Posts Tagged ‘Alzheimer’s’

WGR is excited to welcome author, educator, and talk show host, Fran Lewis.

WGR: Fran, welcome to Working Girl Reviews. I understand you were a New York City teacher for many years. Tell us about that.

Fran: I taught in the NYC public schools for over 30 years. Working with students in grades one through six for the first part of my career. My Principal felt that I had a special skill and expertise when working with students with learning difficulties and encouraged me to go back to school for my second Master’s Degree in Reading and Learning Disabilities. I am glad that I did. As the reading and writing specialist and later Staff Developer I was able to reach many of the students who came from other countries and help them to read, understand and speak our language and excel in school. Before leaving, when my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I was the Dean of Discipline and helped create a Peer Mediation program that worked in our school.

The arts and music are two of my greatest passions. I play the piano and the violin and directed and created all of the holiday shows for the school including the ones on Black History and Women’s History. For many years I directed the orchestra and choral groups at Graduation.

I mentored many of the new teachers, was test coordinator for the school and eventually went back for my degree in Administration.

WGR: Tell us a little about Bertha. Did your experience as a teacher inspire your Bertha stories or was it more from personal experience?

Fran: I based my stories and my titles in my own experiences growing up in the South Bronx. I was always the outcast when it came to sports, dancing and was overweight. I spent my life battling with my weight and got ridiculed a lot in dancing school and when participating in many activities. I did however excel at punch ball and can still knock one out of the park. Bertha is me. Everything that I wrote in all three books if true. Many children in the schools today are subjected to the abuse caused by bullies in their schools or being overweight as I was all my life. Having difficulty walking up the stairs or not being able to participate in activities in the gym made it difficult for me to fit in with many of the other kids.

As an educator and a teacher who did spend time working with the gym teacher when my time was requested to assist him, I learned that this issue was still front and center and I refused to allow it to continue.

My Bertha stories are all true. Every one of the stories in My Name is Bertha and Bertha Speaks Out are true. The third book, Bertha Fights Back deals with September 11 and is dedicated to one of my students who died in the first tower. I wrote these stories to help teachers, parents and children of all ages learn to embrace their differences and understand that it is not what you look like on the outside that makes the person, it is the inner you and your kindness and understanding of others.

WGR: Do you have any books other than the Bertha series?

Fran: I wrote two other books dealing with Alzheimer’s. The first is Memories are Precious: Alzheimer’s Journey: Ruth’s Story. It is my mom’s story and her words when she was diagnosed with this dreaded and horrific illness. It is also a resource for anyone that needs home care, senior care or wants to really understand the illness. It has family memories, author’s memories and pictures to help bring the book and the stories to light.

My second book is titled Sharp as a Tack or Scrambled Eggs Which Describes Your Brain? This book will help the coach potato in everyone and give you ways to keep your mind and body active and alert.

WGR: You’ve been writing for a while now. Tell us what you like least about the writing process and what you like most.

Fran: I really do not like editing my work. I love when someone else reads my stories or my novels and gives me the feedback that I need. I have trouble reading on my computer because I get eyestrain. I often wonder at times what I am going to write and where my plots are going.

The best part is completing that manuscript and seeing your book in print and of course having tons of people buy it. The Alzheimer’s books were written to raise funds for research and a cure.

WGR: I know you review books for several review sites. What types of books do you enjoy reading most and who are some of your favorite authors?

Fran: I love reading a well-written mystery, thriller and historical fiction novel. A novel that grabs my attention from the first word forcing me to complete the book in a day. I love reading Paranormal and fantasy too. Children’s books are my favorite. Giving positive and great reviews to a new author and having them tell me they love my review is the best payment and way to say thank you in the world to a reviewer.

WGR: As well as being a writer and reviewer, you host a radio talk show. Please tell us more about that.

Fran: I now host two radio shows. The first is Book Discussion With Fran Lewis, which is the third Wed. of every month at 1 Eastern on Red River Radio. Authors throughout the world, usually two on each show are featured. I read their books and create questions to ask them along with my book club members who have to read the books too. The author tells our listeners about his/her writing career, short bio, answers our questions and can promote their sites, next projects and tell us where we can purchase their books.

The second show if for children’s authors and will focus on books geared for all levels. The primary focus of the show is to have authors whose books teach a positive lesson and will help children and teachers in the character education programs. These are books that should be in classroom and school libraries. There are five authors on my first show and I will ask the questions that I have created and we will discuss the books as a group. This show is the fifth Tuesday of August and November 30th so far. 

