Anna Quindlen

Stories by Anna Quindlen

  • A New Look, An Old Battle

    Public personification has always been the struggle on both sides of the abortion battle lines. That is why the people outside clinics on Saturday mornings carry signs with photographs of infants rather than of zygotes, why they wear lapel pins fashioned in the image of tiny feet and shout, "Don't kill your baby," rather than, more accurately, "Don't destroy your embryo." Those who support the legal right to an abortion have always been somewhat at a loss in the face of all this. From time to time women have come forward to speak about their decision to have an abortion, but when they are prominent, it seems a bit like grandstanding, and when they are not, it seems a terrible invasion of privacy when privacy is the point in the first place. Easier to marshal the act of presumptive ventriloquism practiced by the opponents, pretending to speak for those unborn unknown to them by circumstance or story. ...
  • The Problem Of The Megaschool

    My high school graduating class had 175 students. Last year the same school had 420 seniors. This bit of biographical data comes to you by way of Charles Andrew Williams. He's the latest teenager to become a national bogeyman after being charged with killing classmates in the school corridors, supplanting for the moment the two boys who committed murder and then suicide at Columbine High. I am willing to wager there will be others. ...
  • Our Tired, Our Poor, Our Kids

    Six people live here, in a room the size of the master bedroom in a modest suburban house. Trundles, bunk beds, dressers side by side stacked with toys, clothes, boxes, in tidy claustrophobic clutter. One woman, five children. The baby was born in a shelter. The older kids can't wait to get out of this one. Everyone gets up at 6 a.m., the little ones to go to day care, the others to school. Their mother goes out to look for an apartment when she's not going to drug-treatment meetings. "For what they pay for me to stay in a shelter I could have lived in the Hamptons," Sharanda says. ...
  • Watching The World Go By

    Never watched "Survivor." never will. what's the point? I've eaten bugs inadvertently myself, dozing in the hammock by the pond on a muggy summer evening. And anyone who wants to watch two petty rival factions go at one another can just wander between the purchasing and accounting departments of any company. Add up the physical challenges and the head games, and the whole thing sounds like nothing more than gym class meets sophomore mixer, no scarier than high school. (Although in the last analysis, nothing is scarier than high school.) I don't scare easily. I've lived through a kitchen renovation in an old house with uneven floorboards, and Donald Trump is building a skyscraper at the end of my block. Here on Temptation Island, where multimillionaire divorce lawyers roam free, survivors are those who pass the co-op board.People named Kimmi and Colby and Amber (who chooses the participants, the writers for "One Life to Live"?) balancing on rafts, living on cow brains, turning brown...
  • Building Blocks For Every Kid

    When my children were newborns and I was spending most of my time watching television while nursing, I saw a program with pediatrician extraordinaire T. Berry Brazelton in which he repeatedly stuck out his tongue at an infant on camera. The point of the exercise was that the infant responded to the doctor in kind. My own children did the same. I stuck out my tongue, they stuck out their tongues. The conclusion was inescapable: babies are nowhere near as stupid as they look.Since then scientific research has compellingly reinforced this notion. Children, it turns out, begin learning at an astonishingly early age, even in those months when they appear to be doing little more than poking themselves in the eye. Toddlers are constantly seeking out new stimulus and information, their brains working away at a rate that is to an adult mind what a race car is to a lawn tractor. What kids learn between infancy and the time they begin kindergarten is, most scientists believe, the bedrock for...
  • SINGING PRAISE TO THE CRAZED

    To lead a national advocacy organization requires a robust constitution and a thick skin. Long hours, hate mail, public opprobrium: it all comes with the job. At best, your work is referred to as "narrow special interests." At worst, in the words of one TV huff-and-puff, you're "crazed militants." And just when the players in Washington have become known quantities, the minuet of democracy begins, and there are new faces and new agendas.This is the situation in which the advocates for a variety of social causes--women's rights, gun control, legal abortion, affirmative action, abolishing the death penalty and the like--find themselves today. The new president stands in opposition to many of the positions they hold dear. But they have been here before, and they know how to deal.Their victories over the past 25 years have been so incrementally successful that most Americans scarcely even notice unless they take the long view. Many of the ideals of equality that prompted the creation of...
  • Happy Leader, Happy Nation

