My Lobotomy

My Lobotomy

A Memoir

Book - 2007
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At twelve, Howard Dully was guilty of the same crimes as other boys his age: he was moody and messy, rambunctious with his brothers, contrary just to prove a point, and perpetually at odds with his parents. Yet somehow, this normal boy became one of the youngest people on whom Dr. Walter Freeman performed his barbaric transorbital--or ice pick--lobotomy.

Abandoned by his family within a year of the surgery, Howard spent his teen years in mental institutions, his twenties in jail, and his thirties in a bottle. It wasn't until he was in his forties that Howard began to pull his life together. But even as he began to live the "normal" life he had been denied, Howard struggled with one question: Why?

"October 8, 1960. I gather that Mrs. Dully is perpetually talking, admonishing, correcting, and getting worked up into a spasm, whereas her husband is impatient, explosive, rather brutal, won't let the boy speak for himself, and calls him numbskull, dimwit, and other uncomplimentary names."

There were only three people who would know the truth: Freeman, the man who performed the procedure; Lou, his cold and demanding stepmother who brought Howard to the doctor's attention; and his father, Rodney. Of the three, only Rodney, the man who hadn't intervened on his son's behalf, was still living. Time was running out. Stable and happy for the first time in decades, Howard began to search for answers.

"December 3, 1960. Mr. and Mrs. Dully have apparently decided to have Howard operated on. I suggested [they] not tell Howard anything about it."

Through his research, Howard met other lobotomy patients and their families, talked with one of Freeman's sons about his father's controversial life's work, and confronted Rodney about his complicity. And, in the archive where the doctor's files are stored, he finally came face to face with the truth.

Revealing what happened to a child no one--not his father, not the medical community, not the state--was willing to protect, My Lobotomy exposes a shameful chapter in the history of the treatment of mental illness. Yet, ultimately, this is a powerful and moving chronicle of the life of one man. Without reticence, Howard Dully shares the story of a painfully dysfunctional childhood, a misspent youth, his struggle to claim the life that was taken from him, and his redemption.
Publisher: New York : Crown Publishers, c2007
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780307381262
Branch Call Number: 617.481 DUL 2007 22
Characteristics: x, 272 p. : ill
Additional Contributors: Fleming, Charles


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Jul 02, 2016

This was an eye-opening memoir that made me angry. I knew that lobotomies were done on people but I didn't know that children were ever the victim. Howard's behavior seemed like a typical or energetic child's behavior, although I'm sure he had some issues surrounding his mother's death. His stepmother was abusive and blamed him for everything that upset her strict household. That a doctor would agree to do this operation on a 12 year old child whom he talked to briefly only two times is a terrible tragedy. I am happy that Howard finally was able to piece his life together and he showed a lot of courage in doing the NPR radio program. His father was like many men of his generation - not able to outwardly show sympathy or love. His not supporting his son against Lou and letting the lobotomy happen was something that he dealt with by burying his feelings. This book made me want to read Dr. Freeman's biography.

Apr 28, 2015

A highly readable account of the author's life growing up as a lobotomy subject. He has always wondered - and is partially afraid to find out - why his parents wanted him to have a lobotomy at age 12. Did he hurt someone? Did he kill someone? In his 50s he learns that his father's health is not good, his grandmother, stepmother and the "doctor" who performed the lobotomy have died and he realizes he better start digging before all the people with the answers are dead. The memoir is his record of the excavating of his past and putting all the pieces together. It is a haunting narrative, at times, as we read about his life in and out of juvenile detention, a mental institution, halfway houses and prison. It is ultimately an uplifting book as the reader watches him grow from lonely victim to master of his destiny.

Apr 11, 2009


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