th, 2004