About Big Flame and Little Buck
What do you do when someone you love is diagnosed with a debilitating mental illness? You can ask Emeline Bates, whose favorite aunt was taken from her home in France in the 1890’s. Or Clemens Bates, her son, whose brother Truman was sent to the Vermont Asylum for the Insane in 1932.
Truman Bates was heading for a career in the Vermont granite industry until he began to hear, feel, and see things that no one else could. He was eventually treated for a newly labeled illness: schizophrenia. Decades later, his nephew Pat Bates was a typical senior of the Class of 1984. It was then that Pat’s unlikely best friend, Dante Zuckerman, began to seriously worry that the depression Pat fell into that year would lead him to a life like Uncle Tru’s.
While there is no one way for a family to navigate their way through the complexities of mental illness, how they do so is greatly influenced by both the time and place in which it occurs. Equally significant are the friends and community who provide the support needed for a transition to a new normal.
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Why Big Flame and Little Buck? JJ Holbert worked in the mental health field in the 1990's. It was her first real job and she loved her position title, Psychosocial Rehabilitation Counselor, because it had so many syllables. She worked in a day treatment program in which she supported job development and training for adults with mental illness. She could be found more often than not driving the agency van around with clients on their way to pick up recycling, mow lawns, or staff a soup kitchen. In the way that only working side-by-side can, there developed a camaraderie and mutual respect that helped her grow as a person. She can only hope she had as positive an influence on her clients as they had on her. This novel is written in honor of them.