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Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case Hardcover – Oct 18 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (Oct. 18 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 143916827X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439168271
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.6 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Average Customer Review: 2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #283,792 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"In this startling exposé...Nathan serves up a tale just as shocking as the famed original."--Publisher's Weekly, starred review

"Debbie Nathan's fine, insistent mind will stop at nothing to get to the truth behind Sybil, no how many walls are put up— Her research is beyond compare." --Susie Bright, author of Big Sex Little Death

"I've long considered Debbie Nathan to be the most important and unsung writer working in America today. Sybil Exposed affirms her brilliance. Using a fierce blend of investigative journalism and cultural criticism, she exposes multiple personality disorder as yet another lurid myth cooked up by the collective unconscious of our popular culture. The book is an astonishing achievement." -- Steve Almond, author of Candyfreak and God Bless America

“Journalist Debbie Nathan -- whose investigative exposure of day care worker Kelly Michaels's wrongful conviction for child molestation did so much to unearth the witch hunts among us -- has found a delicious, hiding-in-plain-sight historical saga to tell: the making of the most famous "multiple personality" case and book. A troubled, impressionable young girl from a Sinclair Lewis-type small town; a brilliant, bullying, female neuropsychiatrist in 1950s Manhattan; and a glamorous, frustrated feminist magazine writer who'd had an affair with Eugene O'Neill Jr.: how these three disparate American women's fates, fantasies, and ambitions came together to create a fiction that rocked the culture and continues to affect us today makes compelling and sobering reading. Who knew this true story existed?! It's as compulsively readable as it is cautionary -- two traits rarely shared in one book.”-- Sheila Weller, award winning magazine journalist and author of the New York Times bestseller Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon—and the Journey of a Generation

"Throughout Sybil Exposed, Nathan traces the winding path from truth to falsehood"--Salon

"A gripping history of crackpot psychiatry" --People magazine

"The true story of Sybil has found its ideal historian in Debbie Nathan...This is the book that should be a made-for-TV movie." --The Wall Street Journal

"A compelling account of the creation, packaging, and selling of this case of medical and journalistic malpractice." --Science

"In this dazzling exposé of a manipulative psychiatrist, an author who’d do anything for fame and a vulnerable girl caught in the middle, journalist Nathan reveals how these three women changed the psychiatric landscape by raising questions of identity that resonated with a generation. The result is a cautionary tale about the ways in which science, in the wrong hands, can capitalize on our collective fears. " --More magazine

"A massive undertaking of research that teases apart fact from fiction to reveal an even more interesting and educational account...Sybil remains a good book and movie, but perhaps Nathan's version of the story is the one worth telling in classrooms. " --New Scientist

“What forces cause a diagnosis like Multiple Personality Disorder to rise and fall within less than a generation? Debbie Nathan broke the story 20 years ago and now, in Sybil Exposed, she’s finally putting all the puzzle pieces together. Unless we learn the lessons in this journalistic masterwork, we are doomed to fall victim to the next fad and the next caring healer who claims to have our best interest at heart.” –Ethan Watters, author of Crazy Like Us

“Debbie Nathan’s Sybil Exposed is a first-rate historical detective story recreating the lives of the three protagonists of one of the most popular accounts of a psychiatric patient in American history. The sixteen personalities ascribed to “Sybil” set the medical and legal tone for discussions of the ‘epidemic’ of child abuse at the end of the 20th century as well as the psychological damage done to its survivors. Nathan shows how the subject of the study, her psychiatrist, as well as the author of the book invented a biography to explain something that never existed: the multiple personalities of the patient as well as their cause. Any reader captivated by our contemporary “first-hand” accounts of mental illness, should read this account that illustrates how the demands of the readers at any historical moment shape such accounts and make them seem truer than true.” --Sander L. Gilman, author of SEEING THE INSANE Distinguished Professor of the Liberal Arts and Sciences; Professor of Psychiatry, Emory University


