first-impressions, non-fiction, psychology

First-Impressions: Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family

Hello everyone and wow this is the first “first-impressions” post I’ve done in a good while! It’s nice to finally get back into reading… even though it has taken a while for me to properly sit down and absorb myself into this book (lol never heard of reader’s procrastination until now… probably something to do with the fact that I hadn’t sat down and read a book for pleasure in ages) – and so far it has been totally worth it. This is also a non-fiction book so yay I’m making progress on my 2021 reading goal!

Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker: 9780525562641 |  PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

I’m currently in my final year of school and have applied to study psychology at university! I’m a very passionate advocate for mental health especially in today’s society where mental health has increasingly become an issue, which COVID and lockdown has only enhanced. I absolutely love psychology as a subject and really hope to pursue clinical psychology and become a clinical psychologist one day 🙂

When I saw that this was currently a really popular non-fiction book that was about how half of the children in an American family were diagnosed with schizophrenia and that the entire book was focused on understanding the disease through the study of the family – not only did it sound absolutely gripping, but I also had that psychology nerd inside of me really excited too haha. One thing I really love about psychology as a subject is that it still evolving, growing and adapting every day – and there is still so many theories and so much debate and discussion – it makes the study of the mind so much more interesting. Also, the fact that there is so much more research needed to help to tackle mental illnesses just makes it an incredibly important subject that even if only a few are interested in pursuing it at degree level, we should all educate ourselves on it and be aware of the importance of mental health throughout our everyday lives.

I’m a hundred pages into this book and am already fascinated by the whole nature-nurture debate that is playing out, when the author is exploring the early stages of the family and Don’s career.

Reading about how psychology and psychiatry have tried to grapple with the origins of schizophrenia has also been really interesting!!! There have already been a few quotes that have really stood out to me…

Schizophrenia is not about multiple personalities. It is about walling oneself off from consciousness, first slowly and then all at once, until you are no longer accessing anything that others accept as real.

It was hilarious for me to read about the debate between Jung and Freud about the origins of Schizophrenia: “the protege and his mentor had been sparring about this on and off for years. But for Jung, this was the last straw. He told Freud that not everything was about sex – that sometimes people go insane for other reasons, maybe because it is just something they’re born with” LOL! As a Psychology A Level student, I’m glad to see that Freud was put in his place… even back then. Even doing psychoanalytical readings in English Literature (the closet scene in Hamlet!) really makes you wonder about why Freud himself was so fixated on sexual causes of behaviour.

Despite this book being a work of non-fiction, the family dynamics and historical context in the story is so perfectly encapsulated from the beginning that it almost reads as a fiction, making it all the more an engrossing read. Even though it did take me a while to get into this book, I am officially hooked, and very excited to read the rest and learn more about the nature of schizophrenia as a mental illness and also the impact that it had on this family.


That’s it for this first-impressions post – apologies if it came across that I was just ranting about psychology – I just have so many thoughts on this subject and I really truly love it 🙂 Let me know what you guys think about this post! Have you read this book before, what were your thoughts? Are there any psychology-related books you want to read/are reading??

Speak soon!!

8 thoughts on “First-Impressions: Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family”

  1. Salaams Ruqs! That sounds like a gripping read! Outside of school, I haven’t read many non-fiction books for fun (unless it’s about ancient history) but I’m going to have to keep some on my radar, like this one. The psychology aspect of the book sounds very interesting, and I agree with you that psychology is a gem of a subject and so interesting to study. The only psych I’m reading right now is a textbook for a first-year psych course I’m taking, but it is by far the most interesting textbook I’ve read (and it’s actually fun to read!). Best of luck pursuing your dreams and future studies, and do let us know how this book ends cause I’m curious how everything plays out in the family and especially for those diagnosed kids

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  2. Walaikumasalam Amina! Ooh I hope you enjoy your first-year psych course, if you don’t mind my asking, what are you studying at uni? Thank youuuu and I definitely will let you know!!! 🙂

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  3. I’m really enjoying psych actually, I never took the senior highschool course, wish I did because it’s very interesting 🙂 Right now I’m in a first-year bachelor of science gateway program, which is essentially where you take a bunch of courses from all the different sciences and then at the end of the year pick what you want to specialize in for the rest of your undergrad. I haven’t picked a specialization yet but my top choice is applied sciences in human behavior.

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  4. I’m so glad that you’re enjoying it! Ohh that sounds really cool… I wish the UK uni system was like that, we basically have to know what we want to do by 17 lol. Oh “applied sciences in human behaviour” sounds a lot like psychology!

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  5. Lol picking what you want to study for the next x years of your life can be pretty nerve-racking, not going to lie. A lot of the programs here are direct entry for those who do know, but I’m glad there are options for those who still want to explore (especially when covid gave me a post-secondary education crisis in my senior year XD). But don’t stress too much, because really what you’re doing is picking what you want to study, not what you want to be. Sure for most jobs, you have to have certain related degrees, but you’d be surprised how flexible your work options are relative to your degree (you just gotta do some digging and research). So really if you just focus on what you are willing to study for the next few years, something you will enjoy + has a good mix of easy and challenging for you, then you can’t really go wrong. And psychology is a great choice, there’s so much you can do with that and it really is an interdisciplinary science! Profs and students from that faculty in my uni often talk about studying in and alongside people from other science disciplines, and the research in it is fascinating. As long as you’re into it, you’ve made a good choice! And yeah, human behavior is a program offered by our psychology faculty so essentially it’s psych courses, just geared more towards the behavior disciple. I didn’t pick the general psych stream for a few reasons, among them being that I haven’t taken some of the prerequisites for the specialization and cause it’s really research-intensive at my place, while I wanted more fieldwork than lab work.

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  6. Agh I’m so sorry COVID gave you a post-secondary education crisis for your senior year! COVID has definitely forced me to face a bunch of stuff I was hoping I could postpone until after my final year haha. Yeah… I also made sure to pick a degree that has a career at the end of it that I would enjoy, so even though I love English Literature I know I wouldn’t enjoy being a teacher! I love psychology as a subject and I also think the role as a clinical psychologist (which I pray I’ll be successful in attaining!) will be something I will really enjoy as well. Oh, that’s sooo cool – good luck with that! 🙂

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  7. ahaha yeah covid really out here forcing us to face our problems, old and new XD it’s a very unfortunate situation for sure, but it has some blessings in disguise. I like that you’re thinking ahead and being aware of what you’d like/be good at, and In sha Allah I pray you are successful in your journey to being a clinical psychologist, or any and all career paths you choose in the future!

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