Jamie Pastor Bolnick

Selected Works

Non-fiction
"A shocking and sometimes mordantly funny narrative of struggle and survivalů.."
--Publisher's Weekly
"The remarkable book based on a mildly retarded orphan's own account of her life in an institution."
--Redbook Magazine

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Winnie: My Life in the Institution


The reason I wrote my book is 'cause of Willy, he's my sister's husband. He said I was mentally retarded.

"That's why you're in the institution," he told me. Right in front of my sisters, too.

"Who the hell is mentally retarded? Not me!" I hollered at him. Miriam even got mad, said, "That's a nice thing to say! Is that the way you treat someone coming to visit for Christmas?"

Willy just said, "I'm sorry that had to come out."

"Well, you didn't have to say that while she was here, you made her feel funny in front of everybody."

But when I got back to the institution I was still real mad. All I was thinking was, why did he have to go and call me that nasty thing? I said to myself, "I'm gonna set down and write a book. 'Cause mentally retarded people can't write books, so I'll show Willy just how retarded I am!"

And I told everybody I was writing a book, boy, I let everyone know it. Some of the attendants, they teased me, said I thought I was a big shot 'cause I was writing a book. "Big deal, Winifred's writing a book," they said. "It's going to her head now." I didn't care.

My book proves how much I know, proves how smart I am. And anybody who reads the book is gonna say, "Who is this girl? She sure isn't mentally retarded!"

Now I'm even glad Willy called me retarded. The big mouth. He made me write my book.

New, revised and expanded paperback edition available now!