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Mental Disorders in Fiction April 30, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in literary fiction.

There will be no Media Monday discussion today as #litchat takes a holiday. Media Monday will resume next Monday.

Andrea Kayne KaufmanOne of the tenets of writing strong fictional characters is putting them through trials and tribulations that lead to a satisfying climax. Readers thrive on the torture, seduction, tragedies and other character arcs that stoke the fires of fiction. Within a large portion of popular plot complications, the conflicts come from without—an accident, a crime inflicted upon the character, a two-timing spouse. Other plots are fueled by a character’s inner struggles to overcome a debilitating  mental challenge. On Wednesday in #litchat we’ll discuss mental disorders in fiction, then on Friday we’ll chat with Andrea Kayne Kaufman, author of Oxford Messed Up.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder vies for center stage in Kaufman’s debut, Oxford Messed Up. When Rhodes Scholar Gloria Zimmerman heads to Oxford University with her OCD nemesis nagging within, she begins a journey that both educates and rehabilitates. A germophobe goaded by Oliver, the persona of her OCD, Gloria’s Oxford fantasy is disrupted when she’s forced to share a bathroom with Henry, a rebellious young man damaged by family tragedy and nearly ruined by his own rebellious choices. A mutual obsession with the music of Van Morrison bring the two together, despite inner sabotage and self-loathing. Kaufman creates a fulcrum of change with Gloria’s study of feminist poets and her fascination with Sylvia Plath in particular, paired with Henry’s encouragement of Gloria’s participation in an unofficial program of cognitive behavior therapy. As each of these troubled young people exorcise the demons of their disorders, they find strength, hope and acceptance within themselves, and each other.

A professor and attorney who earned a bachelor’s degree from Vassar College, a master’s degree in Education from Harvard University and her Juris Doctor from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Andrea Kayne Kaufman now serves as Chair of the Department of Leadership, Language and Curriculum at DePaul University College of Education. In her personal and professional life, Kaufman has been involved with issues relating to special needs, in particular Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Kaufman is currently working on her next novel, Parent Over Shoulder. In this poignant love story, Andrea brings her education background, sensitivity, insight and articulate writing style to another “hell” found in many school communities—cyber-bullying.

Watch the video trailer of Oxford Messed Up.

Follow Andrea Kayne Kaufman on Twitter: @AndreaKayneKauf.



1. Jean Sorbet Scott (@seedpearls) - May 1, 2012

Both my husband and my son were diagnosed as Bi-Polar, both took their own lives 14 years apart. I write about it to ease my heart and to keep them close. I am on Amazon.com and facebook.Road Trip: Anecdotes and Essays of a Life Well Traveled

Carolyn Burns Bass - May 3, 2012

Jean: Sounds like you’ve had more than your share of sadness. Writing about your experiences is a productive way to help yourself, while at the same time reaching out to others in similar circumstances.

2. averyoslo - May 2, 2012

Today’s #litchat on Twitter about mental disorders in writing was so refreshing! I have so much to think about in terms of my own short stories and how disorder is portrayed and viewed by the other characters. I can’t wait for the Kaufman chat!

Carolyn Burns Bass - May 3, 2012

Avery: You brought much to the conversation yesterday–I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I look forward to seeing you in #litchat on Friday and any other time you can make it.

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