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Very sad memoir of a historian who can t remember his own New Orleans childhood because of the effect on his developing brain of repeated, severe familial neglect I appreciated his insights on memory, was reminded of the fact that we all rewrite our own histories, and enjoyed the richness and accuracy of his description of life in New Orleans. I totally discovered this book by accident whilst actually searching for a similar title, and now I m so glad I stumbled upon it History Lessons A Memoir of Madness, Memory, and the Brain is a great mix of a tragic upbringing, redemption, psychology and history all beautifully told If you enjoyed reading The Glass Castle or the historical fiction of Geraldine Brooks, then this book is right up your alley.Memorable Quotes The past will begin revealing itself as if a soft sea breeze was gently sweeping the sands from a monumental ruin that s been hidden right beneath my feet History, like memory, is time travel We bump into others and into our selves, and yet they are never quite our selves, never quite the other Presence and absence, memory and forgetting, remain inextricably intertwined, often in struggle, as in my mother s forgetfulness pitted against my attempts to remember We historians spend our professional lives in its viscera, and also in the silence passed from one generation to the next like a hungry wound that is there and then gone The past is a mess, a bloody terrible mess of infinite horror For the soldier with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD , the war never ends Depression does much the same thing, shrinking the hippocampi and altering the ways we remember, describe, and interact with the world At its insidious worst, depression destroys the self, leaving one with the sense of simultaneously being devoured and disavowed by one s past Memory erodes forgetting is an important, even vital, part of life PTSD and Alzheimer s occupy the twin poles in our national conversation on trauma and memory Either we can t forget, or we can t remember Memory is less a photograph of something gone than a story created and endlessly renewed, revised, or forgotten I discovered not simply that the world was a very big place, and that one can be saved by education, but that possibility lay somewhere in the distance, just out of reach One can exist in an alien world where the self remains tied to a past over which one has little or no say, in my case weaving my mother s despair into my inner being Or one can begin the awful, lonely work of claiming a future What s there in the human record is often as important as what is already gone, the thing for which we stand ever longing We continue living in the telling Forgetfulness entails casting memory into oblivion No wonder amnesia shares a root with the word amnesty, the forgetting of sins, the letting go of too much painful history. I thoroughly enjoyed reading History Lessons As I m getting older I seem to find myself reading books of historical accuracy and those of which are nonfictional I enjoyed the book so very much because I felt that I could gather a profound understanding of the author and empathize with his personal history The books is very well written with a lot of detail about not only his emotions, himself but also his ancestral challenges within his family My favorite attribute of the book is that he was able to place factual information about brain cognition and functioning in correlation to brain development I loved these specific parts It seems he has done extremely well in his adult life given the negative attributes of his childhood. The brain parts are narrow and not well explained And how a historian could write a book with zero references is astonishing The prose is pedestrian. Almost directly after my last update the book picked up again, an intriguing mix of familial tragedy and personal experience with clinicians As a whole this memoir is an attempt to sort out a life rife with sorrow, abuse, and neglect from early childhood It is the account of a hard life that isn t remembered It begins with Crais s expertise in researching history and bringing these buried things to light But it becomes muddled in the middle, with random bits of information that mire the narrative down At times the prose is beautiful and languid, but often it waxes poetic too often and too repetitively At the end it picks up again, with a distinct direction That has me thinking that the middle parts may have been there to increase word count I was interested in this book because I have personal experiences with not being able to remember my childhood, and although it is indeed about memory or lack thereof , the moments about neurology and psychology and really all of the scientific parts are glazed over, or are lacking sources for claims and assertions of facts I think this narrative could have benefited from added hard science, to counter the dreamlike quality of the prose It is a heartfelt book that I hope has helped Crais come to terms and process his family s lives and tragedies. With a beautiful cover and an intriguing title, I was drawn in The memoir itself isn t as compelling as I d hoped, and I think that s primarily because it needed pruning and rewriting