    Beneath the military blue tent that the Big Apple Circus pitches each holiday season in New York City labors a man named Serge Percelly, who juggles tennis racquets. Like other feats that seem both hugely difficult and absolutely pointless--contortionism, for example, or Steven Seagal movies--the first response to this one is "why?" But skepticism withers in the face, not of Mr. Percelly's skill, which is considerable, but of his affect, which is incandescent and irresistible. Two racquets spin, three, four, five, and the curve of the paddle is echoed in the arc of his delighted grin. There is nothing so grand in all the world as watching a person who loves what he does do it.Which brings us to George W. Bush.Some transition, huh? Which is probably what the Republicans are saying right about now.But here's my theory: that the nation is happiest when its leader is obviously happy in his work. Oh, I know happiness has gone out of style, replaced by empowerment and self-esteem. But...
  • Election 2000: The Final Exam

    Well, kids, it's sure been a wild ride in the middle schools of America these last few weeks. One moment you're studying the Rough Riders or the Tories or the ways in which the cotton gin shaped the economy of the Southern states, and the next--bam!--you're drawing maps of the contested counties of Florida and trying to figure out which court gets to do what. It's all because this presidential election is what we adults like to call a "teachable moment," which means the stuff in the lesson plan is getting old and the faculty will glom onto any new material. (They tried to do it with the impeachment process, but there was the cigar, and the dress, and the phone sex, and you just knew that the parents who went to the school board about Harry Potter were not going to dig that one little bit!)I know, I know: it was bad enough during the campaign, having to watch the debates with your family and listen to your mom complain about how much bronzer some bozo had put on Al Gore while your...
  • The End Of The Janus Presidency

    As electoral events unfolded in Florida he may have felt like the most overlooked man on earth. And yet his essence is always with us. Why did the either/or of this suspended-animation contest feel oddly familiar? Perhaps because it came at the tail end of a presidency that has always been characterized by dueling dichotomies: the Janus presidency, two-faced like the ancient deity. The idealistic Clinton, and the calculating one. The Clinton who elevated women, and the one who pursued them. The Clinton who stood fast on abortion, and the one who caved on gays in the military. The Clinton who was eloquent, and the Clinton who was deceitful. William Jefferson Clinton, and just plain Bill. What a pair.Now the most careless, gifted, infuriating, empathetic, polarizing, political president in recent memory finds himself with one last chance to follow the better angels of his nature, since, for the first time in his adult life, he does not have to tailor his actions to suit the voters....
  • The Longest Election Day

    Early morning in the dining room of an elementary school, its tile walls hung with cardboard cutouts of pumpkins and Pilgrims, its air so inert that the faint suggestion of a thousand tuna sandwiches seems to float in the atmosphere like the ghosts of lunches past. The lines are long, the poll workers slow and the New York City Board of Elections, legendary for being a Bermuda Triangle into which all salient information disappears forever, does not disappoint: next to my name it says that there is no signature on file, that I must vote by affidavit. Not for me the majesty of the closed curtain and the metal lever; instead there is a flimsy piece of paper like a standardized test, with the printed warning that if I make a mark where it does not belong my franchise vanishes--poof!--my vote void, my claim to the democratic process nullified. Once filled in, the affidavit is added to an untidy pile gathering on the seat of a chair. I wonder if it will ever get to where it is supposed to...
  • The Best Of The Supremes

    Ruth Bader Ginsburg has not shared her cookie recipe with the readers of Good Housekeeping. Anthony Kennedy has yet to appear on the cover of People magazine. David Souter has not gone late night to trade laughs with Letterman.Maybe that is why, in this infotainment age, Americans seem to know so little about what is arguably the most powerful branch of government. Maybe it is why the most important issue of this presidential race is still in half shadow, second fiddle to prescription-drug plans and the future of Social Security.Actually, the Supreme Court is not a single issue in this campaign. It is every issue. Its nine members have passed judgment on affirmative action, gun control, abortion, tobacco marketing, environmental protection, school prayer and capital punishment. Its proudest history is a history of daring the unpopular to benefit the unrepresented. No politician demanded the integration of the nation's schools; the court did, in Brown v. Board of Education. No...
  • Welcome To 'Animal House

