Blog Tour: Shadows in the Sun

Thanks to TLC Book Tours, we're pleased to present a review for Shadows in the Sun, a new memoir by Gayathri Ramprasad. Make sure to check out the rest of the tour stops to see other reviews!

By Gayathri Ramprasad
Published on March 4th 2014
Published by: Hazelden
Source: Publisher/blog tour
"Everyone who struggles with a mental illness, or who knows anyone with depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness, must read this engrossing true story of courage in the face of heartbreaking adversity.”
—Dilip V. Jeste, MD, president, American Psychiatric Association

As a young girl in Bangalore, Gayathri was surrounded by the fragrance of jasmine and flickering oil lamps, her family protected by Hindu gods and goddesses. But as she grew older, demons came forth from the dark corners of her idyllic kingdom—with the scariest creatures lurking within her.

The daughter of a respected Brahmin family, Gayathri began to feel different. "I can hardly eat, sleep, or think straight. The only thing I can do is cry unending tears.” Her parents insisted it was all in her head. Because traditional Indian culture had no concept of depression as an illness, no doctor could diagnose and no medicine could heal her mysterious malady.

This memoir traces Gayathri’s courageous battle with the depression that consumed her from adolescence through marriage and a move to the United States. It was only after the birth of her first child, when her husband discovered her in the backyard "clawing the earth furiously with my bare hands, intent on digging a grave so that I could bury myself alive” that she finally found help. After a stay in a psych ward she eventually found "the light within,” an emotional and spiritual awakening from the darkness of her tortured mind.

Gayathri’s inspiring story provides a first-of-its-kind cross-cultural view of mental illness—how it is regarded in India and in America, and how she drew on both her rich Hindu heritage and Western medicine to find healing

A little background on me, because I think sometimes people wonder why certain books resonate more with others.  My masters degree in in clinical psychology, and much of my research in both undergrad and grad school centered around cross-cultural education for mental health service providers.  So I have an academic (if not professional, since I never got licensed and have never practiced) interest in the topic at hand, but also a personal one.  It doesn't come up much here, but I've been fairly open over the years about my own experiences with depression, being in therapy, being medicated, etc. (And if you haven't heard me talk about it: hi! ask my about my experience with mental health care!)

So I usually jump at the chance to review books that touch on things like this, and Shadows in the Sun was certainly an excellent one to pick.  The author shares her at time heartbreaking struggle with her own depression and anxiety, gone diagnosed for so long, with so many people in her life telling her to just shake it off, get over it, stop being so emotional, etc.  It's hard to read sometimes because you know that she desperately needs better help than she's getting.  Gayathri doesn't shy away from showing the real toll that depression takes on a person.

This book is very well written and engaging.  The descriptions are vivid, and you can imagine sitting around her family's table in India, being at her wedding, experiencing America for the first time, etc.  She writes beautifully, and really pulls you into her story, her state of mind, her suffering as she tried to deal with her condition.  Dealing with mental illness in the first place is difficult, but even moreso when you throw in different cultural norms and expectations into the mix, and the author handles making that balance clear very well.  I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an interesting, true look at both mental illness and cultural differences.

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