Hidden Valley Road | Robert Kolker | A Word on Words | NPT
“I found writing it and I hope readers find reading it, a hopeful story because it’s really about what happens after perhaps some of the worst possible things happen to not just yourself but to your whole family and how do you make it through that?” Author Robert Kolker discusses his book Hidden Valley Road with host J.T. Ellison on NPT's A Word on Words.
(typewriter keys clacking)
(gentle piano music)
- Hi, I'm Robert Kolker,
and this is "Hidden Valley Road",
which is the true story of an American family
with 12 children, six of them diagnosed
with schizophrenia, that became science's great hope
in the quest to understand the disease.
I found writing it, and I hope readers
find reading it, a hopeful story
because it's really about what happens
after perhaps some of the worst possible things happen
to not just yourself, but to your whole family,
and how do you make it through that?
(gentle orchestral music)
- Can you talk a little bit
about how you balanced the story with the science
and brought it together?
- I prepared two different timelines,
the science and history of schizophrenia
and our thinking about it,
and the history of this family.
Very quickly, it became clear to me
that I wanted this to be a family story,
that I didn't want this to be a case study
or a science textbook that would have
the family as evidence about the science of schizophrenia.
I wanted the science to be in the service
of the family's story.
(gentle piano music)
- [J.T.] The family hobby is trying to tame wild things.
Can you talk a little bit about their falconry?
- It's a point of pride for the family.
They're excited about it.
It's not like it's continued through successive generations,
but their family legacy is falconry.
Their father not only flew falcons
for the Air Force Academy, but their parents, Don and Mimi,
were the ones who first suggested
that the Air Force make the falcon its mascot.
And so I couldn't not write about it.
That shows just how optimistic
and how large and in charge they were as people,
how they were ready to take on the world
and confident that they could
with enough hard work and faith.
That made me think of all sorts of family stories
where the family starts off with hopes and optimism,
and then something unexpected happens,
and how do they deal with what's unexpected,
and so I knew I had to write about it in that way.
- For more of my conversation with Robert Kolker,
please visit awordonwords.org.
Thank you for watching "A Word on Words".
I'm J.T. Ellison.
Keep reading. (typewriter bell dings)
- [Robert] The big takeaway, I think,
is about early intervention.
We live in a time now where that's the big difference.
A teenager who's having some pretty severe difficulties
can get a lot of care and attention now
in a way that a teenager in 1965,
it would be swept under the rug
out of shame, stigma, and misunderstanding.
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