Charita Cole Brown was diagnosed with a severe form of bipolar disorder while finishing her final semester as an English major at Wesleyan University in 1982. Doctors predicted she would never lead a “normal “ life. Despite that prognosis and because she sought treatment, Charita went on to marry, raise a family, earn a masters degree in teaching and enjoy a fulfilling career in education. Her powerful story is chronicled in her debut book, Defying the Verdict: My Bipolar Life (Curbside Splendor Publishing, June 2018).
For more information about Charita, visit her website.
Biggest literary influencers:
James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, William Shakespeare
Last book read:
Gorilla and the Bird by Zack McDermott
The book that changed your life:
For colored girls who have considered suicide / When the rainbow is enough by Ntozake Shange. I read this choreopoem in 1977 after seeing the play on Broadway As a seventeen-year-old, I witnessed the power of love amongst African-American women. Shange understood that someone needed to “sing a black girl’s song.” It was as if she had written this work expressly for me.
Your favorite literary character:
Nell in Toni Morrison’s Sula. As an only and over-protected child, Nell develops an enduring friendship with the free-spirited Sula who hails from one of the more dysfunctional families in their town. Their childhood bond includes knowledge of a murder that they were involved in. For me, this story was one of the most well written accounts of female friendship. After a rift in the friendship, with friendless Sula on her deathbed, Nell remembers her love for Sula, takes care of her and continues to love her friend after she has died. For me Nell’s friendship is a great example of committed, enduring love.
Currently working on:
My next project is a work of historical fiction that explores the life of a community of free Blacks in Cambridge, MD in Harriet Tubman’s era. It is based on the life of my maternal great-grandfather and his family.
Words to live by:
“Hold fast to dreams for if dreams die/ Life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.” — Langston Hughes
Advice to new and aspiring authors:
Persist in maturing in your craft and then work consistently until you have completed your manuscript. Remain true to your passion for sharing your story.
“Defying the Verdict is a wonderful book: deeply human, full of life’s joys and suffering. Full of the author’s courage and faith. Charita Brown describes her bipolar illness in telling detail: her writing is powerful and eloquent. I highly recommend this book.”
–Kay Redfield Jamison, author of An Unquiet Mind
“Charita Cole Brown writes with grace, vulnerability, and a fearless urgency about being a black woman with bipolar disorder Her story is remarkable, full of insight and inspiration. “
–Nana-Ama Danquah, author of Willow Weep For Me: A Black Woman’s Journey Through Depression
“Most people who buy a book about mental illness are seeking education. With style and grace Defying the Verdict does just that. But Charita Cole Brown’s narrative also gives the reader a dose of hope and encouragement -just what the reader needs. Brown’s account of her journey is straightforward, her symptoms carefully worded. Be open, don’t hide. Her life is not easy, but she finds a way to exist in a dignified and satisfying manner. As a member of a family where mental illness is well known, I recommend this exceptional book. “
–Mimi Baird, author of He Wanted the Moon: The Madness and Medical Genius of Dr. Perry Baird and His Daughter’s Quest to Know Him