This list contains books and films that cast illuminating if often controversial light on life, spirit, and culture. I did not necessarily agree with many of the thoughts and perspectives presented in these works, but they nonetheless stimulated my mind and often my heart in new and unexpected ways.
The list is in progress, and I welcome your suggestions for additions. It is organized thematically; however, many works fall in more than one category, and some defy classification. Works whose headings are indented are recommended as further or sometimes more in-depth treatments of the unindented titles they follow. I have tried to select works that are accessible and engaging to the general reader. I provide some descriptive notes as well.
Trees who give up their lives to become books do not merely produce dead matter. Books at their best are the vehicles of lives that shine vividly even though, perhaps because, those lives are not physically present. I was and am deeply honored to meet these lives, in serendipitous encounters through which tears were shed, laughter shared, and blood flowed from searing wounds. Enter the forest playfully but know the toil that has enabled its cultivation.
Body-Mind Adventures in Neurology and Psychology (Sometimes, those with seemingly peculiar afflictions can tell us about what it means to be a human being more than the so-called "normal" ones.)
Temple Grandin. Thinking in Pictures: and other
reports from my life with autism. NY: Vintage, 1995.
Buddhist Practice and American Culture
Broughton Coburn. Aama in America. NY: Anchor/Doubleday, 1995.
Maura "Soshin" O'Halloran. Pure Heart,
Enlightened Mind. Boston: Tuttle, 1994.
Renee Tajima-Peña. My America : ...or honk if you love Buddha. Produced in association with National Asian American Telecommunications Association and Independent Television Service, 1997 (video documentary about the many faces of Asian America).
Garrett Hongo, ed. Under Western Eyes : Personal Essays from Asian America. NY: Anchor Doubleday, 1995 (collection of contemporary essays).
Crime and Punishment
Georgia Durante. The Company She Keeps. Nashville, TN: Celebrity Books, 1998 (inside account of Mafia life).
John Douglas and Mark Olshaker. Mindhunter:
Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit. NY: Scribner, 1995.
(the history and present of criminal profiling told through case
Women in Religion
Etty Hillesum. An Interrupted Life. New York: Washington Square Press, 1985.
Gloria Anzaldua. La Frontera/Borderlands.
San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1987 (essays, poetry, reflections
- somewhat academic and complex - by a Mestiza living on the Tex-Mex
Malika Oufkir and Michele Fitoussi. Stolen Lives. New York: Talk Miramax Books, 2001 (harrowing and inspiring story of a Moroccan princess story turned into horrific prison confinement).
Betty Schimmel. To See You Again : A True Story of Love in a Time of War. NY: Plume, 2000 (amazing story of Jewish survival and miraculous encounter).
Erica Fischer. Aimee & Jaguar : A Love Story, Berlin 1943. Translated by Edna McCown. Alyson Publications, 1998 (two women's unconventional love in a war-torn era).
Myriam Miedzian and Alisa Malinovich, editors.
Generations: A Century of Women Speak about Their Lives. NY:
Atlantic Monthly Press, 1997 (wonderful collection of first-hand
Courage Against Great Odds
Joanna Frances Casey. The Flock. New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1991 (a multiple personality who survives early childhood abuse).
Viktor Frankl. Man's Search for Meaning. New York: Washington Square Press, 1985 (survival in Auschwitz).
Jacques Lusseyran. And There Was Light: Autobiography of Jacques Lusseyran, 2nd ed. New York: Parabola Books, 1998 (a blind hero in the French Resistance who could see into souls).
James S. Hirsch. Hurricane: The Miraculous Journey of Rubin Carter. NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2000 (African American wrongfully imprisoned).
Leonard Peltier. Prison Writings - My Life is My Sundance. NY: St. Martin's Press, 1999 (Chronicle of the Leader of the American Indian Movement who has been imprisoned for over twenty years for a crime he almost certainly did not commit).
Death and Dying
Maggie Callanan, Patricia Kelley. Final Gifts. NY: Bantam Books, 1997 (Christian).
Ira Byock. Dying Well: Peace and Possibilities at the End of Life. NY: Riverhead Books, 1998 (Non-religious).
