Welcome to Memoir Madness: Driven to Involuntary Commitment


Memoir Madness, a coming-of-age story, chronicles 18-year-old Jennifer Semple’s remarkable counterculture journey, beginning on the colorful streets of 1968 Hollywood and culminating in 1969 with her escape from an Iowa mental institution.

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Christmas Eve, 1968, from lunar orbit, Apollo 8 astronauts deliver their Christmas message, a passage from Genesis.

On earth, 18-year-old Jennifer Semple embarks on her own odyssey, happening on the steamy streets of Hollywood, where heads, hippies, drug dealers, freaks, strippers, groupies, college students, Jesus Freaks, counterculture gurus, drag queens, rock stars and wannabe rocksters, Svengalis, and con artists converge during one of the most volatile periods in history.

After Jennifer’s drug-dealing boyfriend abandons her and cops threaten incarceration, her legal guardians convince the girl to return to Iowa, to “get her head on straight.”

Instead, Jennifer is involuntarily committed to a mental institution in Cherokee, Iowa, where she is introduced to a world of questionable psychiatric treatments, doctors, psychologists, and social workers.

While incarcerated, she corresponds with a new boyfriend and interacts with other patients: a psychopathic predator; a 17-year-old unwed mother; a teen cutter obsessed with rats; a young married mother enthralled with “10 ways of suicide”; and a mentally challenged man, a 25-year resident, among others.

Finally released, she flees Iowa, escaping to Pennsylvania.

Years later, Jennifer, seeking another kind of release, has returned to Cherokee, this time voluntarily and as a visitor.

“I was driven to Cherokee,” the memoirist says, referring to a northwest Iowa regionalism synonymous with being committed. “Writing this memoir has driven Cherokee from me.”


Memoir Madness: Driven to Involuntary Commitment is available on Amazon (print or ebook).

Sample excerpts, which may differ slightly from the final version found in the published book, are posted here and accessible via the Table of Contents.

Getting around this site is simple; no matter where you are, the panel on the left, accessed by clicking on the three bars (upper left), offers relevant internal and external links: author’s homepage Why I Write, author’s bio (short and long), Memoir Madness excerpts, and Memoir Madness notes.

Again, welcome to Memoir Madness!


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