The movie The Soloist, starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey, Jr., premiered on April 24. I went to see it the first night it was in the theaters. I had heard about this true story of homelessness, mental illness, music, and friendship about a year or so ago on NPR. One day Steve Lopez, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, happened upon a homeless man playing a 2-stringed violin. When he learned that the man, Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, had once been a student at Juilliard (the prestigious Manhattan music school), he was intrigued and thought Ayers would make a good subject for a column. It took time for Ayers to open up to Lopez, and as he did, his story unraveled to reveal a once-promising young musician who, in his early 20s, began to show symptoms of schizophrenia.
Once Lopez’s column on Ayers was published, the public response to it was incredible. People began to offer to help Ayers in different ways, and Lopez’s relationship with Ayers transformed into something deeper than that typical of a columnist and his subject.
This story is interesting on a lot of levels. And the movie isn’t just a movie…there is also a nonprofit foundation in Ayers’ name to support arts programs for people with mental illness. (See http://www.naayers.org .) There is a Web site associated with the movie that encourages the public to learn and do more about the issues this story entails. (See http://www.takepart.com/thesoloist/ .) You can go online and find out more about the real Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, and you can read the original articles written by Lopez in the LA Times. NAMI has developed an entire Web site devoted to Ayers’ story, as well, at http://www.nami.org/soloist .
I was intrigued by this story and I am now reading the book. Want to read it with me? It is the first selection for the new “Linda Grobman’s The New Social Worker Book Club.” Go to http://shop.socialworker.com/shop.php?k=042522600X&c=BooksGeneral to order the book.
We will discuss this book in an online chat at http://www.socialworkchat.org on July 26, 2009, at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.
For book club updates, join The New Social Worker Book Club Group on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?&gid=98840583520