Critical Review: City of One
Francine Cournos is a medical student that turned to psychiatry after realizing that she identified with people’s stories. In Courno’s biography, “City of One”, she reflects on her past. At an early age, Cournos lost both of her parents, her father at three years old and her mother when she was eleven years old. The loss of two attachment figures at such an early age had a profound affect on Cournos for the rest of her life. Cournos analyzes her experiences as a child, young adult, and womanhood and uses her findings to contribute to explanations of her thoughts and feelings. Cournos aims to provide readers with insight into the various ways children are affected throughout life by the death of a parent.
City of One efficiently describes how Cournos’s childhood experiences affected her throughout her life. As she recounts her experiences from early childhood through adulthood, Cournos has several realizations that she details in her writing that have potential to help both professionals and the average reader better understand how childhood trauma follow a child.
Cournos has very vivid memories of her childhood. After her father’s death, her mother never talked about him. Cournos, her mother, sister, and brother all lived in the same village as her mother’s family located in the South Bronx. Two years after the death of her father, Cournos’s grandfather passed away. Cournos’s entire childhood revolved around the unexplained disappearances from her family members, making her fearful about her future and her relationships with others were uneasy. Cournos was given hardly any explanations as to why her mother died and she was the one who had to explain to her little sister, Alexis, that their mother was not going to come back. The two girls continued living with their grandmother after their mother’s passing; however, the grandmother was not able to keep up with the responsibilities of taking care of two young girls. Within two years the girls were taken out of the care of their grandmother. Cournos’s mother’s family was not able to house both of the girls and so they were put into foster care. Cournos felt deep betrayal and she believed something was wrong with her. Cournos blamed the death of her parent’s on herself and she thought that her mother’s family blamed her as well and in turn rejected her. A woman named Erma took the girls in as foster children. Cournos’ relationship with Erma was rocky at best because she was afraid of letting another adult in out of fear of them leaving her. Cournos went away to college and her contact with her siblings gradually diminished.
Cournos attended school at City College, located in Harlem. She moved into her own apartment soon after beginning school. Cournos had always been an excellent student; she focused most of her energy into her schoolwork, as it was something she had direct control of in her life. Cournos had known she wanted to become a doctor for some time and she achieved her goal despite several setbacks. After working in internal medicine for some time, Cournos shifted her focus to psychiatry. Cournos states that she feels a connection with her patients but would often times become too involved in their life and she would find herself exhausted. Cournos fought hard for the people in her care, her focus is on those who were sick and poor – patients who are generally overlooked. Cournos worked her way to a position of power and she fought hard for mid to lower class patients.
After being single for a number of years, Cournos got married and had a child. Cournos had a stable home environment in which she flourished for a period of time. When Cournos’s daughter, Elizabeth, was about to turn two years old, Cournos developed a deep depression. Cournos enrolled herself in psychotherapy so that she can better manage her depression. After several therapy sessions, her therapist recommended that Cournos should allow...
Cited: Cournos, F. (1999). City of one: A memoir. New York: W.W. Norton.
Goldberg, S. (2000). Attachment and development. London: Arnold ;.
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