Albert Camus. The Plague. New York: Random
House, 1991 (atheistic existentialist novel).
Buddhism and Psychotherapy
Mark Epstein. Thoughts Without a Thinker : Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective. NY: HarperCollins, 1996.
Hayao Kawai. Buddhism and the Art of
Psychotherapy. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University
The Prolific and Individualized Psychotherapy of Milton Erickson - Case Histories
Jay Haley. Uncommon Therapy : The Psychiatric Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, M.D. NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 1993.
Jay Haley. Conversations with Milton H. Erickson, M.D., Volume I: Changing Individuals (Norton Professional Books). NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 1999.
Jay Haley. Conversations with Milton H. Erickson, M.D., Volume II: Changing Couples (Norton Professional Books). NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 1999.
Sidney Rosen, ed. My Voice Will Go With You :
The Teaching Tales of Milton H. Erickson, M.D. NY: W.W. Norton
& Company, 1991.
Unique Episodes of Psychotherapy
Robert Akeret. Tales from a Travelling Couch. New York: Norton, 1996.
Frederick Covan and Carol Hahn. Crazy all the time: On the Psych Ward of Bellevue Hospital. NY:
Stanley Siegel. The Patient Who Cured His
Therapist : And Other Stories of Unconventional Therapy. NY:
Marlowe & Co., 1999.
John Weir Perry. The Far Side of Madness. Dallas, TX: Spring Publications, 1974.
Edward Podvoll. The Seduction of Madness :
Revolutionary Insights into the World of Psychosis.
Autobiographies of Psychotherapists
C. G. Jung. Memories, Dreams, Reflections, ed. Aniela Jaffé, tr. Richard and Clara Winston. New York: Vintage Books, 1989.
Lauren Slater. Prozac Diary. NY: Penguin USA, 1999.
Lauren Slater. Welcome to My Country : Journeys
into the World of a Therapist and Her Patients. NY: Anchor,
American History X (Complex and compelling film
Beatrice Wood: Mama of Dada (Documentary about
centenarian actress and potter Beatrice Wood. Wonderful honest and
colorful account of her life and loves.)
The Color Purple (Film adaptation of novel by Alice Walker. Missing some elements from the book but a classic in its own right).
Hurricane (Starring Denzel Washington - the film to go with the book on Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, see above).
Jacob's Ladder (Starring Tim Robbins - about a Vietnam veteran who cannot tell whether he is dying in Vietnam, living as a divorced postman in NY City, or living his middle class life with his family. What is real?)
The Fisher King (Starring Jeff Bridges and Robin
Williams - redemption by virtue of mutual loss).
March of the Penguins (Documentary about Emperor
Penguins mating and birthing cycle that shows the great journey,
suffering, and preciousness of life.)
Map of the Human Heart (the drama of two lives - half native American and half Caucasian - caught between multiple worlds)
Open Your Eyes (Abres Los Ojos) - (w/Penelope Cruz - the original, and in my opinion, better version of its remake Vanilla Sky. Similar to Jacob's Ladder in its multiple realities, yet the setting is more mundane.)
Return to Paradise (the prisoner's dilemma - Would you go to prison to save another human being's life?)
Return with Honor (Vietnam veterans speak about being prisoners of war - http://www.returnwithhonor.com/film.html ).
Song of Survival (The lives of women in Japanese
prison camps set around 1960. Life is suffering. Recommended by Rev.
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and . . . Spring (A
simple but beautiful and deeply subtle Korean film about a monk, his
tutee, and karma set in a beautiful floating temple on a lake.)
Oregon Story (documentary chronicling the struggle and resurgence of Native Americans in Oregon).
Thunderheart (film that powerfully illustrates the spirit of Native Americans in a manner that has striking similarities to the story of Leonard Peltier [see above])
Little Big Man (Dustin Hoffman as a Native American of mixed blood in a film that explores the interstices of history, culture, and race in a politically charged and poetic rendering. Recommended by Rev. Don Castro.)
Walkabout (a romanticized yet powerful film about the relationship between an English girl, her baby brother, an aborigine boy, and the nature that surrounds them even as it is impinged upon by 'civilization')
Films Featuring Women (This list was compiled with students in a previous course).