Books Reviews

Songs for the Forgotten

Songs for the Forgotten by Julia Burns

Songs for the Forgotten: A Psychiatrist’s Record combines pivotal moments from Julia Burns‘s Southern upbringing in the 1970s with case histories accumulated through three decades of treating psychiatric patients, particularly those drowning in the cultural epidemic of child abuse. This book is her journal of rupture and return.

The reader will follow the author’s hard-won reconciliation. In telling panoply of stories, including her own, Burns argues for the interconnectedness of humanity: when one child is hurt, our humanity is violated, and we are all responsible for undoing that damage. If no one steps up to save children, to show them they are worth saving, the cycle of abuse will continue.

Songs for the Forgotten offers a strong practical component, providing information about trauma and healing. Burns illustrates how hope and wholeness can come from remembrance and telling.

Songs for the Forgotten is an important book because not only does it talk about child abuse but also about the people who treat the victims. It is an account of how Dr Burns absorbed other people’s pains, how it affected her, and also how she found a way to recover.

Although she is brave, compassionate, and trained, Burns was deeply affected when she had to face the trauma of her patients. She often felt helpless when she watched abuse victims and their abusers walk away due to lack of evidence. She was also reminded that most perpetrators were victims in their childhood.

Dr Burns ultimately left the residential child welfare facility when she has secondary PTSD and a crisis of faith. However, by writing this book, she has tried to make the stories of abuse, trauma, and their enduring effect heard.

I have a Master’s degree in Social Work and have worked as a social worker for almost a decade. This book reminded me why I left the profession and changed careers. While I did not come across child abuse, each case or incident was heartbreaking and depressing. Moreover, it was a thankless job because the remuneration was a pittance and the hours long.

To sum up, this was a difficult book to read because of its content. However, it was worthwhile.

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