    The student occupation of buildings at Columbia University in 1968 remains the zenith or the nadir of all campus protests, depending on your politics. Richard Nixon (he was on the nadir side) warned in its wake that it was "the first major skirmish in a revolutionary struggle to seize the universities of the country."If Mr. Nixon were alive today, perhaps he would be surprised to learn that the revolutionary struggle is now in defense of beer, basketball and bad behavior.College students have settled in to campuses across America, with their backpacks, their laptops and their some-assembly- required bookshelves, and as certain as carbohydrates in the food-service menu, sooner or later there will be keening about how the poor kids are awash in a welter of political correctness. "Menstruation and Medea: Fear of the Female in the Classics," or "From the Slave Cabins to the Recording Studio: Black in a White Economy"--it's so easy to lampoon the lament that campus life is infused with...
  • The Right To Be Ordinary

    At last official count nearly 500 gay and lesbian couples had been united in civil unions this summer in Vermont. There were flowers, champagne, brides and brides, grooms and grooms. The sky did not fall. The earth did not split in two. Happy families and happy friends watched happy people pledge their love. Big deal. Ho-hum. Yawn.It's hard sometimes to put your finger on the tipping point of tolerance. It's not usually the Thurgood Marshalls and the Sally Rides, the big headlines and the major stories. It's in the small incremental ways the world stops seeing differences as threatening. It's in the woman at the next desk, the guy behind the counter at the deli. And it's finally happening for gay men and lesbians. They're becoming ordinary. It's not that Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche came out and came together; it's that when they broke up they were treated like Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid.Sometimes the advances seem at first like setbacks. The Supreme Court decision that the Boy...
  • Nader And The Push For Purity

    When they were building that overexposed bridge to the 21st century, Al Gore and Bill Clinton left the liberals behind. The old guard was resurrected for one night at the Democratic convention, waving from the left bank. Teddy's hair has grown white and his waistline thick in the service of his country. Jesse's voice is more gravelly, his gestures less grandiose. And Mario, perhaps the greatest political orator of our lifetime, was reduced to opining for the benefit of the television audience at home. For unreconstructed liberal voters, they are like Cher: no last name necessary, but yesterday's news nonetheless.Out of the left-wing wilderness has emerged a presidential candidate who has long been one of its heroes. A modern monk who looks like Lincoln and lives like Gandhi, Ralph Nader has in his lifetime as a consumer activist helped change the face of America, his influence felt in everything from seat belts and air bags to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and...
  • It's The Cult Of Personality

    Brokaw and Bush, two guys just standing around talking. Shirtsleeves. Sunshine. Fence posts. Cameras. You get the idea. The candidate was hunkered down at the ranch, going mano a mano for a couple of endless, empty minutes with the anchorman. The governor showed off his Yiddish--"kibitzing" was how he described what he was doing with his father, the former president--but the seminal moment was in fluent good-ole-boy. "I know you are a pretty good fisherman," Bush said to Brokaw, who was angling for the name of the as yet unknown vice-presidential nominee. "Yes, you are, and I ain't catching."Take a good look at that verb, fellow voters, and consider what the meaning of "ain't" ain't. It ain't good English, of course, and it ain't necessarily an entirely natural locution for a graduate of Andover and Yale, even by way of west Texas. What it is is a marker for the most important issue of this election. Relaxed, a little irreverent, down-home: that "ain't" is supposed to communicate a...
  • Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

    Imagine that millions of Americans are addicted to a lethal drug. Imagine that the Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly ducked its responsibility by refusing to regulate that drug. And imagine that when the FDA finally does its duty, an appeals court decides that it cannot do so, that the drug is so dangerous that if the FDA regulated it, it would have to be banned.Welcome to the topsy-turvy world of tobacco, where nothing much makes sense except the vast profits, where tobacco company executives slip-slide along the continuum from aggrieved innocence to heartfelt regret without breaking a sweat, and where the only people who seem to be able to shoot straight are the jurors who decide the ubiquitous lawsuits.The most recent panel to do the right thing handed down a judgment of $145 billion on behalf of sick smokers in the state of Florida, the largest jury damage award in history. Lawyers for the tobacco companies thundered that the award would bankrupt them, yet the stock...
  • Sexual Assault, Film At Eleven

