#48 Recommended reads on ageing, caring and dementia

Writing in fragments is not the only way to share experiences of dementia. While this can be evocative and accessible, it reduces people’s individual experiences to one idea. It focuses on what’s been lost rather than what has been created.

Here’s a list of books and literary projects about ageing, caring responsibilities and/or dementia.

Graphic novel

  • Tangles: A Story about Alzheimer’s, My Mother, and Me, Sarah Leavitt (Freehand, 2010): vivid portrait of a daughter and her mother as the elder progresses toward the late stages of dementia. Unusual, heartbreaking and delightful, too

Non-fiction

  • The Faraway Nearby, Rebecca Solnit (Granta, 2014): heaping story upon story, this beautiful memoir is about how dementia changed and enhanced the author’s relationship with her mother

Novels

  • The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001): story of a dysfunctional family at Christmas, with scenes about the father, his Parkinson’s Disease… and a talking turd
  • Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun, Sarah Ladipo Manyika (Cassava Republic Press, 2016): Glorious novel about a cosmopolitan Nigerian woman, living in San Francisco. In good health at 74, she lives a joyful existence
  • The Wilderness, Samantha Harvey (Vintage, 2010): Jake is losing the words he knows while piecing together the loss of his wife and daughter. Fascinating exploration of language
  • We Are Not Ourselves, Matthew Thomas (Simon & Schuster, 2014): a book about a family, their charms and quirks, and how their lives unstitch when dementia is introduced into their world

Poetry

  • An Anthology of Poems about Ageing (Emma Press, 2016): includes poems by fine contemporary poets Julia Bird and Harry Man
  • The Hard Word Box, Sarah Hesketh (Penned in the Margins, 2015): terrific poetry collection written during the writer’s residency in a secure dementia care facility

Poetry films

  • My Mother’s House, Victoria Bennett and Adam Clark (2015): a astonishing poem-world built within a game of Minecraft, using Bennett’s experience of caring for her mother in the last phase of life
  • Watch Leah Thorn (2015): this spoken word artist created a poetry film about the impact of dementia on a father/daughter relationship

Short fiction

  • The Bear Came Over the Mountain, Alice Munro (from Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, Vintage, 2002): an older married couple and their response to her changing behaviour resulting from Alzheimer’s disease

Do you have any other recommendations? Let me know, if so!

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