This month, our Book Club discussed Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League by Jonathan Odell. The book has two main themes, racism in the Deep South and mental health.
Trigger Warnings: Racism, Graphic Violence, Deaths, Anxiety, Alcohol Use, and Depression
Kay King, Community Educator at NAMI Minnesota, facilitated this Book Club discussion and provided discussion questions to guide the conversation.
One question prompted the group to discuss how many people still believe that people living with mental illnesses should just “snap out of it” and “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” The causes of mental illnesses are not simple ones. Kay and the group discussed that we don’t know what causes a mental illness. We know environment, genetics, biology, brain chemistry, life experiences, and trauma can be factors. The present theory is that some of us are born with a predisposition and something puts it into motion (a second hit). That trigger could be something like trauma, poverty, deaths in the family, war, losses, other illnesses, the birth of a child, a lack of sunlight, major long- and short-term life stresses, etc. The group discussed what some of the triggers may have been for Hazel in the book.
Another question highlighted how Hazel’s husband, Floyd, could have been more supportive of her recovery from depression and alcohol-use disorder. In the book, Floyd is often saying something about thinking positively. After Hazel loses her son Davie, she becomes very depressed and turns to alcohol. Floyd thinks that Hazel can cure herself from her depression and alcohol-use disorder by positive thinking.
The group continued to discuss Floyd's response to Hazel's illness. Hazel is hospitalized in a place called Whitfield for her co-occurring disorder. Toward the end of the book, Floyd says to Hazel, “Do you want me to send you back to Whitfield? You know I could have you committed again.” The group discussed how Floyd could have been more supportive toward Hazel and some of the other things that he could have said to her. One of the things that Floyd could have said was, “I am worried about you. How can I help?” instead of threatening to send her back to Whitfield.
Miss Hazel in the Rosa Parks League is a very complex book, and the group enjoyed discussing it.
Join us on Thursday, August 19th for another rousing discussion. It will be on the book, Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman. We hope to see you there!
Author: Ann Resemius
Ann Resemius is an advisor on the NAMI Ramsey County board and has earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Minnesota.