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Gorilla and the Bird


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About the Author

Zack McDermott is originally from Kansas and now lives in Brooklyn as a public defender. In 2014 he wrote a brief account of his first psychotic episode and hospitalization for Gawker that received more than 88,000 hits, was featured on Longreads, and Kansas Public Radio's Morning Edition. The Morning Edition piece was named Best Complete News Feature of 2014 by the Kansas Association of Broadcasters.


A startlingly moving memoir of mother and son, structural injustice, and inflammable mental illness. Gorilla and the Bird is as piss-cuttin' a pieta as anyone has any right to hope for. And Zack McDermott- the guy's a fleet, funny, unsentimental storyteller who manages that rare thing: he allows a damaged soul to be found. -- Kent Russell, author of I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son
This remarkable book illustrates Willam Osler's dictum, 'Ask not what disease the person has, but rather what person the disease has.' When that disease is bipolar disorder spiked with the Truman Show delusion, and that person is Zack McDermott, a terrific and terrifically funny writer, the result is an incredibly powerful read. Zack's mother, endlessly strong and supportive, reminds us that we also need to ask what family the disease has. -- Joel Gold, MD, author of Suspicious Minds: The Truman Show Delusion and Other Strange Beliefs
Zack McDermott's portrait of a mind under assault from bipolar illness is both fascinating and heartbreaking to observe, and he takes us into his experience with riveting intensity. But McDermott's real achievement is capturing the moving determination and steadfast love of the mother who saves him, the remarkable Bird who breaks the loneliness, quiets the fear, and gives him a home worth returning to. -- George Hodgman, New York Times bestselling author of Bettyville
This book is one of the gems of the year -- Michele Magwood * Sunday Times (SA) *
Breathless, funny, absurd and often completely inappropriate . . . McDermott's insights on mental illness [are] extremely refreshing. The humour and affection with which McDermott describes both his clients and his fellow psych-ward inmates never veers into mawkishness or pity - a rare quality in literature on this topic. Understandably, writers often avoid making jokes about mental illness or those who suffer from it . . . but it is this unconventional approach that makes McDermott's writing so compelling. Those of us who have ever had a psychotic episode or a breakdown, or have ever been in psychiatric hospital, will know that there's a rich vein of dark humour bubbling beneath the surface. McDermott doesn't just acknowledge that: he revels in it, and the result is utterly charming. -- Emily Reynolds * Times Literary Supplement *
Despite the subject being really rather heart-wrenching, I found myself laughing out loud at regular intervals throughout Zack's memoir. This is a depiction of mental illness in all of its raw, unnerving honesty - and a true testament to the life-changing power a mother's love can deliver to you. Everybody needs a Bird in their life. -- Stella Dwyer * Grazia *

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