Valorie Grace Hallinan

My first book memory

Mother and daughter in front of flower shopI remember my mother reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem, “The Shadow,” from a Little Golden Book. It was 1958. We lived in a small town outside of Cleveland, Ohio, where my parents owned a floral shop.

Eventually, I would lose my mother, as I knew her, to schizophrenia.

Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, Jane Eyre, and David Copperfield became my lifelines in a household that was often chaotic and lonely.

I fell in love with Paul McCartney.

Every evening we watched the Vietnam War on The Huntley-Brinkley Report. In 1966, Cleveland’s Hough Avenue riots erupted. In 1969, the Cuyahoga River caught fire.  In 1970, four students were killed in an antiwar demonstration at nearby Kent State.

I kept reading.

Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven was our class song in high school. In college, I majored in English, minored in journalism, and edited the college literary magazine. Though communications was my field, I neither wrote nor spoke about the secret that was central to my life – my family’s experience with mental illness.

My brilliant career

ManhattanAfter I graduated in 1977, I wanted to make books and see something of the world, so I moved to New York City. Rocky, Looking for Mr. Goodbar, and Saturday Night Fever were the hit movies.

I became an editor at a publisher of school and library books. Apple computers began to transform the workplace, but I still pecked away on an electric typewriter.Typewriter & me at Fifth Ave office

By the 1980s, book publishing was still print-bound, and video was becoming the next big thing. I went back to school for a master’s degree in broadcast communications and became a media producer for Eastman Kodak in Rochester, New York.

I met my husband and subsequently combined a career in marketing communications with raising a family.

By this time, families with mentally ill loved ones, as well as brave individuals who suffered from mental illness, had begun speaking and writing about their experiences. I discovered E. Fuller Torrey’s Surviving Schizophrenia, an enlightened book that changed my life.

Torrey, a physician and researcher, tells the fascinating story of a baffling brain disease and urges readers to look beyond the stigma of mental illness.

His book led me to the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), where I found out I wasn’t alone. Many families are touched by mental illness. I began sharing my experiences with others. I produced and managed media campaigns for the state and local chapters of NAMI, served on the local board of directors, and was honored for exceptional public awareness efforts by NAMI New York State.

Writing. Becoming a medical librarian.

Photos & memoriesFlash forward a few years. I began an apprenticeship with myself in creative writing. My sons went off to launch creative careers of their own.

I returned to school for a master’s in library science.  As a medical librarian at UR Medicine, I guided health care providers, medical students, researchers, patients and families to the best medical and health information. Someday research in psychiatry, neurology, genetics, and related fields may lead to a cure for serious mental illnesses, and I wanted to do what I could to make that day come sooner rather than later.

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Photo by Jim Montanus

Currently, my readers and I share the best books we can find on my blog, Books Can Save a Life, and I offer personalized book talks/workshops to book clubs, community and senior centers, libraries, and mental health groups. I’m writing a mother/daughter memoir about mental illness and the books and authors that kept me company.

Please feel free to contact me with questions, comments, or to see about guest posting on Books Can Save a Life. I love to hear from readers and followers!

 

31 responses

  1. I’m so glad I found this blog. I agree wholeheartedly with SO much of what I have read on here tonight. It is so inspiring and encouraging to find a blog that promotes books and literature and reading. Thank you for writing and sharing!

  2. I wish I could brag about all the non fiction books I read and all the knowledge I impart to others but that would be fiction. I love mysteries, read two at a time – one on the treadmill and the other one wherever I go. I can’t imagine not having books in my life. 🙂

  3. Hello Valorie,

    I really liked reading this introduction. I love how you embedded general history in your own biographical narrative. You talk of the 80s when Steve Jobs was introducing Apple computers, you take a picture and draw attention to that thing called typewriter… 🙂

    I was always asking my dad to buy me a typewriter in my teens, so I could pretend to be a writer. But by the time I started writing (for myself and for university assignments) PCs, Word Processors and then Laptops ruled the world. I never got to own or use a typewriter….

    Anyhow, lately, I have been writing some posts on internet, blogging and the digital future. You may find something of interest in this one as it mentions the historical emergence of what I call Internet Explosion in the 2000s…

    http://rajivthind.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/why-people-blog/

  4. Dear Valerie
    I saw a comment by you and thought you sounded wise and knowing and so it is. Lovely to find your blog.
    I clearly remember when my first daughter started to read and I was hit by the miracle of it – the world that was now opened up to her, for her to draw on when she needed to find other ways of understanding.
    Education policy in some countries (including in Australia now I’m sorry to say) seems bent on reducing reading to a ‘literacy skill’ – as some mechanical function intended merely to equip people for their future economic activity.
    But surely that’s missing the wonder and beauty of what makes us cultural beings?

  5. C.S. Lewis said that we read to know that we are not alone. Books can be such a comfort, connecting people who would never have the opportunity to meet face-to-face due to distances in time and space.

  6. Hi Val. What an interesting blog you have and with great purpose too! I have learned more about you and I will be stopping back for book suggestions. You are inspiring!

  7. Pingback: Send Me Your Book Stories « Books Can Save A Life

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