Friday, July 17, 2009

Tab's Non-Fiction Pick: Today I'm Alice by Alice Jamieson

Today I'm Alice is the debut novel for author Alice Jameison, and to be honest this is an incredibly difficult book to review. This is not the kind of book that everyone will be able to read, nor do I think that everyone should attempt to read it. Jameison has written, in collaboration with Clifford Thurlow, a gut level, brutally raw memoir of childhood sexual abuse detailing her later diagnosis of Multiple Personality Disorder, or Dissociative Identity Disorder and her struggles to maintain some sense of 'living'.

In her book Alice identifies somewhere between 9 and as many as 30 separate personalities; her 'alters' as she refers to them, who occupy space within her mind. There is 10-year-old JJ, six-year-old Samuel who simply wants to curl up and cry, the confident but traumatised 14-year-old Shirley, and violent and self-harming Kato, aged 16 to name a few. Each present with their own mannerisms, voices and distinct quirks and personalities, and each speak through Alice at different times, for varying reasons.

In the foreword of the book Alice says, "All through my childhood I suffered sexual, physical and emotional abuse. I told no one. This book describes how I developed 'mechanisms' to cope with the abuse as a child and how as an adult, I have struggled to lead a normal life through periods of psychosis, mental breakdowns, drug addiction and self-harm. I make no apologies for the uncompromising language and the blunt truths that need to be told."

“Throughout my childhood I developed different persona's. Each persona compartmentalised a section of the abuse, until it was time to create another personality to help with another aspect.”

Alice would often find herself in unfamiliar surrounds having no idea where she was or how she got there. She would 'lose time' and then discover random items like Lego – the favoured plaything of “alter” five-year-old Billy – with no recollection of how the toys came to be in her possession or why she had them.

Alice's childhood appeared to have all the trappings of a middle class British upbringing, but behind closed doors the unimaginable was occurring.

To be honest, I'm not going to recommend the book. I also not going to say you shouldn't read it. I think stories such as Alice's are incredibly important and necessary. I admire the her will and determination in trying to carve out any sort of existence at all. The truth is there is a lot of ugliness in this world. But for those who are victims of abuse, damaged and possibly isolated, such books may provide a starting point for dealing with their own pain. For those blessed with amazing families and supportive friends, the book may serve to open minds, debunk myths and illuminate some of the shame that still surrounds mental illness.

Alice Jamieson is now a marathon runner, qualified gym instructor and is about to undertake further studies to complete her PhD in the field of self-harm and dissociation at the University of Birmingham.

Although Today I'm Alice is not a comfortable read by any means, it is a vitally important book with a compelling story that should indeed be told.


  1. can you slow down on the blogging I'm falling behind... LOL

  2. wow...sounds very intense! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hey Shell, I don't post on the weekend so you can catch up LOL

    Katie- yeah 'intense' is a good word. It think you can only really read a couple of those kinds of books a year. That's about my limit I think. :)

  4. Thanks for this review! My novel deals with child rape and coping mechanisms. I will check out this book.

  5. Thank you for taking Today I'm Alice so seriously. It is a true and unbellished account of Alice's childhood traumas and I feel privileged to have collaborated with her on her memoirs. Clifford Thurlow

  6. Wow, thank you Clifford. Thank you for your comment and for visiting my blog. Alice's book was amazing. I am currently writing my own memoir on surviving abuse and was so encouraged to read Alice's book.
    It gives me great hope. both personally and also to know that such books do get published and are powerful when they are given wings to fly. If you read this and have chance to pass this on to Alice please tell her I said a very humbled 'thank you' and wish her every peace and strength as she continues her amazing life. I have recommended her book wide and far among my friends and the counsellors who work with me :) If only there were more souls like Alice's in this world :)

  7. Hi Tabitha i am Alice Jamieson(Today i'm Alice)
    I reiterate Clifford's thanks for taking my story so seriously.The question of child abuse is at last in the forefront of the authorities
    thinking it is horrific to think that in the UK alone 1in4 children still suffer some form of abuse. I hope that my book will help those who have suffered at the hands of others to see that there is help out there. Thank you once again, Alice

  8. Wow, Alice, i am humbled that you found my little blog and left me a comment. Thank you. And thank you for the words of your book. Your courage will give many women wings to fly and words to speak. Thank you once again.
    If you ever want to drop by, do a guest post and promote your book or shine light on the topic of abuse feel free to use my blog. My email is tab[at]zaeya[dot]com

    Thanks again for coming by.