    This time we got to see it. And seeing it was not pretty, at least unless you were as twisted as the men captured on the videotapes. They were on the hunt in Central Park, and their prey was women, women crying, women screaming, women with their arms crossed over their denuded chests so they would not be as exposed as they felt. They were the prey, but it was the men who behaved like animals.Exactly how many women were sexually abused by a mob in the wake of the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City is still unsure; at last count it was around 50. But some of the amateur videotapes examined by prosecutors show women groped and stripped and molested who have not yet come forward. Some of those who have been questioned have testified to "digital penetration," a clinical term that makes your skin crawl and your stomach roil. "Get them!" the men shouted as they chased their victims down the park pathways and surrounded them with a ring of inexorable hands. "Get the bitches!...
  • The Call From The Governor

    The miasma of sexual detritus that has swirled around Bill Clinton as though he were some grown-up variant of the "Peanuts" character Pig Pen began in earnest on the national stage in January 1992. That was when the supermarket tabloid Star introduced the electorate to Gennifer Flowers. Her tale of good loving gone bad eventually spawned a Penthouse pictorial, a lackluster career as a lounge singer, the first wave of tasteless Clinton jokes and a public discussion of what was known as the character issue.But at the same time that Ms. Flowers's story of a 12-year affair appeared at the checkout counter, next to the gum and the TicTacs, Mr. Clinton was failing a test of character infinitely more important and exacting. While everyone still remembers Gennifer with a "G," there is collective amnesia about Rickey Ray Rector, whose notoriety peaked at about the same time, but less spectacularly.Rickey Ray Rector killed a police officer, then literally blew his own brains out. The surgery...
  • A New Roof On An Old House

    A slate roof is a humbling thing. The one we're putting on the old farmhouse is Pennsylvania blue black, and it's meant to last at least a hundred years. Jeff the roof guy showed us the copper nails he's using to hang it; they're supposed to last just as long. So will the massive beams upon which the slates rest. "Solid as a cannonball," Jeff says. Looking up at the roof taking shape slate by enduring slate, it is difficult not to think about the fact that by the time it needs to be replaced, we will be long gone.In this fast-food, face-lift, no-fault-divorce world of ours, the slate roof feels like the closest we will come to eternity. It, and the three children for whom it is really being laid down.Another Mother's Day has come and gone as the roofers work away in the pale May sun and the gray May rain. It is a silly holiday, and not for all the reasons people mention most, not because it was socially engineered to benefit card shops, florists and those who slake the guilt of...
  • When Private Behavior Isn't

    When Rudy Giuliani was revving up his first successful mayoral run in 1992, his wife called. Not long before, I had trashed her husband's candidacy in print, but Donna Hanover hadn't called to carp. She arranged lunch for the three of us at a nondescript neighborhood Italian restaurant, and after we'd ordered it became apparent why. As husband and wife sat side by side, she would lean in, smiling, and prompt: "Rudy, maybe she would be interested in... tell her your idea for... I know she would like to know about..." It was obvious that she was trying to humanize the guy for public consumption.Last week, after he had announced plans for a legal separation without informing her first, Donna Hanover revealed her husband's human side on a larger scale and with less happy results. For years the couple had rarely appeared in tandem; most people thought they had merely drifted apart in the lackluster fashion of fading marriages. But Hanover stood outside their temporary home at Gracie...
  • The Delirium Of Democracy

    Tuesday is a neglected middle child of a day. The weekend is not in sight; the work week is neither here nor there. "Saturday night is the loneliest night of the week"; "Monday, Monday." There are no songs about Tuesday. Nothing much happens, except that Americans vote.If the body politic had a heart to go with its spleen, you might suspect Tuesday had been chosen for the same reason some of us choose the ugly puppy at the pound or the lopsided pumpkin from the patch. The least memorable, most nondescript, the day of the week that stands along the wall waiting in vain for someone to ask it to dance. There's a theory about why Tuesday was chosen as Election Day in 1845; it was a day when people were likely to take the buggy to town, when farmers came to sell their crops and traders to trade with the temporarily flush farmers.Bye-bye, buggies.In the same way that a school-year schedule organized around harvests and farm chores no longer makes much sense, elections built around farmer...
  • The Sins Of The Fathers

