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January First: A Child's Descent into Madness and Her Father's Struggle to Save Her Hardcover – August 7, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1 edition (August 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780307719089
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307719089
  • ASIN: 0307719081
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (361 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #371,905 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Imagine invisible demons that attack your beautiful child. But this is no nightmare, and no supernatural fantasy. The demons are real, and they come from inside her own mind. The story of January Schofield, diagnosed at six with childhood schizophrenia. is told by her father, Michael, with a father's tenderness, a novelist's consciousness, and a knight's grace. We can hold our breath and pray, but not look away. This modern parable may be the most compelling book you will ever read.” --Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean

January First is a riveting and compelling-and also quite painful--story of a father’s efforts to help his young daughter find a place for herself in this world in the face of a serious mental illness. Schofield gives a glimpse inside the mind of a child who lives much of her life in another world, interacting with "friends" who are only in her mind. Schofield takes us on his journey with Jani, starting with his thoughts that Jani is simply a misunderstood genius to recognition that something is really wrong, to the ultimate diagnosis of schizophrenia, a very serious mental illness, even more so when it manifests in a child.  Schofield and his wife never give up.  Their dedication and steadfastness are inspirational.  Their story will be highly valued by the many families with a child with mental illness-indeed, by the many families who have any kind of struggle with their kids.  The book ends on a hopeful note with Jani in a better place, yet we recognize that the battle is likely not over.” – Elyn Saks, MacArthur Grant Recipient and author of The Center Cannot Hold

"In his memoirs 'January First,' Michael Schofield chronicles his family's experience with [a] devastating mental illness, which usually presents itself at least a decade later." --Daily Mail (UK)


"An unflinching portrait of the scourge of mental illness." --Kirkus Reviews

"In this dramatic memoir, Schofield...explains the mental illness of his young daughter...offers valuable insight for others in similar situations, and ends on a hopeful note." --Publishers Weekly

About the Author

MICHAEL SCHOFIELD teaches writing courses at California State University, Northridge.   He keeps a blog of his family's journey through Janni's schizophrenia at www.janisjourney.org.

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Customer Reviews

I read this book in one sitting, I couldn't put it down.
C. Belmont
This beautiful book tells the story of a father's love for his daughter and a family's struggle to hold on to hope and faith in light of a devastating mental illness.
Jackie Goodman
Highly recommend reading this book to anyone who finds interest in mental health and who has a passion for children and families!
A. Kriech

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

74 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Susan Collier on August 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I know of Jani from TV. I arrived home from work and found that January First had arrived. I was tired and grumpy and had many work tasks to complete this evening. I took a peek at just the first chapter and never stopped reading. I think Michael has written a wonderful, honest, heartbreaking story and I am so grateful he has written it. I do not have a family member with a mental illness but since learning about Jani I have been paying more attention and have come to realize that help for these families is just what Michael describes, hard to come by. It is difficult for me to realize how arduous and lonely and scary such a struggle would be. I think it is so important that you were honest, that you shared your doubt and your conflicting emotions. Living in a state of exhaustion and fear is a state of being where few could tread with certainty. I honor your journey and am grateful Jani has you both. I found the triumph of love to be the enduring message.

I highly recommend this book. It is an invitation to take a walk with two people who have been to the depths of despair and came up with hope. It is also the story of not giving up, period. Ever.
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110 of 134 people found the following review helpful By A reader on December 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I wanted to like this book. I truly did. After seeing a documentary about Jani, the daily struggles of a schizophrenic child piqued my interest. But, sadly, the father's ego and sense of entitlement got in the way of her story. His self-aggrandizing position of superiority above those around him and dozens of inconsistencies in his actions proved to be too much to stomach:

His description of his daughter is akin to viewing her as a science experiment, and yet he seems truly amazed that despite her "genius" she wants to be a normal child. It's sad that I know Jani's IQ (stated ad nauseum throughout the book, to the point of embarrassment) but not HER hopes and dreams. My heart goes out to poor Jani. While Mr. Schofield clearly loves her, he has yet to realize that gifted intelligence is by no means unique to his daughter.

Jani's aggression is well-documented throughout the book, yet consistent discipline is presented as a `novel' concept towards the end of the book, only after a therapist suggested they not give in to a five year old's demands. Seriously? One might question whether some of her behavioral issues could have been curtailed with parenting 101 - don't negotiate with a toddler.

The family insists on keeping a dog, despite repeated attempts by Jani to harm or attack the poor animal. Worse, the father and mother at various points in the story feel compelled to include Jani on walks and during play.

The father describes ongoing beatings, but as a teacher at a local college, makes no mention of whether inevitable bruising from such forceful blows would cause others to raise questions. Seems odd that bloody lips, scratches, and kicks wouldn't be noticed.
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25 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Lily on November 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is an interesting story that might have been more effectively told if the author could have reigned in his ego. He seems to have some of the same problems from which his poor daughter suffers--excessive anger, the insistence on turning every exchange with other people into a power struggle and chronic impulsivity. While I felt great sympathy for the parents and have no doubt their daughter has some form of mental illness or disability for which there are few services, he was so unsympathetic that it diminished the book's impact. The topper was when he called his father to ask if there was any mental illness in his family and then later reveals he was hospitalized for explosive anger and fire-setting as a youth. Did he forget that little detail? He seemed to identify with his daughter to an unhealthy degree and blame his wife when she was not willing to sacrifice everything and everyone to make Jani happy for the moment. He seemed more like a pal than a parent at times. Perhaps a professional writer would have been more objective. Use of the present tense made me feel I was trapped in the father's angry head for the whole book and I wondered if some of the episodes were exaggerated a bit. Not a great reading experience.
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36 of 48 people found the following review helpful By A. McNeil on August 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
It's rare to see a memoir by a father. There are a ton of memoirs by mothers but not a lot by fathers, particularly not by fathers of daughters. Put this together with the fact that Jani (her parents' nickname for her) has childhood-onset schizophrenia, and you have one unique book.

This is an excellently told memoir. It opens with Michael speaking about having his daughter's diagnosis now and struggling with all the barriers toward a normal life presented not just by her illness but by the world we live in.

After the introduction, Michael tells the story in a linear fashion. He does a good job remembering how he felt in the early days. His immense pride at his daughter's high IQ and creative mind coupled with a determination to help her succeed and be herself. It's fascinating to see, as an outsider, how early there were warning signs that something was not quite right with Jani but that Michael and Susan (her mother) attributed to a positive cause. I think that's typical of parents and indeed of anyone who loves someone. They were looking for the best. Believing in the best for their daughter.

This of course makes Jani's move toward violent behavior at the age of five that much more heart-breaking to read. I've heard and read stories and documentaries of how difficult it is for parents of young adults who become schizophrenic but at least they are adults. To have this happening to your five year old is completely terrifying. How do you control a child for whom no punishments seem to work? Who is more concerned with appeasing her hallucinations than with obeying her parents?
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