Monday, September 17, 2012

Egos and Delusions

"January First, A Child's Descent into Madness and Her Father's Struggle to Save Her" by Michael Schofield   Crown Publishers   291 pages   $25

January is Michael and Susan Schofield's oldest child.  He teaches writing at Cal State Northridge; Susan is a former broadcaster for a local Southern California radio station.

At age two, January made the jump from concrete reasoning to abstract, something that normally happens when a child is much older.  Daddy begins to envision a Nobel Prize for her - "For what, I don't know and don't really care," he wrote.

At three, Michael says that January could read and do multiplication and division in her head. 

At four, she was given an IQ test and scored 146.  There were oddities - she preferred imaginary pets to live people.  She said she had seven rats, named for the days of the week and a cat named "400." 

By the time she was six, she had to be hospitalized to control her violence.  When triggered (for instance by calling her "January" and not "Blue-Eyed Tree Toad") she hit, bit, scratched and kicked.  When the couple's second child, a son they named "Bodhi" was born, January had to be kept totally segregated from him.  When told, "Don't hit Bodhi" she replied single-minded, "I have to hit him."  If they hadn't been separated, she would have killed him.

That alone would give me reason to have the child hospitalilzed, but Daddy persists in believing it's only a sign of frustration at being so much more intelligent than the rest of us. 

After frequent hospitalizations, drug changes and intense therapy, January is diagnosed as schizophrenic.  To protect their son, the couple got two separate apartments in the same complex.  Susan and Bodhi live in one; Michael and January in the other.  They have dinner together.

Sadly this book sounded to me like a clash of egos - Daddy positive she's a genius; Mommy sure she's a sick child.  When you have a six year old child, bent on suicide, you don't have a genius.  The book was written from Daddy's blog - - and Daddy has gone on to make something of a cottage industry of his daughter, with the book, continuing blog and appearances and interviews in the media.  Exhibit A - the book's title. 

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