In 1976, Ben Martini was diagnosed with schizophrenia. A decade later, his brother Olivier was told he had the same disease. For the past thirty years the Martini family has struggled to comprehend and cope with a devastating illness, frustrated by a health care system lacking in resources and empathy, the imperfect science of medication, and the strain of mental illness on familial relationships. Throughout it all, Olivier, an accomplished visual artist, drew. His sketches, comic strips, and portraits document his experience with, and capture the essence of, this all too frequently misunderstood disease. In Bitter Medicine, Olivier’s poignant graphic narrative runs alongside and communicates with a written account of the past three decades by his younger brother, award-winning author and playwright Clem Martini. The result is a layered family memoir that faces head-on the stigma attached to mental illness. Shot through with wry humour and unapologetic in its politics, Bitter Medicine is the story of the Martini family, a polemical and poetic portrait of illness, and a vital and timely call for action.
About the authors
Clem Martini is an award-winning playwright, novelist, and screenwriter with over thirty plays and nine books of fiction and non-fiction to his credit, including Bitter Medicine: A Graphic Memoir of Mental Illness, winner of the Calgary Book Award, and his most recent anthology of plays, Martini with a Twist. He has served on the boards of numerous writing organizations including the Alberta Playwrights Network, the Playwrights Guild of Canada, and the Canadian Creative Writers and Writing Programs. His texts on playwriting, The Blunt Playwright and The Greek Playwright, are used in universities and colleges across the country. He is currently a professor in the School of Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Calgary.
Olivier Martin’s sketches, paintings, and prints have been displayed at the Marion McGrath Gallery and Studio Three Gallery, published in Alberta Views magazine, and were included as part of the Canadian Mental Health’s Copernicus Project. His first book, Bitter Medicine: A Graphic Memoir of Mental Illness, a collaboration with his brother Clem, won the City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize.
- Winner, City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Award
- Winner, Alberta Trade Non-Fiction Book of the Year Award
“The book’s greatest strength is its profound ability to humanize a frequently misunderstood condition, and to highlight mental illness as the ‘orphan child’ of the health care community.”
“This is a rare and powerful book. It gives the meaning of love without talking of love. It is both heartbreaking and truly victorious. It tells us clearly that mental illness is a dimension of 'normal' the way that shadow is a dimension of light. And we should walk with our shadows.”