January First: Book summary and reviews of January First by Michael Schofield

January First

A Child's Descent into Madness and Her Father's Struggle to Save Her

by Michael Schofield

January First by Michael Schofield

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Book Summary

Michael Schofield's daughter January is at the mercy of her imaginary friends, except they aren't the imaginary friends that most young children have; they are hallucinations. And January is caught in the conflict between our world and their world, a place she calls Calalini.  Some of these hallucinations, like "24 Hours," are friendly and some, like "400 the Cat" and "Wednesday the Rat," bite and scratch her until she does what they want.  They often tell her to scream at strangers, jump out of buildings, and attack her baby brother. 

At six years old, January Schofield, "Janni," to her family, was diagnosed with schizophrenia, one of the worst mental illnesses known to man.  What's more, schizophrenia is 20 to 30 times more severe in children than in adults and in January's case, doctors say, she is hallucinating 95 percent of the time that she is awake. Potent psychiatric drugs that would level most adults barely faze her.

January First captures Michael and his family's remarkable story in a narrative that forges new territory within books about mental illness. In the beginning, readers see Janni's incredible early potential: her brilliance, and savant-like ability to learn extremely abstract concepts. Next, they witnesses early warning signs that something is not right, Michael's attempts to rationalize what's happening, and his descent alongside his daughter into the abyss of schizophrenia.  Their battle has included a two-year search for answers, countless medications and hospitalizations, allegations of abuse, despair that almost broke their family apart and, finally, victories against the illness and a new faith that they can create a life for Janni filled with moments of happiness. 

A compelling, unsparing and passionate account, January First vividly details Schofield's commitment to bring his daughter back from the edge of insanity.  It is a father's soul-baring memoir of the daily struggles and challenges he and his wife face as they do everything they can to help Janni while trying to keep their family together.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"The anxiety, frustration, and loss Schofield and his wife experience are palpable, so much so that the author's tone is, at times, grating. Still, their heart-wrenching story - featured on 20/20 and Oprah - is bound to move parents and caregivers of children with similar psychiatric disorders." - Library Journal

"Schofield's descriptions of his family's struggles along the frustrating, road to a diagnosis... are thoughtfully detailed. But Schofield also offers valuable insight for others in similar situations, and ends on a hopeful note to his family's unorthodox approach to dealing with Jani." - Publishers Weekly

"A brutally honest account… Stark's honesty characterizes the book… An unflinching portrait of the scourge of mental illness." - Kirkus Reviews

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More Information

Michael Schofield teaches writing courses at California State University, Northridge. He keeps a blog of his family's journey through Janni's schizophrenia at: www.janisjourney.org.

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