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Extended Audio Sample My Lobotomy: A Memoir, by Howard Dully, Johnny Heller, Charles Fleming Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (5,368 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Howard Dully, Johnny Heller, Charles Fleming Narrator: Johnny Heller Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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?

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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “The lobotomy, although terrible, was not the greatest injury done to him. His greatest misfortune, as his own testimony makes clear, was being raised by parents who could not give him love. The lobotomy, he writes, made him feel like a Frankenstein monster. But that’s not quite right. By the age of 12 he already felt that way. It’s this that makes My Lobotomy one of the saddest stories you’ll ever read.”

    New York Times

  • “Dully’s tale is a heartbreakingly sad story of a life seriously, tragically interrupted. All Howard Dully wanted was to be normal. His entire life has been a search for normality. He did what he had to do to survive. This book is his legacy, and it is a powerful one.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Brett | 2/15/2014

    " Moving story about a boy, the stepmother who hated him, the lobotomy he cruelly received and a life of turmoil, hardship, and questions that he must come to terms with as an adult. At times the reader begins to tire of same idea repeating itself, but otherwise well-written and moving. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Ashley | 2/14/2014

    " Great memoir. Really gives you some insight on the progress of the field of psychology and neuropsychology. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Mitzi | 2/4/2014

    " It was a really well written book. I really enjoyed this book. It was sad to see how his family literally "threw" him away and to hear the heartbreak and the stories from him. It makes me wonder how many partial lobotomies were done and what happened to the other patients. Makes me want to strangle his stepmother and his dad should have sense enough to help and get away from her as fast as he could but things were different back then than they are now! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Taylor | 2/1/2014

    " This was one of the most moving books I've ever read. I emailed Howard Dully literally five minutes after I finished it and I commended him for this wonderful piece of literature. "

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About the Author

Howard Dully was born in Oakland, California, the eldest son of Rodney and June Louise Pierce Dully. Neurologist Walter Freeman had diagnosed Dully as suffering from childhood schizophrenia since age 4, although numerous other medical and psychiatric professionals who had seen Dully did not detect a psychiatric disorder. In 1960, at 12 years of age, Dully was submitted by his father and stepmother for a trans-orbital lobotomy, performed by Freeman. During the procedure, a long, sharp instrument called a leucotome was inserted through each of Dully’s eye sockets 7 cm (2.75 inches) into his brain.

Dully took decades to recover from the surgery to the point where he could function in society; he was institutionalized for years as a juvenile (in Agnews State Hospital as a minor), transferred to Rancho Linda School in San Jose, CA (a school for children with behavior problems), incarcerated, and was eventually homeless and an alcoholic. After sobering up and getting a college degree in computer information systems, he became a California state certified behind-the-wheel instructor for a school bus company in San Jose, California.

In 2007, Dully published My Lobotomy, a memoir co-authored by Charles Fleming. The memoir relates Dully’s experiences as a child, the impact of the procedure on his life, his efforts as an adult to discover why the medically-unnecessary procedure was performed on him and the effect on his life.