Synopses & Reviews
Michael Schofield’s daughter January is at the mercy of her imaginary friends, except they aren’t the imaginary friends that most young children have; they are hallucinations. And January is caught in the conflict between our world and their world, a place she calls Calalini. Some of these hallucinations, like “24 Hours,” are friendly and some, like “400 the Cat” and “Wednesday the Rat,” bite and scratch her until she does what they want. They often tell her to scream at strangers, jump out of buildings, and attack her baby brother.
At six years old, January Schofield, “Janni,” to her family, was diagnosed with schizophrenia, one of the worst mental illnesses known to man. What’s more, schizophrenia is 20 to 30 times more severe in children than in adults and in January’s case, doctors say, she is hallucinating 95 percent of the time that she is awake. Potent psychiatric drugs that would level most adults barely faze her.
A riveting New York Times bestseller, January First captures Michael and his family's remarkable story in a narrative that forges new territory within books about mental illness. In the beginning, readers see Janni’s incredible early potential: her brilliance, and savant-like ability to learn extremely abstract concepts. Next, they witnesses early warning signs that something is not right, Michael’s attempts to rationalize what’s happening, and his descent alongside his daughter into the abyss of schizophrenia. Their battle has included a two-year search for answers, countless medications and hospitalizations, allegations of abuse, despair that almost broke their family apart and, finally, victories against the illness and a new faith that they can create a life for Janni filled with moments of happiness.
A compelling, unsparing and passionate account, January First vividly details Schofield’s commitment to bring his daughter back from the edge of insanity. It is a father’s soul-baring memoir of the daily struggles and challenges he and his wife face as they do everything they can to help Janni while trying to keep their family together.
At age six, January ("Jani") Schofield was diagnosed with one of the most severe cases of child-onset schizophrenia on record. Hallucinating constantly, she is at the mercy of her imaginary friends—some of whom are friendly, while others tell her to scream at strangers, jump out of buildings, and attack her baby brother. Jani is torn between two places: "Calalini," the illusory home of her imaginary friends, and our world. When potent psychiatric drugs that would level most adults barely faze her, the line dividing delirium from reality grows dangerously blurry.
Amid Jani's struggle are her parents, who face seemingly insurmountable obstacles daily just to keep both of their children alive and safe. Their battle has included a two-year search for answers, countless medications and hospitalizations, allegations of abuse, despair that almost broke the family apart and, finally, victories against the illness and a new faith that they can create a happy life for Jani.
A passionate and inspirational account, January First is a father's soul-bearing memoir of the daily challenges and unwavering commitment to save his daughter from the edge of insanity while doing everything he can to keep his family together.
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About the Author
MICHAEL SCHOFIELD has an MA in English and teaches writing courses online for California State University at Northridge. He and his wife, Susan, are co-founders of the Jani Foundation. Michael lives with his family in Valencia, California.
Reading Group Guide
To learn more about Jani’s journey and the Schofield family’s continued involvement in outreach, research, and providing aid to others, please visit the Jani Foundation at www.janifoundation.org. The Jani Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping those who suffer from schizophrenia and other severe mental illnesses.
Jani’s parents are in a battle they can neither control nor predict. The enemy: a mysterious mental illness threatening to overtake their firstborn child. A restless baby, January (Jani) Schofield developed into a spirited, “imaginative” toddler and then an extremely troubled girl. Her imaginary companions (peculiar friends such as a rat for every day of the week and a girl named 24 Hours) are, to Jani, very real hallucinations with the power to bite, scratch, and hit her if she does not do what they want. Her erratic and often violent behavior, baffling to doctors, is all-consuming for her parents, who struggle to protect her unusual genius and find her the help she needs. January First is the story of their journey to understand their daughter’s illness and create a life—and occasional moments of joy—for their family.