To the editor: Last night I started reading "Our House Is on Fire," a book by Greta and Svante Thunberg (he's Greta's father) and Malena and Beata Ernman (Greta's mother and sister). Several days ago Marie (my wife) took me into the lovely little downtown Brattleboro bookstore to buy myself a birthday present. Something guided me, unaware, to this amazing paperback.
I'm about one-third through the 278 pages and I don't want to stop reading. Greta stopped eating when she was 11, and they thought she was going to die. She was severely ill. The parents (her mother was a world-renowned opera star) changed their lives and devoted themselves entirely to work with Greta. After many months she had a partial recovery. No one knows why, but she did get unbelievable TLC. A little later Beata began exhibiting very bizarre behavior. She also suffered a mental breakdown.
Here's a quote from page 31: "In any functioning social structure there should of course be an entity with sufficient resources to educate and inform society about mental illness and the various diagnoses. An authority that devoted itself to increasing awareness among teachers, parents and children about things we ought to know. Such an authority would probably be the most beneficial investment ever made in the history of modern society."
If that sounds extreme, it wouldn't if you'd read what these parents went through with their child. It's not a smooth juxtaposition, but in this country we often treat the mentally ill by either putting them in prison or having untrained police deal with them, with disastrous results.
But this book isn't about politics. It's much better than that; (so far) it's about a family in a very real physical and emotional crisis and how they're dealing with it and how Swedish society doesn't deal with it, and the wider problem it represents.
I feel that PBS could do much more reporting on a story of this kind (respecting personal privacy, of course) and expand it, exploring the importance to society world-wide. Instead they take us all around the world every night to see chaos and destruction in a potpourri of warfare and politics. We have to know, for example, that Ethiopians are killing one another, but the fundamental issues are unexplained. Greta's behavior was caused to an unknown extent, apparently, by her feeling that we are living in an insane world. PBS could do more with this, couldn't they? Isn't this news? We are living insanely, aren't we?
Thomas W. Graves
Putney, April 9