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Extended Audio Sample My Lobotomy: A Memoir Audiobook, by Howard Dully 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, Charles Fleming Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: November 2007 ISBN: 9781400175369
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A gut-wrenching memoir by a man who was lobotomized at the age of twelve.

Assisted by journalist/novelist Charles Fleming, Howard Dully recounts a family tragedy whose Sophoclean proportions he could only sketch in his powerful 2005 broadcast on NPR's All Things Considered.

"In 1960," he writes, "I was given a transorbital, or 'ice pick' lobotomy. My stepmother arranged it. My father agreed to it. Dr. Walter Freeman, the father of the American lobotomy, told me he was going to do some 'tests.' It took ten minutes and cost two hundred dollars." Fellow doctors called Freeman's technique barbaric: an ice pick–like instrument was inserted about three inches into each eye socket and twirled to sever connections from the frontal lobe to the rest of the brain. The procedure was intended to help curb a variety of psychoses by muting emotional responses, but sometimes it irreversibly reduced patients to a childlike state or (in 15 percent of the operations Freeman performed) killed them outright. Dully's ten-minute "test" did neither, but in some ways it had a far crueler result, since it didn't end the unruly behavior that had set his stepmother against him to begin with.

"I spent the next forty years in and out of insane asylums, jails, and halfway houses," he tells us. "I was homeless, alcoholic, and drug-addicted. I was lost." From all accounts, there was no excuse for the lobotomy. Dully had never been "crazy," and his (not very) bad behavior sounds like the typical acting-up of a child in desperate need of affection. His stepmother responded with unrelenting abuse and neglect, and his father allowed her to demonize his son and never admitted his complicity in the lobotomy; Freeman capitalized on their monumental dysfunction. It's a tale of epic horror, and while Dully's courage in telling it inspires awe, listeners are left to speculate about what drove supposedly responsible adults to such unconscionable acts. Download and start listening now!

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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

  • The value of the book is in the indomitable spirit Dully displays throughout his grueling saga. Chicago-Sun 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 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 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 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 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. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Brielle | 1/28/2014

    " A pretty incredible story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sarah Smith | 1/23/2014

    " Another book that just helped me think differently. Be a better parent than his! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sheila | 1/21/2014

    " Started off slow, but makes you mad that there were parents in the 50/60's willing to have their kids lobotomized to make them behave. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Amy | 1/18/2014

    " My parents and I listened to My Lobotomy on a recent car trip to Michigan. We all loved it. Howard's story really touched our hearts. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rachel Wager-smith | 12/14/2013

    " An intriguing and fascinating read, however I found myself wishing it were possible to hear every side of the story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Linda | 11/27/2013

    " Although it's a difficult story, it's easy to and very worth the read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Michelle Rennix | 11/21/2013

    " I'm usually not one for biographies, but it sounded really interesting. When you think of someone who has had a lobotomy, you think of crazy people in mental instutions who don't do too much of anything. I found it well written and I have tremendous respect for the author who went through so much. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Gatu Bela | 11/14/2013

    " Clearly written by someone who had a lobotomy. Poor guy. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tenli | 11/11/2013

    " Although somewhat awkwardly written and repetitive, My Lobotomy was ultimately very much worth completing. The story of how his family and the medical community failed this boy was appalling, and his journey back to some semblance of a life worth living touched my heart. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Anne Federwisch | 9/18/2013

    " Wow. Quite a compelling read. Scary to know that this happened in San Jose. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Paul | 4/21/2013

    " Kind of angry and lots of finger pointing. Poorly written. Could have been very interesting, but was elementary. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Marisa | 3/14/2013

    " This was a great memoir. I am glad that the author finally found peace at last. But like the author I am also still wondering where the people are who should have protected this boy from his stepmother who was obviously in need of some help herself. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Annette | 1/3/2013

    " Crazy true story. Well written, gripping, shocking, good read "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rachel Stone | 11/9/2012

    " An interesting look into the life of a lobotmy patient. to be honest I was expecting worse things than what I read. it's a bit of a shock really that he turned out how he did. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Stefani | 7/18/2012

    " For everyone who thinks they had a bad childhood. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Trista Saunders | 5/25/2012

    " An interesting read, but pretty repetitive towards the end. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Danielle | 5/6/2012

    " The kind of story that stays with you long after you finish reading. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jessy | 1/11/2012

    " Harrowing. It was pretty upsetting to read, but once you start you want to see how it ends, and hope that it turns out somewhat okay. Jeesh. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michele | 6/5/2011

    " I enjoyed this book. Kudos to Howard for telling a story that many cannot. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 lynsimarie | 5/24/2011

    " This book stirred so many emotions in me...fury, compassion, sadness, despair, amazement, admiration... Howard Dully was put through hell as a child, and he's able to write about his life and experiences with amazing grace, humor, and art. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Manatee | 5/21/2011

    " An interesting and well-told story that deserves to be read. It seems as if the book developed from the transcription of taped interviews,though. It reminds me a little bit of A Hole in The World by Richard Rhodes. That is also a book about an abusive stepmother. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Erica | 5/18/2011

    " Literally the most horrifying book I've ever read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Crystal | 5/17/2011

    " Wow is all i can say.... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Laurie | 4/26/2011

    " Once I started this book I could not stop. Loved the subject's bravery and honesty. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Chris | 4/21/2011

    " I bought this on the discount rack and was surprised by the bad writing. I finished maybe 5 pages into it, just because of the writing style. It was very poor and frustrating to read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nancy | 4/14/2011

    " Very sad commentary on mental health care in the 50s and 60s. Amazing story though. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Janet | 4/12/2011

    " A scary and sad read ... I'm so glad that the 50's and 60's are way behind us... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kpowers | 4/12/2011

    " Such a sad story of Howard Dully's life. But also what a fascinating read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michele | 4/6/2011

    " I enjoyed this book. Kudos to Howard for telling a story that many cannot. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Prawlins | 4/3/2011

    " Definitely worth a read. A remarkable story, though it's not your typical overcoming the odds book. He was living a pretty rough and tumble, or going nowhere, life. "

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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.