Sybil Exposed isn't only an exposé of a blockbuster that pulled the wool over 6 million readers' eyes. She asks deeper questions: Why did people love this book? To what cultural zeitgeist did it respond?....Riveting, thought-provoking and a quick read, Sybil Exposed is impossible to put down.”
--The Oregonian

"A nuanced, not-entirely-unsympathetic account of the women who perpetrated a sensational literary fraud." --Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Debbie Nathan was born and raised in Houston, Texas. She has been a journalist, editor and translator for almost three decades. She specializes in writing about immigration, the U.S.-Mexico border, sexual politics and sex panics, particularly in relation to women and children. Debbie is author and co-author of four books, including Sybil, Inc. She has been involved in translating two others into English — one from Spanish and the other from Latin American Yiddish. Her essays appear in several anthologies, and her work has been published in venues as varied as Redbook and The Nation, Ms. and Playboy, The Texas Observer and Social Text, The New York Times and Vibe. Debbie’s work has won numerous national and regional awards, including: The H.L. Mencken Award for Investigative Journalism, PEN West Award for Journalism, several prizes from the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, the Texas Institute of Letters Award for feature journalism, the Hugh Hefner First Amendment Award for Journalism, and the John Bartlow Martin Award (from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism) for Public Service Journalism. She is a board member of the National Center for Reason and Justice (NCRJ), an “innocence project” for people falsely accused of harming children. She currently lives in New York City with her husband, Morten Naess, a family physician, and has two grown children, Sophia and Willy.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Christine Fougere on June 16 2013
Format: Hardcover
Miss Nathan's book is just another book of fiction masquerading as a true fact book. the only parts I found interesting were the historical facts about the women (if true). Nathan has only reinforced my belief in Shirley's DID. Nathan not only has tried and failed to debunk the Sybil story, she appears to have an agenda against anyone that believes in DID. People have been fact checking her book against the material at the John Jay Library and have found major errors in this book. She appears to hate Dr. Wilbur and her contempt for her, Mason and Schreiber leap off every page. She uses creative licence and manipulates many facts. How could she possibly know what Shirley thought of or did as a young girl in her bedroom? How could she possibly know the subject of conversations between Wilbur and Walter Mason? And how can she state with authority that Mattie Mason was never diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic? Many of Shirley's childhood friends have corroborated things in the Sybil book i.e. Mattie Mason's peering to neighbours windows and relieving herself on neighbours property. Just because the tiny townspeople did nothing and know nothing doesn't mean they didn't happen. All of Shirley's medical records were long destroyed before this book was even thought of. And none of the women are alive today to dispute or verify any of Nathan's claims.

I see pieces of truth interwoven with statements of the author's opinion and comments made to capture the reader with a sense of disgust. All in all it's just a good book of fiction.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Penny Essex on Nov. 27 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book is no news, as the real story of Shirley Mason was first debunked in 1998 by Peter J. Swales and Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen. Even so, Debbie Nathan does an excellent job at revealing the outrageous real story behind another false disease of psychiatry.

And despite what Janet Grace writes in her comment, there are today many documented cases of false sexual abuse memory implanted by therapists. She should read books and scientific papers from Elisabeth Loftus or go to the False Memory Syndrome Foundation Web site to put herself on the leading edge of knowledge.
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7 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Alydars Crown on Oct. 25 2011
Format: Hardcover
Stress Response Syndromes: PTSD, Grief, Adjustment, and Dissociative Disorders

