2018 Narratively Untold Story Award
Sandy Allen is the author of A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise: A True Story about Schizophrenia (Scribner, 2018). Praised as “thrilling writing” by The New Republic, O Magazine called it “searing,” and Esquire said, “it is a marvel.” It was on multiple most anticipated books of 2018 lists, including Vogue, Esquire, and Bitch. Allen, formerly Buzzfeed News’ Deputy Feature Editor and founder of Wag’s Revue, is a widely published journalist whose essays and features have appeared in The Atlantic, BuzzFeed News, CNN Opinion, Bon Appétit's Healthyish and Pop-Up Magazine. Allen, who is non-binary trans, writes and speaks widely about mental health, gender, normalcy and power.
A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise is based on the autobiography of Allen’s Uncle Bob, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He sent his manuscript, typed out in all caps, to Allen in 2009. Allen “translated” the manuscript, and in the process created an utterly unique lens into an experience that, to most people, remains unimaginable.
When asked in an interview about the response of more conservative members of the medical community to their work, Allen responded, “I think the point of Bob’s book, and the point of my project of carrying it into a broader discourse, is to move this conversation into the realm of civil rights. Because what we really are talking about here is whether my uncle is a full person, whether people who hear voices or see visions, people who’ve had experiences that others deem unbelievable, people who’ve survived trauma — whether such people deserve to be represented in the conversation...I remind myself that my qualification to be talking about this stuff is that I’m Uncle’s Bob biographer, that I listened to his story and took his point of view seriously and then did the due diligence to try to understand people who are currently living something like what he went through — people who’ve been diagnosed with schizophrenia and are working to assert a civil rights movement for the psychiatrically diagnosed, people who are involved in demonstrating that we can create solutions that actually help folks like my uncle in moments of crisis.”
Allen is now at work on several features, stories and essays, and another book that continues the conversation that A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise began. Their reported writing focuses mostly on constructs of normalcy that enforce hierarchies of power, for example psychiatric diagnoses and gender.
Allen lives in the Catskills with their husband, dog, cats, garden beds and sourdough starter.
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