Only When I Laugh

Non-fiction titles about people facing life's greatest hurts - catastrophe, calamity, illness, reversal of fortune and death - with clarity, wit, and above all, humor.

Southern Fried Divorce: A True Story

By Judy Conner

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"Quirky Southern humor brings the ridiculous to light in this narrative of a woman's battles with marriage, divorce, and motherhood. Judy Conner's ex-husband, referred to only as 'That X,' figures prominently through anecdotes that attempt to humiliate him, but that also reveal the passionate beginnings of a relationship turned sour. Hilarious vignettes that provide a window into down-home culture include the rules to Redneck Roulette, instructions on how to cook the best Christmas roast south of the Mason-Dixon line, and tips for synchronized swimming at the World's Fair with your dog. Tragedy and comedy intertwine in this piquant tale of lost love with a Southern accent."

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Why I'm Like This: True Stories

By Cynthia Kaplan

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I wonder if there is any way I can tell this story and have it seem like I did it in the name of those dolphins that get caught in the tuna nets.
"Meet Cynthia Kaplan, whose debut collection of personal stories is so much fun to read because of her complete and utter willingness to tell the God's honest truth. And it isn't pretty. Kaplan takes us on a hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking journey through her unique, uncensored world... ."

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The Family on Beartown Road

By Elizabeth Cohen

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Elizabeth, a member of the “sandwich generation”—-those caught in the middle, simultaneously caring for their children and for their aging parents—is the mother of baby Ava and the daughter of Daddy, and responsible for both. In this story full of everyday triumphs, first steps, and an elder’s confusion, Ava finds each new picture, each new word, each new song, something to learn greedily, joyfully. Daddy is a man in his twilight years, for whom time moves slowly and lessons are not learned but quietly, frustratingly forgotten. Elizabeth, a suddenly single mother with a career and a mortgage and a hamperful of laundry, finds her world spiraling out of control. Faced with mounting disasters, she chooses to confront life head-on, and to see the unique beauty in each and every moment.

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The Day the Voices Stopped

By Ken Steele and Claire Berman

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"For thirty-two years Ken Steele lived with the devastating symptoms of schizophrenia, tortured by inner voices commanding him to kill himself, ravaged by the delusions of paranoia, barely surviving on the ragged edges of society. In this powerful and inspiring story, Steele tells the story of his hard-won recovery from schizophrenia and how activism and advocacy helped him regain his sanity and go on to give hope and support to so many others like him.His recovery began with a small but intensely dramatic moment.

"One evening in the spring of 1995, shortly after starting on Risperdal, a new antipsychotic medicine, he realized that the voices that had tormented him for three decades had suddenly stopped. Terrified but also empowered by this new freedom, Steele rose to the challenge of creating a new life. Steele went on to become one of the most vocal advocates of the mentally ill, earning the respect not only of patients and families but also of professionals and policymakers all over America through his tireless devotion to a cause that transformed his life and that of countless others."

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Quitting the Nairobi Trio

By Jim Knipfel

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"As his account opens, Knipfel has just failed at yet another frenzied suicide attempt and has been picked up by the police. Soon thereafter he is forced to settle into a hospital psychiatric ward waiting until a doctor, whose once-a-week sessions last ten minutes each, deems him mentally fit to be released. Effectively abandoned, Knipfel begins his self-analysis and embarks on a series of haphazard skirmishes to regain his sanity, make new friends, and devise ways to pass the time.Ultimately, a revelation from public television and insights from a fellow patient and the late comic Ernie Kovacs provide Knipfel with a way out, one that only a paranoid, or Knipfel, could appreciate."

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Prozac Diary

By Lauren Slater

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"Today millions of people take Prozac, but Lauren Slater was one of the first. In this rich and beautifully written memoir, she describes what it's like to spend most of your life feeling crazy--and then to wake up one day and find yourself in the strange state of feeling well. And then to face the challenge of creating a whole new life. Once inhibited, Slater becomes spontaneous. Once terrified of maintaining a job, she accepts a teaching position and ultimately earns several degrees in psychology. Once lonely, she finds love with a man who adores her. Slater is wonderfully thoughtful and articulate about all of these changes, and also about the downside of taking Prozac."

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Passing for Normal: A Memoir of Compulsion

By Amy Wilensky

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What I remember even more distinctly than the incidents of cruelty and confusion, intolerance and avoidance--more vividly than standing in front of the mirror watching my head move with no conscious instruction from me--is the strain of trying to conceal my tics and rituals from others, especially those closest to me, my own family most of all.

The provocative memoir of a young woman's struggle to come to terms with a life plagued by irrational behavior. I am crazy. But maybe I am not. For most of her life, this thought haunted Amy Wilensky as she watched her body do things she couldn't control, repeatedly twitching and contorting into awkward positions. Her mind lurched and veered in ways she didn't understand: She felt that she must touch wood at all times to ward off harm, that chewing a wad of stale gum would prevent a plane crash. Why couldn't she throw away meaningless scraps of paper? Why were six-word sentences strangely satisfying? While Amy excelled in school and led an otherwise 'normal' life, she worried that beneath the surface she was a freak, that there was something irrevocably wrong with her."

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Nothing to Fall Back on: The Life and Times of a Perpetual Optimist

By Betsy Carter

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"Successful and smart, Carter was not only the ultimate 'New York Woman,' she also founded a magazine by that name. This moving story, set against the gossipy world of magazine publishing, reveals what it is like to be stripped bare, wander through the rubble, and to put oneself together again."

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The Liars' Club: A Memoir

By Mary Karr

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"A trenchant memoir of a troubled American childhood from the child's point of view describes growing up in a an East Texas refinery town, life in the midst of a turbulent family of drunks and liars, a schoolyard rape, and other dark secrets."

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Wishful Drinking

By Carrie Fisher

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"In Wishful Drinking , adapted from her one-woman stage show, Fisher reveals what it was really like to grow up a product of 'Hollywood in-breeding,' come of age on the set of a little movie called Star Wars, and become a cultural icon and bestselling action figure at the age of nineteen. Intimate, hilarious, and sobering, Wishful Drinking is Fisher, looking at her life as she best remembers it (what do you expect after electroshock therapy?). It's an incredible tale: the child of Hollywood royalty -- Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher -- homewrecked by Elizabeth Taylor, marrying (then divorcing, then dating) Paul Simon, having her likeness merchandized on everything from Princess Leia shampoo to PEZ dispensers, learning the father of her daughter forgot to tell her he was gay, and ultimately waking up one morning and finding a friend dead beside her in bed."

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