Courage to Speak: Empowerment

The audiobook version of Ben Behind His Voices has its first official review, from Publishers Weekly – and the fact that the book might reach others who prefer to hear their stories told, rather than sit and read them, thrills me as both the author of the words and as the voice talent who narrated them.

When I agreed to voice the project for Spoken Word, Inc. – a fabulous new audiobook publisher with heart, integrity and a mission which includes donating a portions of proceeds to organizations like NAMI– I was concerned that I might be too close to the words to do justice to my own story.  When the audiobook arrived, I avoided listening to it for some time. I had gone from role of author to editor to voice talent and then to production editor; could I now, objectively, play the role of listener?

So when the first audio review included these words, I was both thrilled and relieved:

“This extremely affecting memoir is made more potent by author Randye Kaye’s background as a professional voice actor. Besides providing crisp, brisk narration, Kaye is exceptional at creating a sense of intimacy with listeners. We hear in Kaye’s performance her simmering frustration… her confusion… her motherly concern during Ben’s moments of sudden vulnerability, and her sadness when she realizes that Ben’s schizophrenia will be a permanent aspect of both his life and his family’s.”

“Simmering frustration”…”confusion”…”sadness”…”concern.” Every time I do an author event (as I did last night, focusing on what congregations can do to support families dealing with mental illness) I am reminded that there are thousands of stories like ours, probably millions. People share their experiences, and these feelings seem universal to those of us dealing with mental illness in a loved one.

The thing that always makes me feel as though this book has been worth writing and sharing is when families tell me that reading has changed their attitude about speaking up.  When someone tells me that they decided to stop fearing stigma, let go of the shame that truly has no place in any no-fault illness, and speak out for their family – that propels me to continue speaking, writing, giving voice to our story and hopefully encouraging others to do the same.

Thank you, reader,  for telling me about the effect this book – or audiobook – has had on you. Every time I meet you, or get an e-mail from you, I am encouraged and embraced by your your courage.

Together we can make the difference by putting a human face onto mental illness and refusing to bow to stigma. I hope we continue to empower each other to speak.

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