David Jackson Ambrose
Independently Published (2022)
Reviewed by Stephanie Elizabeth Long for Reader Views (09/2022)
Bowie Long’s struggle with mental illness has had him in and out of institutions and jail ever since he was a teen. He tries to have a good life; he really does; it’s just that his needy, casino-hopping, condescending mother won’t leave him alone to live a life on his own terms. Instead, she steals his disability checks, and when he does something to try to stop her, she has him committed.
Eden is in love with Bowie but finds it impossible to deal with Bowie’s erratic behavior, his overbearing mother, and his non-compliance regarding taking his meds. Eden has spent his whole life lying low and staying out of trouble. Still, everywhere Bowie goes, trouble follows. How can they build a loving, trusting relationship when everything seems to be falling apart?
“Unlawful DISorder” is a heart-wrenching story about one man’s struggle with mental illness and unresolved sexual trauma. The book highlights the plight of those stuck in the mental health system. Bowie’s harrowing journey with bipolar disorder was agonizing and frustrating, but sadly, I think it would resonate with many. In addition, the author illustrated the gaping holes in advocacy and services for mental illness. Despite the rising awareness surrounding these illnesses, there is still so much that needs to be done, particularly for vulnerable populations.
What I loved most about the book was the relationship between Bowie and Eden. It was raw and messy, much like love in the real world. Yet, amidst all the dysfunction and darkness, Eden was a beacon of light for Bowie. Their relationship depicted the challenges of loving someone with a mental illness—the desire to love and protect them, but the anger and resentfulness that grows when you watch the person you love completely unravel.
Further, I thought the tumultuous relationship between mother and son was well-developed. It was blindingly clear that mental illness had a generational role in the family—deeply embedded in Magdalene’s psyche, revealing itself through her neediness and preoccupation with Bowie’s sexuality. Unresolved trauma continued to build within her over the years, making her a neglectful parent and exacerbating Bowie’s bipolar disorder.
The author deserves praise for “Unlawful DISorder” as he has woven a memorable tale that uncovers the sobering reality of being a young black gay man with a mental illness. The characters are well-developed—multilayered, and complex, which will resonate with readers, and the story illustrates the need for more mental health advocacy.