To Amazon Readers,

I found this Author's writings about the novel Sybil to be very biased. Originally I purchased the book hoping to learn more about the interesting but complex issues of multiple personality and dissociative disorders. I did not find it helpful, nor would I recommend it for anyone wanting information on these topics. I would also like to memtion that as a woman I took exception to the Author's suggestion that sexual abuse memories are sometimes implanted by therapists. The statistics on childhood sexual abuse speak for themselves; 1 in 3 females and 1 in 6 males, Canadian Statistics, Univ. of Victoria, BC. Personally I liked and believed the novel Sybil to be a good representation of the life of Sybil Dorsett, AKA Shirley Ardell Mason. Janet Grace
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 167 reviews
336 of 409 people found the following review helpful
It's About Time Oct. 26 2011
By David Eichman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I first read SYBIL in 1976 when I was told, the soon to be aired TV movies principle character, Sybil, was in fact, Shirley Mason, my grandmothers step daughter. Closer to home, Shirley\Sybil was my babysitter in the late 40's and early 50's, in Denver Co. The Masons had been friends of the family for years before my Grandma, Florence, married Walter Mason, Shirley's dad. I especially remember Shirley taking requests to draw cute pictures for my older brother and me.

When my grandmother died in 1985, I retrieved about 200 letters destined for the trash, written by Shirley to my Grandma from 1954 - 1974. After reading the letters, lets just say there were discrepancies with the book, SYBIL.

Subsequently several researchers contacted me, such as Peter Swales, expressing concern over the ethics and rampant diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder (DID). Debbie Nathan is not the first to come across this controversy, but she is the first to present it to the public, since Peter Swales and Mikkel Borch-Jacobson elected to publish it in a more academic forum in France.

Debbie Nathan has been extremely accurate and careful with the documents I have entrusted to her. She doesn't claim to be, or have to be a psychotherapist to be a good investigative reporter. To me that's just what she is, and in some ways better equipped to deal with this controversy.

SYBIL EXPOSSED is not written by a wanna-be psychotherapist dispensing her biased opinions. This is a 282 page condensation of facts gleaned from documents, letters, case files, and interviews, most of which have only been open to the public, or otherwise available, for just the last 13 years.

I am grateful for such a compilation. If you look at the footnotes in the back of the book, you'll find thirty-five pages itemizing 580 document citations averaging 30 per chapter to back up her "opinions".

SYBIL EXPOSSED is a must read for anyone who read SYBIL, but also for anyone who loves a great biography, a shared look at three women fatefully tied together.

SYBIL EXPOSSED never faulted Dr. Wilbur for not loving and caring for Shirley\Sybil. Neither did it claim that DID does not exist. After 35 years of fallout, I believe from what I've learned and what this book shows, is Dr. Wilbur's human nature overruled her professionalism and determined her judgments. Read it for yourself, you may not like your conclusions, but truth still matters. No book dealing with beliefs and maters of the mind is going to be 100% black or white, right or wrong. I believe SYBIL EXPOSED is much closer to the truth.
47 of 56 people found the following review helpful
Hard to separate the truth from the author's bias March 8 2013
By abt1950 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book claims to be an expose of Cornelia Wilbur, the psychiatrist who treated Sybil, and Flora Rheta Schreiber, the journalist whose book made Sybil a household name. Nathan makes some good points, but she is not the first person to have questioned Sybil's diagnosis of Multiple Personality Disorder (now DID). The author has done extensive research, which is a plus, but the book is marred by her obvious contempt for Wilbur and Schreiber. Much of the book is character assassination. Wilbur comes off as an opportunist and Schreiber as an ugly, emotionally insecure woman. For example, Nathan criticizes Schreiber's taste in clothing and gives intimate details of her sex life. This doesn't belong in a book that claims to be impartial. They're not relevant to the case she's trying to make. Nathan's vitriol undermines her case that Sybil's diagnosis was manufactured to sell the book. It's impossible to separate the author's bias from her interpretation of what actually happened. "Sybil Exposed" is a disappointing book about a fascinating subject.
59 of 84 people found the following review helpful
The pot calling the kettle black. Nov. 22 2011
By The Southern Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I must say I was extremely disappointed in this book. Nathan builds up a case against Wilbur, Mason and Schreiber by committing very similar faux pas that she accuses the trio of doing. She weaves a case around loose logic. It is certainly not uncommon for her to use terms such as "maybe", "quite possibly", "probably", and other such terms. While such an accusation, I would expect cold hard fact instead of a blatant guessing game on the part of the author. For example, Nathan said that Mason "probably" read a lone article in a magazine that she subscribed to for a total of five years that contained an article on MPD. She insinuated that because on a single article, Mason would have known how to fake the disorder. Quite a long stretch there, Mrs. Nathan. Many such logical liberties were taken over the course of the book. By the last page, the author has lost all of her credibility with the reader.
I also must take issue with the writing style Nathan uses. "Sybil Exposed" reads like a Danielle Steele instead of a case fact nonfiction piece. I understand a non-fiction novel, but this completely misses the mark and lands right in the middle of ridiculous. From all recent accounts, the original "Sybil" was a complete farce on a grand scale but, at the very least, made a decent attempt at being grammatically correct. This is more than I can say for "Sybil Exposed". Ridden with sentence fragments and simple sentences (while not incorrect; just juvenile) became so distracting that I started paying more attention to errors than the case Nathan was trying to build. I personally find it very hard to take the word of an author that repeatedly cannot construct a proper sentence.
If you are into a good dirty gossip story instead of a cold hard facts account, this is the perfect book. If you are a reader that prefers a story that just sticks with the facts and leaves the assumptions to the reader, you will be sorely disappointed.
61 of 87 people found the following review helpful
A very misleading book Nov. 20 2011
By gluhrMD - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case

