Joan Didion on Blue Nights

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Joan Didion discusses her latest book, Blue Nights, about losing her daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne. Reflecting on her daughter and also on her own role as a parent, Didion asks candid questions about how she feels she failed either because she didn’t notice cues or perhaps displaced them. She also reflects on her fears and doubts about having children, her daughters fears and challenges, illness and death, and her own thoughts on growing old.


Joan Didion

Comments [6]


I enjoyed the interview too. But to say you're not prepared for a baby because you adopt the child instead of give birth to it is way off base. Adoptive parents plan for their babies as much or as little as biological's up to the parents to decide how much they want to study up. But in truth, no one is prepared for childrearing until they've done it a few times. So Ms. Didion can cut herself some slack! -As for the borderline personality disorder -- many parents of teenagers think their child has it because of extreme mood swings in the teen years. If it persists through adulthood, as it may have with her daughter, then there's a problem.

Nov. 02 2011 08:48 PM

As another listener commented, Borderline Personality Disorder is not the same as bipolar disorder. Bipolar was formerly known as manic depression, and now has been divided into three different types. BPD, like other personality disorders, does share some characteristics with bipolar, but it is an even more complicated mood disorder, and the most difficult to treat.

It must have been a nightmare for Ms. Didion and her husband when their daughter was diagnosed with BPD at a time when there was no one like Marsha Linehan, a psychologist who developed a dialectic behavior therapy, a year or longer treatment comprising group and individual therapy, conducted by highly trained psychologists.

We were very fortunate to be directed by TARA, an organization in NYC devoted to helping families who have someone with BPD, to train us and direct our grown child to such highly trained people in Westchester. We and our child are among the fortunate few who, after years of learning how to communicate and empathize, have had our lives turned around with marvelous results.

I was hoping the discussion would shed more light on BPD. Nevertheless, when a well-respected person such as Ms. Didion even mentions a subject, it is helpful to those of us who do not command such a wide audience. I think often of the countless families who are living with someone with BPD, and don't even know it; perhaps, being guided by a wrong diagnosis. May I suggest that countless people who are totally in the dark as we and the Dunnes were for too many years of our child's life, would greatly benefit from an airing of the topic on a future WNYC program.

Nov. 02 2011 05:55 PM
Hector from San Francisco

Joan Didion is a true American treasure. Whether chronicling American culture or writing about what many are afraid to even think of, she has given us a "eyes wide open" view of ourselves as we really are. As a person who is living with a terminal form of cancer, I have been comforted by Ms. Didion's insights into the contradictory mix of feelings and thoughts when we are facing death, whether someone else's or our own.
Thank you Joan for all you have shared with us.
I wish you inner peace n comfort.
Grateful - Hector

Nov. 02 2011 05:18 PM
MP from Brooklyn

What an amazing woman and what a wonderful writer. What she says about adopted children and their fear of abandonment hits very close to home. My sister was adopted at the age of 5 months, and even at the age of 48, I don't think she has ever fully recovered from the loss. If anyone is interested in reading a wrenching book about adoption in the pre-Roe v. Wade era, I highly recommend "The Girls Who Went Away" by Ann Fessler.

Nov. 02 2011 02:01 PM
Paul from NYC/Northern NJ


Sorry to make these two comments but here goes:

1. Bipolar Disorder is different from Borderline Personality Disorder. Won't go into it here, but you can look it up.

2. Not all adopted people have fear of abandonment. I know this from personal experience (I'm not adopted, but have known several adopted people for long enough to know this).

Thanks for your great shows!

Nov. 02 2011 01:54 PM
iva nova from Fort Lee,NJ

Mr Lopate
should interviewee talk more than interviewer? We all know that you are very knowledgeable person.

It would be nice if you let them finish their sentences.

Nov. 02 2011 01:50 PM

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