Review: The Hospital Always Wins
by Issa Ibrahim
Series: Stand alone
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Received: Chicago Review Press for a fair and honest review
Pub Date: June 1, 2016
Genre: Nonfiction, Mental Health, Memoir
ISBN: # 978-1-61373-512-1
My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3.5/5
Issa Ibrahim’s memoir details in searing prose his development of severe mental illness leading to a horrific family tragedy, his acquittal by reason of insanity, and his subsequent commission to a mental hospital for nearly twenty years.
Raised in an idyllic creative environment, mom and dad cultivating his talent, Issa watches his family’s descent into chaos in the drug-crazed late 1980s. Following his father’s death, Issa, grief-stricken and vulnerable, travels down a road that leads to psychosis—and to one of the most nightmarish scenarios conceivable.
Issa receives the insanity plea and is committed to an insane asylum with no release date. But that is only the beginning of his odyssey. Institutional and sexual sins cause further punishments, culminating in a heated legal battle for freedom.
Written with great verve and immediacy, The Hospital Always Wins paints a detailed picture of a broken mental health system but also reveals the power of art, when nurtured in a benign environment, to provide a resource for recovery. Ultimately this is a story about survival and atonement through creativity and courage against almost insurmountable odds.
I felt myself going back and forth about this book. At times, I really enjoyed it and others, I found myself drifting off and not paying a lot of attention to what I was reading. This is a memoir about Issa, who is raised by parents, while both into the arts, also like to partake in some Mary Jane every once in awhile. Ok, who are we kidding? They smoke ALOT. It seems to be a habit that most of the family seems to pick up although Issa is more reluctant than most. From here we are told the story of how he ended up first in a psychiatric center, then prison, and finally in Creedmoor Psych Center for 19 years and his journey with mental illness and the treatment he receives while there, which more often than not is by people that are not qualified or in a profession fit for them.
The writing goes between past and present and I didn’t mind this at all and it didn’t affect my reading or understanding the story. I never found myself confused between settings either.
I can’t say that there’s a lot I didn’t like. I think I was just left with wanting more. Possibly more details about rehabilitation and some of the other patient’s stories about how they came to be in this hospital. I understand this story is about Issa but I just felt something missing. If he happens to do some more writing, I would definitely be interested in picking it up!
Issa Ibrahim is an artist, writer, and musician. He has been featured in an HBO documentary, an award-winning NPR audio story, and in exhibitions the world over. He has created numerous CD covers and merchandise designs, and his award-winning musical documentary film, Patient’s Rites, is showing in film festivals and has been embraced by the mental health community. He lives in New York City.