Sunday, November 23, 2014

Just Published #2: Friends and Foes, a Memoir

Today's interviewee is Jim Williams, author of Friends and Foes, a memoir about his battle with homelessness and schizophrenia.

I particularly recommend this book to anyone working with the poor, the homeless, the downtrodden, or the mentally ill, (or anyone who intends on working with them.) I recommend it for people whose loved ones are facing such difficulties, and of course, I recommend it for people suffering such difficulties themselves.

Thank you, Mr. Williams, for joining us today.

Why don't you start by telling us a little more about your memoir?

On my way home to camping in Golden Gate Park, unknown assailants bludgeoned me into a coma and left me to die. Two years later, as I was being diagnosed by my physician for mental illness, my friend offered his silence while the doctor examined me. My case for being in reality would have been stronger if my friend had existed.

I slept inside discarded rolls of carpet to get out of the rain. Professional caregivers openly mocked my failings. Security guards ousted me from benches at three in the morning, and I sobbed alone in the darkness. I participated in dialogues with illusory voices, and we formed a World Government. Amidst day-to-day functioning on the streets, my unreal friends and I anticipated the day our telepathic leaders would end warfare and run the planet.

Finally, with detox and therapy, real voices began to replace my auditory hallucinations. Friendships developed while I realized people do still care about people. Reuniting with my brother, I started this book, detailing my 15 homeless years and struggles with hearing voices and psychosis.

FRIENDS AND FOES is a memoir complete at 45,000 words. My story shatters stigmas and provides hope.

What inspired you to write about your experiences?

My outrage at the severity of the assault. No matter what I haven't accomplished in my life, the assault was too much for anyone need endure. I couldn't just absorb it alone.

What was the hardest part of your story to write?

Anything to do with my failings to my children. I had a daughter that died when she was four and a son I'll probably never know. I got to email the son a reference to my book, but I don't know if he'll pick it up.

If you could change the way society treats the homeless and/or mentally ill, what would you change?

For "professional caregivers" to realize how competent street people have to be to survive. Yes there's help, but all needs, whether hygiene, shelter or food, must be met by street people on their own. Doing so takes effort and competence not always recognized.

And if you could give one message to other people struggling with homelessness and/or mental illness, what would it be?

Life, at least DNA based life, universally wants to live and thrive. Find that part of yourself that also wants to live and thrive, and follow it. In other words, be yourself.

Tell us a little about yourself. What are you reading these days?

Time magazine because I have a subscription.

What's your favorite kind of coffee?


What are you working on, now? Do you have a new project?

Designing a painter's easel that will stand in the sand.

All right! Thank you so much for joining us today, and good luck!

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