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1.31.14 Issue

by Ozzie Nogg

On Wednesday evening, April 2, the community is invited to hear author Daniel Smith discuss his book, Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety. The presentation, which runs from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Temple Israel, will be followed by a reception and book signing. The program is sponsored by Jewish Family Service in partnership with Temple Israel, Beth El Synagogue, Beth Israel Synagogue and National Council of Jewish Women, and is underwritten by a grant from The Lazier L. Singer Memorial Fund for Youth, a component fund of, and administered by, the Jewish Federation of Omaha Foundation.

According to reviews, Monkey Mind is wise and funny, a great mix of startling memoir and fascinating medical and literary history. The book is an attempt to grapple with a lifetime of anxiety: to locate its causes, describe its effects and possibly identify a cure. Or, if not a cure, at least a temporary cessation of the worry that’s been plaguing Smith since his youth. Aaron Beck, the most influential doctor in modern psychotherapy, says that, “Monkey Mind does for anxiety what William Styron’s Darkness Visible did for depression.” Chad Harbach, author of The Art of Fielding, said, “You don’t need a Jewish mother, or a profound sweating problem, to feel Daniel Smith’s pain in Monkey Mind. His memoir treats what must be the essential ailment of our time — anxiety — and it does so with wisdom, honesty, and the kind of belly laughs that can only come from troubles transformed.”

Monkey Mind cvr web Daniel Smith began his career as a staff editor at The Atlantic Monthly. He has published articles, essays, and reviews in The American Scholar, The Atlantic, Granta, New York, The New York Times Book Review, The New York Times Magazine, and Slate. Smith’s first book, Muses, Madmen, and Prophets: Hearing Voices and the Borders of Sanity, explores the lives of some of the greatest thinkers, leaders, and prophets in history who heard, listened to and had dialogues with voices inside their heads. In this fascinating quest for understanding, Smith examines the history of this powerful phenomenon and delivers a ringing defense of the validity of unusual human experiences. Daniel Smith holds the Mary Ellen Donnelly Critchlow Endowed Chair in English at The College of New Rochelle in New Rochelle, NY.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that nearly 40 million American adults suffer from a wide range of anxiety disorders — from acute nervousness, bouts of insomnia, increased heart rate to full-on panic attacks. Jewish Family Service Executive Director Karen Gustafson, M.S., N.C.C., L.I.M.H.P., said, “As a therapist, I admire Daniel Smith’s work. He pulls no punches when he describes his battle with anxiety, and he inspires others who suffer from this potentially debilitating condition to keep going. Our community is lucky to have Daniel visit and share his personal story and insights with us.”

The Kripke Library Dorothy Kaplan Book Discussion Group has picked Monkey Mind as its February selection. A discussion of the book, led by JFS Executive Director Karen Gustafson, will be held on Thursday, Feb. 20, at 1 p.m. in the Kripke Jewish Federation Library. “Everyone who has read Monkey Mind and wants to be part of the discussion is welcome to attend,” Gustafson said. Participation is free.