Since I m quite critical, I will share the positive first Its redeeming qualities are that the author is clearly a thoughtful, intelligent and articulate person with some well worded insights Throughout the book I found quotable lines and paragraphs which I related to so much they buoyed me to the end.The work he put into researching and writing the memoir is earnest and heartfelt and his story is impressive, but the storytelling is often rendered only passively interesting because of many needlessly complex sentences On an emotional level, I was generally unmoved I suspect upon reflection I ll feel a little differently, but we ll see His poignant observations and conclusions gave me food for thought but the dispassionate delivery doesn t make for a page turner I had to put History Lessons down and get back to it a couple of weeks later because reading sections laden with excessive, unnecessary details and arcane adjectives became an irritating chore The editor should have recognized that readers eyes would glaze over with long paragraphs of contextually irrelevant or maybe marginally relevant family history Perhaps because I m neither American and not especially familiar with the US south, nor am I a history buff, I had trouble imagining and fully appreciating all this book had to offer.Had the author used the K.I.S.S rule, I would have found the narrative palatable and easier to follow and connect with emotionally We usually communicate conversationally, especially with telling personal stories The challenge of editing and cutting out information is unbelievably hard, I know, but with too much information, you lose your audience The distracting excess and unfriendly use of language is both annoying and disrupts continuity I considered taking notes and drawing diagrams in order to follow and make sense of who s who with the onslaught of detailed family lineage, but it just wasn t worth going back for Aside from these comments, some part of every chapter, especially near its end, reiterated the same messaging redundancies that could have been dealt with through editing I read this book to understand and connect to his story, not to be overwhelmed with the sheer volume and endless details the research unearthed an okay read, but not one I d actively recommend. We often hear of PTSD these days Often the disorder is associated with depression, repressed memories, shattered senses of being The author discusses his efforts to combat his own childhood amnesia, piecing together his own history of self, and the irony of being an historian His story is as fragmented as the many interviews and research sessions and random photos he finds along the way He also speaks of the clinical aspect the damage done to the mind, the inability to remember even entire years, due to neglect and abuse suffered before a child s fourth birthday The language of Mr Crais as he describes the debauchery of New Orleans, the tranquility of Mississippi, and the exotic atmosphere of Tunisia transports the reader easily, contrasting with the sad facts of his family s lives. History Lessons by Clifton Crais was a fantastic book to read I enjoyed it because of the harsh situations he described developing him in to a wonderful person as an adult It reminds me of one of those stories you read as a kid, talking about the broken down child becoming a star when he she grows up For him it was like that in life I also really liked the message it sent me, to not drag on the past but to look at the present and towards the future Definitely recommend this book. Poignant book written by a self described contradiction , an historian who can t remember his own past As he undergoes therapy in this well written memoir, he starts the historian s process of going back in time to look at the facts His siblings and parents are not as much help as you would think, so he starts generations before, in Creole Haiti, in French New Orleans His description of what he finds out about what happened to him breaks your heart, but also has shining moments and glimpses of hope There is a lot of interesting scientific explanation as well, and spiritual growth This man, who pulled himself out of neglect and despair to become a successful writer and professor should serve to inspire. ^EPUB ☜ History Lessons ↛ Indeed, It Is Memory Both Elusive And Essential That Forms The Center Of Crais S Beautifully Rendered Memoir History Lessons In An Effort To Restore His Own, Crais Brings The Tools Of His Formal Training As A Historian To Bear On Himself And His Family He Interviews His Sisters And His Mother, Revisits Childhood Homes And Pores Over Documentary Evidence Plane Tickets, Postmarks, Court And Medical Records, Crumbling Photo Albums Probing Family Lore, Pushing Past Silences And Exhuming Long Buried Family Secrets, He Arrives, Ultimately, At The Deepest Reaches Of The Brain Crais Examines The Science Of Memory And Forgetting, From The Ways In Which Experience Shapes The Developing Brain To The Mechanisms That Cause The Chronic Childhood Amnesia The Most Common And Least Understood Form Of Amnesia From Which He SuffersPart Memoir, Part Narrative Science And Part Historical Detective Story, History Lessons Is A Provocative, Exquisitely Crafted Investigation Into What It Means To Be Human