WGR: For those readers interested in being a guest on your radio show, where would they find information about that?

Fran: If anyone would like to join me on my November children’s show they can email me at riffyone@optonline.net. That show will be devoted to YA authors and books for teens. The show in August will be for early learners.

WGR: When you aren’t busy writing, reviewing, and doing your radio show, what would we find Fran Lewis doing for fun?

Fran: I love to walk, go to museums, and play basketball with my nephews even if I lose, go shopping, go to the Bronx Zoo and make people laugh with my wild sense of humor.

WGR: Fran, thank you so much for spending time with us today. Please tell all our readers where they can find more information about you and your work.

Fran: My website for anyone that would like me to review their books:



http://gabina49.wordpress.com you can read my blogs and my reviews

I review books for http://Ijustfinished.com under the name Gabina

I review for book pleasures and manic readers too.

Thank you so much for interviewing me.

Coming soon: Wrongly Accused and Bertha’s Revenge


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stillaliceStill Alice

By: Lisa Genova

ISBN-13: 978-1-4391-0281-7

Pocket Books – Jan 6, 2009

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Still-Alice-Lisa-Genova/dp/1439102813

Readers join Alice, a well respected Harvard Professor, researcher and world traveling convention lecturer on her journey into dementia. Expecting a diagnosis of menopause after some minor physical and mental changes Alice is shocked to be diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease before her 50th birthday. Throughout the story Alice shares her thoughts and struggles with the reader. At first her thoughts are intelligent and coherent and she is only slightly irritated when she misplaces things or forgets an appointment. As one can guess her irritation increases and her thoughts become less coherent as the book moves along. The forgetfulness increases until it is no longer objects that are lost but Alice herself getting lost in her neighborhood and even in her own home. Readers travel with Alice as she receives the diagnosis and shares it with her family and coworkers. The story of Alice’s mental decline covers a two year span chronicling Alice’s hopes and fears, positive and negative feelings, and jumbled up thoughts.

Although it’s not realistic to expect that a person with dementia would be able to chronicle very far into their journey on their own, I enjoyed having the book written from Alice’s viewpoint. I think it humanized victims of the dreaded diagnosis and gave wonderful insight into what many actually feel, think and wish they could express.

Alice doesn’t want to be a burden to her family or the laughing stock of the college community. She wonders if she will know when the time is right to stop doing certain things. She creates a daily memory quiz and gives herself constant reminders in her PDA to help her through each day. She struggles to cope with changes and also struggles to help her family come to terms with changes ahead for them. Her diagnosis is devastating for her family, but in the end it brings them closer together and they all pitch in to help keep her routine. As she watches them rally around her she can’t help but wonders how long she will recognize them. She is plagued with guilt when she finds out that she passed the gene to at least one of her children. She wants to be part of the cure so her children or grandchildren never develop Alzheimer’s. She wants to live life to the fullest while she can yet she doesn’t want to be around when she can no longer function and think on her own. As she plans for her future she visits a care facility and even considers suicide. I didn’t agree with everything Alice and her family did after the diagnosis but I felt compassion for the position they were in and understood many of the reactions.  Alice sets out to read as many books as she can. When the printed page no longer holds her attention she starts watching classic movies and home videos. She wants to add more to the family legacy and she desperately wants to be there to hold her grandchildren. Alice is brave and strong. Even in her struggle she wants to educate others. You will feel pride when she starts an early onset support group and you might want to cheer when she makes a speech at an Alzheimer’s convention. As daily mix ups were recounted you might find yourself starting to smile or laugh only to be hit with a wave of sadness and then anger at yourself for even thinking of laughing for nothing about this decline is funny. You might even cry!

The Author has a Ph.D. in neuroscience, and is an online author for the National Alzheimer’s Association therefore this book is much more than just a novel. Still Alice is a thought provoking story. It is heartbreaking yet encouraging. The author provides hope in a time of despair and Alice herself shows us beauty in darkness. I thought about Alice for several days after I finished reading the book. I felt connected to Alice and had to remind myself that the book was fiction and not about a real person.  I recommend this book to all readers not just those who may have a family member struggling with this devastating diagnosis. All readers can benefit from this book because none of us knows who in our family might someday suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. The book doesn’t offer a map to coping with the disease but rather it reminds readers to look beyond the disease and take time to see the person. Where there is life there is humanity and we must treat all humanity with dignity and respect. She may be slipping away but she is Still Alice. An additional reason to purchase the book is that a portion of the sale of each novel will go to the Alzheimer’s Association. Good for you Lisa Genova!



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