Sandy Jeffs is well-known as a poet with no less than five best-selling poetry books to her credit.
In fact, Andrew was so impressed by Sandy’s courage and resilience to withstand the worst kind of odds that he wrote the Foreword for the book.
In this memoir Sandy describes her life from her childhood in Ballarat with violent and dysfunctional parents, through her years of being sometimes incarcerated in mental institutions, to becoming a lesbian and finding love and friends and eventually a life for herself as a poet and speaker.
Sandy has created a remarkable, heart-warming and inspiring book. However writing all the horrendous personal details after more than 30 years of living with schizophrenia has been a harrowing experience. As she puts it in the Preface:
‘This is not just a memoir about being lost in the jungles of madness and coming back to tell the tale; it is my attempt to help people undersand the subjective complexities of insanity – the idea of which too often frightens and repels people.’
Flying With Paper Wings is book is not an easy read. How could it be when Sandy is writing about the pain and confusion of hearing voices relentlessly swearing and calling her for everything. Not to mention the alienation she felt when she was hallucinating and the terror she experienced fronting up to a mental institution to be certified insane.
Fortunately, Sandy managed to withstand the worst of these ordeals and was able to get on with the work she was meant to do:
‘I was beginning to believe in myself as a poet. And I found myself becoming the public face of schizophrenia… Robbie and Dido foresaw this career blossoming, and for a birthday gift one year gave me a lovely leather satchel, a mobile phone, a business card and an email address to help facilitate this new life.’
Sandy pays tribute to her lovers Robbie and Dido who have sustained and nurtured Sandy for more than thirty years and dedicates this book to them as well as her good friends Lynne and Felicity without whom… as the saying goes.
But I would also like to suggest that while supportive networks have been crucial to Sandy’s well-being, it is her own capacity for love and friendship, her sense of humour, her ability to maintain contact with people from all walks of life that has enabled Sandy to keep on functioning in the world as the creative, loveable and delightful lesbian she is.
I can’t recommend Sandy’s book highly enough. It gives us an insight into another lesbian’s life and inspires us in our own achievements.