Anish Majumdar (Rochester, NY)
Author of The Isolation Door
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- Anish’s silent struggle with his mother’s schizophrenia and how the process of writing this novel has brought healing and transformation to his life.
- The gravitational pull: dealing with mental illness as a family member or caregiver.
- Signs and symptoms of a mental disorder. In most people, the onset of schizophrenia happens by the age of 20 or 25. For a time, Anish lived in fear of following in his mother’s footsteps.
- The unsung heroes of mental illness: Remarkable stories about the resiliency of the human spirit, especially in children, who accept their life as “normal,” not realizing it could be different until they’re older.
- The loss of nurturing a child experiences with a schizophrenic or mentally ill parent. How Anish has realized a change by becoming a new parent himself and watching his Mom nurture her first grandchild.
- Growing up the child of immigrants (and Anish becoming one himself): walking a tightrope between two (or three) cultures.
WHY YOU’RE BOOKING HIM
- Bengali-Canadian-American journalist who has written his debut novel, a fictional account of his life growing up in the shadow of his mother’s battle with schizophrenia.
- Award-winning writer; received Independent Press Association Awards for Feature Writing and Investigative Journalism, nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
- As an actor, Anish has toured the U.S. with a Shakespeare-in-the-Park troupe, played a doctor in “The Fountain,” and appeared in IFC’s “The Festival” and the French-language show “Pure Laine.”
- Anish speaks regularly to high school and college students about “the importance of owning your story and spreading awareness” about the millions of families dealing with mental illness.
- Anish filmed a series of YouTube videos, at locations integral to his mother’s battle with schizophrenia, talking about his experiences dealing with a schizophrenic parent.
- A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to schizophrenia research and treatment.
In his fiction debut, journalist Anish Majumdar writes the story of 23-year-old Neil Kapoor, who is desperate to create a life beyond the shadow of his mother’s schizophrenia. Set in a college town, Neil’s story in The Isolation Door reflects many true events from Anish’s life during his mother’s decades-long battle with the mental illness.
In The Isolation Door, Neil plays silent witness to years of his mother’s successive relapses and rehabilitations with schizophrenia. Amidst her latest breakdown, Neil seeks an exit. He attends drama school in pursuit of a role that might better express the truth of who he is. A relationship blooms with Emily, and each finds strength–and demons–in the other. New friendships with Quincy and Tim grow close and complex. But the emotional remove needed to keep these two lives separate destabilizes the family. Neil’s father, who plays the role of caretaker and is the one constant in the chaos, buckles under the pressure. Enlisting the aid of his aunt, who has the means but questionable motives, Neil layers deception on top of deception. As his mother’s mental state falls to terrifying depths, Neil must make a decision: family or freedom?
Raised in Montreal, Quebec, in a Bengali community, Anish Majumdar was in elementary school when his mother had her first schizophrenic episode. This marked the beginning of a 10-year cycle in which she would sink into darkness, then recover, as Anish and his father would hold their breath, watching for signs of the next episode. She was forcibly committed to a psychiatric hospital three times. At her worst, she spent hours locked in unstoppable laughing and crying fits, lashed out at family, got into hit-and-runs, and spent over $50,000 of their retirement money on clothing and costume jewelry. Though a Hindu, at one point she adopted the persona of a devout Catholic named Dorothy, dressing all in black, attending Mass every day, and even signing her name “Dorothy.”
In high school and college, Anish found escape in acting, writing, and drugs—anything to whisk him away from the depressing reality of his existence, which “mainly consisted of avoiding human contact and trying to feel something other than numb.” After college, Anish performed an assortment of jobs, including parking valet, security guard and doorman, while working as an actor in Montreal and Toronto, “essentially pretending to be a normal and well-adjusted guy when I felt anything but.”
Up until the age of 25, Anish had never spoken to anyone about his mother’s battle with schizophrenia. Now, he bravely opens himself up to the world and shines a much-needed light onto the journey of those coping with serious mental disorders and the loved ones who walk alongside them.
Throughout this process, Anish found something he never expected—a gateway to happiness. In writing the book’s characters, he forced himself to look through the eyes of his father—and admiration for his dad increased “a thousandfold” as he realized his commitment to family. Anish tried to imagine his mother lost in the dark world of her mind and felt a profound empathy for her struggle, as well as for his father who willingly stood alongside her through the very worst of it.
Anish is now experiencing a completely new relationship with his mother. Her doctors found an effective combination of drugs to treat her schizophrenia and she has been stable for the past seven years. Anish moved to New York City and met Erin, his wife, who recently gave birth to their first child. He said seeing his mom as a nurturing grandmother to his son is something that he never imagined possible. They’ve made a full-circle journey as a family, and now he’s “lowering his walls” in order to help others lower theirs, particularly in the Indian community. He hopes to open a dialogue about schizophrenia and other mental disorders and bring these stories into the fabric of our culture.
Anish Majumdar is a Bengali-Canadian-American journalist and writer. As a child growing up in the Montreal suburb of LaSalle, Canada, Anish’s first creative writing lessons came courtesy of his mother, a former English teacher. Witnessing her struggle with schizophrenia had a profound impact on Anish and inspired The Isolation Door, his first novel. His non-fiction work, appearing in publications such as American Way, Maclean’s, Hemispheres, Little India Magazine and Toronto Life, has garnered Independent Press Association Awards for Feature Writing and Investigative Journalism. His short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He lives with his wife, son, and a growing menagerie of pets in Rochester, NY.
Note: Anish is fluent in English and French, and can understand Bengali.