News

The Mad in America blog has a wonderful review of my memoir, Crash, written by Amy Biancolli. Check it out!

New Podcast on Youtube!  My good friend, Angie Peacock, Interviewed me about my memoir, Crash: A Memoir of Overmedication and Recovery.  Here’s a link if you’d like to hear our conversation.

New video!  Ed Gillespie and I read our poetry and discuss the carceral system and its effects on all of those it touches. We also discuss positive developments in police training and education and the arts in prison.

I posted a video of the launch for those of you who couldn’t make it. Hope you enjoy it!

Check it out!

Dr. Ben Boyce, host of the podcast The Dr. Junkie Show, interviewed me about my work in the prisons (Once You’re Inside: Poems Exploring Incarceration) and about my experiences with overmedication and recovery (Crash, A Memoir of Overmedication and Recovery). Take a listen!

Roman Wyden, host of the podcast ADHD is Over!, interviewed me about my work as a special educator and my new book Crash, A Memoir of Overmedication and Recovery Give it a listen!

Mad in America published my essay about teaching, parenting, and my changing understanding of how to treat ADHD. Background and research information on ADHD here.  Robert Whitaker’s lecture on ADHD, study results, and stimulants

My poem, “Adultery”, is Pick of the Week on Best American Poetry Blog. Thank you, Terence Winch, for selecting my work.

The Maryland Food and Abolition Project recently published a report on the crisis of food in our Maryland state prisons. The report is linked here: https://foodandabolition.org/report

Crash: A Memoir of Overmedication and Recovery

Crash CoverCrash: A Memoir of Overmedication and Recovery is the story of Helen Dempsey and her daughter Ann who both fall victim to the same regimen of overmedication at the hands of the mental health system. Helen struggles with intractable depression and initially turns to self-medication with alcohol, but finds herself unable to recover despite numerous drugs, hospitalizations, and electroconvulsive therapy. Ann vows to build a different life for herself, but eventually descends into the pain of a mysterious migraine and intractable darkness lasting for many years.

Severely overmedicated with opioids and psychiatric drugs, Ann crashes her car twice. Because traditional medical treatments have failed her, she challenges her doctors’ advice and discovers ways to heal the source of her physical and emotional pain without drugs. The question of why her mother never got well continues to haunt her long after her mother’s death until she finds the missing puzzle pieces she’d searched for all her life stashed in a dusty box in her sister’s attic.

Praise for Crash

“Ann Bracken’s evocative memoir powerfully tells of how psychiatry’s diagnoses and treatments can lead to loss, illness, and despair, and how escaping from that paradigm of care can be a starting point for a full and robust recovery.”

~Robert Whitaker, author of Anatomy of an Epidemic

“Ann Bracken tells a gripping but all too common story of the damage that can be done by psychiatric drugs and electroconvulsive therapy.  Both mother and daughter are repeatedly let down by a mental health system that is so clearly reliant on simplistic bio-medical approaches to the complex problems of life and which is unable to acknowledge the dark side of those treatments, especially for women.”

~Dr. John Read, Professor of Clinical Psychology, University of East London

Once You’re Inside: Poems Exploring IncarcerationBook cover

Once You’re Inside is a poetry collection that details Ann Bracken’s volunteer experiences working in prison-based

writing programs. Prison was the last place on her mind when she thought about volunteering. Why would she want to work with those people—drug dealers, gang members, and murderers? But after a few visits, she became a regular volunteer in a couple of Maryland’s prisons for three years. Her friends and family were shocked every time she went back. “They’re not who you think they are,” she told them. The people Bracken met hungered to learn, yet their educations halted at the GED level. And many of them, like Vincent, had spent half their lives in prison. “I came here when I was 15. Now, I’m 40.” Others experienced neglect. Ryan confessed, “I was misguided. I had no sense of self-worth.” And saddest of all, one of the women told her, “You’re the first new person we’ve seen in seven years.” The poems in Once You’re Inside will introduce you to memorable characters living in impossibly tragic conditions. People working to re-enter society, if only someone would give them a chance.

No Barking in the Hallways

No Barking in the Hallways offers a rare glimpse into the lives of teachers and students in America’s public schools. I have worked as a special education teacher and college professor since 1974 and have taught many unforgettable students. Unfortunately, the voices of students and teachers are rarely heard in any meaningful way, especially when it comes to discussing the state of American public education. Poetry offers people who have no voice a way to enter the debate—the teachers and students who fill America’s classrooms, attempting to teach and to learn, to be both ethical and successful in a system that often thwarts those efforts.

Praise for No Barking in the Hallways 

“With poignant and sometimes painful imagery, Bracken creates moments in which we could easily be standing alongside her in the classroom, bearing witness to each moment as it unfolds. Collectively, the poems in No Barking in the Hallways are a window into a system that is more damaged than the circumstances faced by of some of the children the system claims to serve. Yet the language is always equally as beautiful as the children for whom these poems are written.   For anyone who has ever worked in schools and with children, or for those who appreciate how language can transform lives, this collection of poems is for you.”

~Morna McDermott McNulty, Associate Professor, College of Education, Towson University

“In Bracken’s hands, poetry becomes a peculiarly effective way to convey the reality of the classroom. Individual poems are intensely focused on a single person, giving a voice to those whose voices are rarely heard. Together these poems create an unforgettable mosaic of the experience of teaching students, whether they are learning disabled, emotionally disturbed, or stressed in other ways.”

~B. Morrison, author of Innocent: Confessions of a Welfare Mother, Here at Least, and Terrarium

Available for purchase:  Amazon.com & BarnesandNoble.com

The Altar of Innocence

The Altar of InnocenceEveryone has secrets….

Mine involved alcoholism and depression and their effects on the young girl who witnessed the roller-coaster ride of mental illness and self-medication.  I explore  the issues of my parents’ unspoken lessons by writing through three lenses: conjectures of what my mother may have felt, recollections of key childhood events and my own journey to overcome depression. Find out what I learned in The Altar of Innocence. 

I offer my story as a glimpse into the secret worlds that so many still inhabit. We are never as alone as we think.

Praise for The Altar of Innocence

“Ann Bracken creates a vibrant dialogue with her reader. Her emotional vocabulary is wholeheartedly offered to us like a gift to the world. Bracken’s strength comes from an equilibrium between idea and performance—interior and exterior lives, smartly drawn. With a strong voice, vitally engaged, she presents characters and behavior without judgment. Poetry is the vehicle that makes us laugh and cry at her Altar of Innocence.”
~ Grace Cavalieri, poet and producer of the radio show “The Poet and the Poem” from the Library of Congress”

The Altar of Innocence offers readers a rare and compassionate look at depression. By telling her mother’s story and sharing her own, Ann Bracken takes us on an intimate journey through two generations of mental illness and ultimate healing. Readers will find hope in her journey.”
~ Laura Shovan, author of Mountain, Log, Salt, and Stone, and winner of the Harriss Poetry Prize.

Available for purchase:  Amazon.com & BarnesandNoble.com