Monday, January 26, 2015

Between the Lines: Writing and Empathy

by Zinta Aistars

Vincent van Gogh self-portrait with felt hat

Tuesday, Jan. 27, on Between the Lines , Zinta Aistars speaks with Nellie Hermann, Creative Director of the Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University and author of "The Season of Migration." Her new novel imagines the life of Vincent van Gogh during the 10 months when he lost touch with his brother Theo and began to discover his calling as an artist. 

WMUK Tuesdays at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m. Listen at 102.1 FM in southwest Michigan or online. WMUK is southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate. 

Author Nellie Hermann says "narrative medicine" is the use of creative writing and narrative to enhance our capacity for understanding and empathy in clinical settings or any other social encounter. Telling a story and the hearing or reading of it has the power to untangle our psychological knots and to help others untangle theirs.
Hermann's first novel The Cure for Grief had an autobiographical basis and she says writing it provided an opportunity to work out issues in her own life. The book won acclaim in Time magazine, Elle, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and others, and was chosen as a Target "Breakout" book.

The Season of Migration cover
The Season of Migration cover
In her second novel The Season of Migration, published in January 2015, Hermann imagines the life of Vincent van Gogh during the ten months from August 1879 to June 1880 during which he lost touch with his older brother and benefactor, Theo. Van Gogh struggles with his search for meaning and purpose in his life, dealing with what he feels is his brother’s rejection, and with the death of a stillborn sibling on his birthday also named Vincent. He lives in a mining town called Borinage in Belgium and tries his hand at being a priest, but his artist’s eye draws him in another direction.
Parts of the novel incorporate letters van Gogh wrote but never sent to his brother, exposing the workings of ...

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