KATYA CENGEL at Books Inc. Berkeley

Author images of Katya Cengel and Francis Dinkelspiel and cover photo of the book Strait Jackets and Lunch Money

Books Inc. Berkeley proudly welcomes acclaimed author and journalist Katya Cengel to the shop for a discussion of her vulnerable and eye opening memoir Straitjackets and Lunch Money: A 10-Year-Old in a Psychosomatic Ward!

Katya will be joined in conversation by fellow writer Frances Dinkelspiel.

Katya Cengel became patient number 090 71 51 at the Roth Psychosomatic Unit at Children's Hospital at Stanford in 1986. She was 10 years old. Overwhelmed by feelings of abandonment, worthlessness and anger at having to care for her depressed father, she wanted out.

Thirty years later Katya, now a journalist, discovers her young age was not the only thing that made her hospital stay unusual. The idea of psychosomatic units themselves, where patients have dual medical and psychological diagnoses, was a revolutionary one, since largely fallen out of favor. Katya documents this, tracking down the doctors, psychologists and counselors who once cared for her.

What happened to her as a child is told in the voice of the troubled 10-year-old girl she once was. The two narratives unfold simultaneously. The result is a gut-wrenching account of childhood mental illness told from the inside interspersed with updates from experts in the field.

"A breathtaking, powerful read that will by turns break your heart and give you hope. Cengel writes with captivating nuance about childhood mental illness, loneliness, abandonment, the families we are born into and those we build around us. Straitjackets and Lunch Money is a must-read: thought-provoking, gripping and beautifully written." -- Dallas Woodburn, award-winning author of The Best Week That Never Happened.

"Katya's early pain, showing up as anorexia, landed her in a med-psych ward at age ten: a speechless child tied down with cotton strips, force-fed through a tube. Fortunately she found her voice on paper and a calling to tell the stories of other silenced children. Beautifully written, Straitjackets and Lunch Money is a searing page-turner and wake-up call." -- Joan Steinau Lester, PEN-award winning author of Loving Before Loving: A Marriage in Black and White.

"Katya Cengel's heartbreaking, unsparing memoir Straightjackets is a clear-eyed look at what it's like to be ten years old trying to starve yourself -- as well as a deep examination into the flawed science used to treat her." -- Frances Dinkelspiel, New York Times bestselling author of Tangled Vines: Greed, Murder, Obsession and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California and co-founder of Berkeleyside and Cityside.

"Straitjackets and Lunch Money is a marvel--a bracing account of the author's childhood mental illness written with such lucid honesty, such palpable empathy, that the reader becomes immediately invested in the fortunes of each sick or lost child we meet. It is a wise and merciless book, humble and deeply brave. I can't imagine what it cost Cengel to write this book, but I'm profoundly glad that she wrote it." -- Ted Scheinman, senior editor of Smithsonian Magazine and author of Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan.


Katya Cengel is the author of Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY) and Foreword INDIES winner From Chernobyl with Love and two other non-fiction books including Exiled featured in a California State Library curated collection. Katya reports from around the world for New York Times MagazineMarie Claire and Smithsonian among others.

Frances Dinkelspiel is an award-winning journalist and the author of Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created CaliforniaTowers of Gold was a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller and named a Best Book of the Year by the Chronicle and the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association. She is the co-founder of the news site Berkeleyside and her articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, People, San Francisco Magazine, and other venues. She lives in Berkeley, California.

Event date: 
Tuesday, October 3, 2023 - 7:00pm
Event address: 
Books Inc in Berkeley
1491 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94709
Straitjackets and Lunch Money: A 10-year-old in a Psychosomatic Ward By Katya Cengel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781954907683
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Woodhall Press - September 5th, 2023