Born Into Crisis

Non-Fiction - Memoir
232 Pages
Reviewed on 03/07/2023
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Emma Megan for Readers' Favorite

Born Into Crisis by Kenneth Nixon Jr. is a remarkable memoir about mental health and breaking cycles of trauma and crisis. The author focuses on sharing his story to show how trauma affects mental health and the family and to promote the need for the transformation of the mental health system in America. Kenneth was born to a mother with severe mental issues who spent her entire life trapped in a cycle of local jails, emergency rooms, and state psychiatric institutions. As the system failed his mother and continues to fail so many others like her, Kenneth demonstrates that it's imperative to create a system that overcomes the stigma around mental illness, is more resilient, has more compassion for mental health challenges, and increases access to high-quality mental health services.

Born Into Crisis by Kenneth Nixon Jr. is a must-read for everyone, especially for all families dealing with mental issues. This powerful, compassionate, and inspiring book contains actionable information. It empowers readers to become more aware of the mental health challenges to make sure that everyone suffering from a mental disorder feels supported and included. The author does a great job of dispelling the myths and stigma around mental illness. He highlights the importance of helping children worldwide struggling with a parent suffering from a mental condition, of fathers and father figures, and of breaking the cycle of generational trauma. Most importantly, he exposes the shortcomings of the American mental health system to demonstrate the urgent need for a comprehensive, community-based system to support people suffering from mental illness.

Essien Asian

The product of a one-night stand between a young man making his way in life and a mentally challenged young lady, Kenneth Nixon Jr. had to fight for life from the moment he took his first breath. He never lived down the stigma of having a crazy mother. Her constant and sometimes dangerous harassment of his father at every opportunity ruled out any semblance of a normal childhood. He developed coping mechanisms to get him through but now, as a parent, he looks back on the decisions he and several others made concerning his family and personal growth which molded him into the individual he is today. Born Into Crisis is his story.

Kenneth Nixon Jr.'s memoir is a difficult book to read because you feel the pain of disappointment each time the system lets him and his family down. Following him as he struggled to establish some form of a relationship between himself and his mother nearly brought me to tears when I realized just how difficult it must have been for her to maintain any form of stability around her child. He lists the failings he attributes to the existing legal and healthcare systems clearly and concisely. He goes on to suggest alternative approaches to dealing with people suffering from mental health disorders that are worthy of further investigation. Mental health is a delicate subject for both the victims and their loved ones. Born Into Crisis shows that, with some much-needed change in approach, there is hope for a brighter future for everyone affected.

Kayleigh Perumal

“When you don’t have a sense of identity or belonging, it feels like you’re constantly searching for something that is just out of reach. It’s an empty feeling that can never be filled,” writes Kenneth Nixon Jr. in Born into Crisis: A Memoir. This quote describes Nixon’s life. Growing up, Nixon sought a connection with his family that seemed elusive to him. From his birth, Nixon is surrounded by people in emotional crises. His mother, Ramona, suffers from bipolar 1 and paranoid schizophrenia. She is incapable of caring for her son, and Nixon often recalls occasions when she reacted unexpectedly or behaved irrationally. This colors Nixon’s childhood with uncertainty and leaves him feeling immensely dislocated. Later in his life, he attempts to connect with Ramona and her side of the family, hoping to establish the familial bonds that he has always missed, but things do not go as expected.

Born into Crisis recounts Kenneth Nixon Jr.’s difficulties growing up in a blended family, alongside emotional abuse, mental illness, and poverty. He shares his experiences navigating these challenges and provides several practical techniques and coping mechanisms to deal with them. Thought-provoking and inspiring, Nixon's book delicately explores pain, loss, depression, grief, and how his steadfast belief in God has always helped him keep his head above water. This memoir-cum-self-help story will stir your soul. If you’re looking for something honest and evocative, Born into Crisis is ideal.

Courtnee Turner Hoyle

In Born into Crisis, Kenneth Nixon Jr. details his life as a black child, teenager, and adult, revealing the traumatic events that shaped him. He documents his hardships due to his socioeconomic status and a severely mentally unstable mother. Nixon advocates for more rights for people with mental health conditions by using his mother and her situation as an example. In many ways, the book is a tribute to the author’s late father and grandmother, as he details their many hardships, along with his own. Nixon shared his family history, from his mother’s mental instability to the shooting that hurt his father deeply.

Helpful suggestions for promoting family togetherness and increasing emotional stability are provided throughout Born into Crisis. Through his faith and some positive experiences with his grandmother, Kenneth Nixon Jr. was able to grow as an individual and make his own decisions. Using a trauma-informed approach, the author’s heavy themes of forgiveness and empowerment are clear. Anyone who reads Born into Crisis will be motivated to do whatever they can to change their negative feelings about the people who have hurt them. It would be a good resource to place in libraries and community centers to raise mental health awareness and would be a thoughtful gift for someone who has had experiences like Nixon, as it could inspire them to continue moving forward when trauma causes them to feel like giving up.

Maria Victoria Beltran

Born Into Crisis by Kenneth Nixon Jr. is a compelling personal account about growing up with a parent who was struggling with mental illness. When Kenneth was born, he was found on the floor of his mother’s apartment by his father, wrapped in a newspaper. His mother Ramona had bitten off part of the umbilical cord and was withdrawn and stiff, sitting in the corner of the living room. Suffering from severe mental illness most of her life, Ramona lost custody of her son who was taken to Virginia to live with his grandmother. Kenneth later moved to Baltimore to stay with his father, stepmother, and stepsiblings. In 1990, the family moved back to Arlington, one street away from where he was born. The area that the family lived in was a predominantly low-income working-class black community, and this is where Kenneth’s story begins.

Kenneth Nixon Jr.’s Born Into Crisis is a heart-wrenching memoir written to encourage readers to examine their mental health more carefully. It provides information on how we can work together to create a community with a better understanding of mental health challenges. This is a memoir with a consistent and engaging theme that should grab every reader’s attention. Reading this book is like going on an emotional journey. Written in the first person, the author’s writing style is engaging as he focuses on his mother’s mental health issues that he had to deal with after he was born. He tells his story unflinchingly and honestly about a subject still considered taboo by the general population. This book should encourage readers to build a world more resilient to mental health challenges by increasing access to high-quality mental health services, and with people working together and supporting each other.