  9. Hi, Some people might say that 15 years old is far to young to read a book this powerful, but as a Australian teenage girl, I most certainly do not reget opening my eyes to such a painful story of abuse. I think no matter how long you try to let this Memoir sink into your brain, it never really does. I have never read a book that has touched me so deeply,I truly hope this book is going to make people aware and help people that have suffered abuse. Writing this book is definatly somthing to be very proud of Alice. you are such an amazing woman to get through what you did. I will never forget your courage. I wish you all the best on your journey through life. :)

  10. Anonymous- it is never too young to open your mind. And I second your wishes for this book to touch the hearts and minds of many. Thanks for dropping by to comment :)

  11. such a powerful book. has taught me alot of things. thankyou very much alice.
    ciara in western australia

  12. I have just finished reading 'Today Im Alice'
    Alice you are brave and inspirational woman in your quest through your struggles and traumers that you experienced.
    May you continue to live your life with self worth that you truly deserve having told and unfolded your experiences,thoughts and feelings this will surely help others to speak out and seek help as there are some good people out there that want to help as you've said, and may this assist the long and enduring reality to persons whom work with children to become more vigilant and educated as it is becoming more frontline for authorities. I admire as Im sure others do your courage and wish you only the best

  13. My 20 yo daughter (who spent a childhood reading fantasy) wanted this book and we gave it to her for Christmas!! When she read the book she was shocked!! She had to take breaks before picking it up again. It opened up a world of which my daughter was ignorant and a world that adults are numb and jaded with. Subsequently It made such an impact on my daughter that everyone in our family has subsequently read it We have since found ourselves recommending it to lawyers and psychiatrists who are dealing with live issues of abuse. What a fabulous book. And how admiring we all are of Alice, who has endured such horrific trauma, and who appears to have come out the 'other end'
    Great work!
    From Sue in Sydney, Australia.

  14. I have a family friend with mental issues and thats why I picked up this book to start with. It's true, you will not enjoy reading it, I had to take breaks in the beginning but handled more as she learnt about the personalities. I have a lot of friends who are teachers and I am going to make sure they read it, they dont have to enjoy it but they must read it. If only one picks up on that a child is being abused then it was worth the heartbreak reading caused. To Alice, you are all brave for surviving, wishing you peace for each and every one of your personalites. Rose from Syd, Aust

  15. I'm really glad this book was written and people are reacting to it how they are. I found it incredibly powerful and felt a tremendous admiration for Alice's courage and endurance. I'm so glad she fought and has written a book that has already made a difference. Alice describes the organised abuse she went through as she grew up, as well as the abuse within her home. Our society accepting this stuff happens will perhaps offer a chance of things changing in the long term, as this stuff thrives on people's disbelief.

  16. i have just finished ready "I am Alice". It has changed so much of me. I too am a voice hearer but I do not have MPD. At some stage in the book something changed inside me and I have notice an amazing peace. My voices are less frequent and I feel much more 'in control'. I cant really explain the changes as I am only at the beginning of my journey. Thank you Alice Jamison for having the courage to share your story. You have changed the sense of helplessness I have had over this condition for years. I know I am not alone.

  17. I just found this for the first time.. I must have been under a rock.. no actually, I have been dealing with my own issues, fighting my own demons for the past 6 years with therapists and the last thing I thought of was trying to read. This story ( and I am sure others) is me... I haven't read the book as of yet, but just reading the description from amazon... made me cry. People do not realize how much torture others hold inside all their life. The only difference is that there are a great many things I did know about my childhood and teen years that I was NOT Allowed to tell... or too scared too, or DID TELL and not believed that created the low self esteem, self hatred and such and the other parts that were so painful, physically, emotionally, mentally... that is what created the alters to protect me. Each serving their own right. Which back then I had no idea any of this was going on ... not until two years ago. then I vaguely started to remember things from high school... writing anothers name on papers etc. people saying they saw me in another town when I was never there. etc.
    If people would just start to understand more about DID and be more sympathetic about WHY it happens and not call us CRAZY or laugh at us.. it would go a long way in helping to make things easier- they don't realize that THIS DOESN"T GO AWAY. Worse yet... they act like it is contagious.... I also have started putting everything into words, every memory from as far back as I can remember. My story to tell.... but I get stymied by tears.. but it will get finished. one day.. when the heart is ready for it to be.