This book is damaging to the many people who have had severe childhood abuse and developed Dissociative Identity Disorder and other trauma symptoms. Trauma in childhood and adulthood leaves severe scars on many people. The catchy title implies that such scars are imaginary, the result of poor treatment, or patients who are trying to inflate their importance.

Nathan is not a clinician. It shows. Those of us who are experienced and seasoned clinicians have direct experience of the suffering of traumatized individuals. DID is not a fiction.

The denial of trauma is a national disgrace. I hope that the tragedy being exposed at Penn State can help to open people's eyes to the realities of abuse.

The reader must understand that Sybil was written decades ago when the field had little experience with the complexity of severe childhood abuse. Mistakes have been made--is that a surprise? The scientific method is designed to examine issues and refine our understanding of what is true.

The scientific literature for the diagnosis and treatment of what used to be called Multiple Personality Disorder is extensive and remarkably helpful. It is available to anyone who Googles. Check out Medline, PubMed, the PILOTS database of the National Center for PTSD , or the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation ([...]).

How unfortunate that Nathan uses her many skills so destructively, and one might even say, unethically.

I have no financial interest in this issue. I am a retired psychiatrist with concern that all people, traumatized or not, be given respect and a chance to tell their stories.
82 of 120 people found the following review helpful
The Author's Lack of Expertise is Disturbing Oct. 21 2011
By Goodcook - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Debbie Nathan is not a therapist or a researcher. She certainly picks titillating topics to write about - her previous works include books about pornography, ritual abuse , etc. I would say she is almost, well, obsessed with provocative, dark topics. But here's the thing: She is just a writer.

When I was a newspaper feature writer, I once mentioned to my editor in chief that I was going to get the "best sources" for a story on mental illness that I was writing. The editor asked, "What gives you the ability to know who is the best in a field when you have no expertise yourself?"

Later, after I completed my master's degree in counseling, I realized my editor had been spot on. For years, I had written authoritatively because I could access sources, write clearly, take accurate notes and had read a few articles on a subject. In reality, I simply did not have the background, training and experience to know the good and bad experts, the shades of gray in "facts," etc.

Debbie Nathan doesn't know it, but she isn't really qualified to pick apart the psychohistory of Shirley Mason ("Sybil") nor to breathlessly analyze the motives of three women who have long since died. (nor am I.) She also does not understand that it is par for the course for a patient with dissociative identity disorder to suddenly retract admissions of abuse, etc. Any experienced therapist would know that.
But then Ms. Nathan is not a therapist, researcher or otherwise expert. She is a writer, a provocative one who has written a book that was destined to be a bestseller the minute she first met with her agent and publisher, to discuss her expose of the "real Sybil."
Katherine Lipkin , M.A.


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