    One thing is certain: they would never have dared do this to a mother. The sad saga of Elian Gonazalez, a small boy turned into a political soap opera by people of dueling opinions who profess his best interests, has been full of double standards. But one of the most obvious is this: had it been the child's father who had taken him in a rickety boat across the broad swath of ocean between Cuba and Florida, had the child's sole surviving parent been a weeping woman after his father disappeared beneath the surface of the water as the boy floated in an inner tube in shark-infested seas, that woman would not have had to become a frustrated supplicant, pressed into begging for the right to her own son.But like most modern fathers Juan Miguel Gonazalez has been covertly considered a second-string parent. He maintained good relations with Elian's mother, even when they were not together; he provided a home for the boy at least as often as she did. Yet he was forced to wait and explain and...
  • The Drug That Pretends It Isn't

    Spring break in Jamaica, and the patios of the waterfront bars are so packed that it seems the crowds of students must go tumbling into the aquamarine sea, still clutching their glasses. Even at the airport one drunken young man with a peeling nose argues with a flight attendant about whether he can bring his Red Stripe, kept cold in an insulated sleeve, aboard the plane heading home.The giggle about Jamaica for American visitors has always been the availability of ganja; half the T shirts in the souvenir shops have slogans about smoking grass. But the students thronging the streets of Montego Bay seem more comfortable with their habitual drug of choice: alcohol.Whoops! Sorry! Not supposed to call alcohol a drug. Some of the people who lead anti-drug organizations don't like it because they fear it dilutes the message about the "real" drugs, heroin, cocaine and marijuana. Parents are offended by it; as they try to figure out which vodka bottle came from their party and which from...
  • The Reasonable Woman Standard

    This may sound strange coming from a life-long feminist, but I've had it with Women's History Month. It's hard for me to believe that Betty Friedan wrote "The Feminine Mystique," protesters trashed the Miss America Pageant and countless women hazarded class-action suits so that each March fourth graders could learn fun facts about Eleanor Roosevelt. Sometimes it seems to me the event is just a sad symbol of how little change we were willing to settle for. A month? We ought to get most of the year.Sure, I get the point: I made it through girlhood without ever hearing of Sojourner Truth or Marie Curie, and I am willing to acknowledge progress. Nearly half the medical students in the country are female. So is the secretary of state. Girls play ice hockey in the Olympics. No one blinks at the sight of a woman cop. Fewer parents believe that their sons should check out colleges and their daughters check out catering halls. Rapes are reported, even prosecuted. Everything has changed since...
  • The Problem Of The Color Line

    Here's a riddle: why was the internationally known Princeton professor stopped for driving too slowly on a street where the speed limit was 25 miles per hour? How come a Maryland state trooper demanded to search the car of a lawyer who graduated from Harvard? And why were an accomplished actor, a Columbia administrator, a graduate student and a merchandiser for Donna Karan arrested together in New York although none of them had done anything wrong?The answer is elementary: all of the men were black. In some twisted sense, they were the lucky ones. They were only humiliated. Not, like Rodney King, beaten bloody. Not, like Abner Louima, sodomized with a broken broomstick. Not, like Amadou Diallo, killed in a gray blizzard of bullets.The verdict is in. The jury has spoken. The death of Diallo, a hardworking African immigrant, was adjudged a terrible accident, not murder, not manslaughter. Louima's assailant is in jail. Two of the officers who beat King went to prison. There have been...
  • We're Off To See The Wizard

    The dilemma of the modern American voter is dramatized in the 1939 film in which a lion, a scarecrow, a tin man and Judy Garland follow a yellow brick road. They seek a wizard, great and powerful, who can provide courage, heart, mind and home to the wanderers. Only he can't, because he is just an ordinary man, with ordinary abilities and flaws, hiding behind larger-than-life pyrotechnics until the moment when a little dog reveals the trick and the wizard thunders, "Pay no attention to the man behind that curtain!"This year's winner of the Wizard of Oz sweepstakes is Sen. John McCain, who in the course of the last few months has managed to convince voters that he is many things that he is not: a moderate, a centrist, perhaps even a closet liberal, a maverick who is working outside the system for a new kind of American politics, a populist Emerald City.In fact the senator is a cookie-cutter conservative who has opposed abortion rights and gun control, affirmative-action legislation...
  • A Bit Of Advice: Don't Go There!

    Dear Hillary,Love the hair. Like the house. All the best. Think you're nuts. Not nuts to move to New York, of course, which I consider the center of the universe (although you overshot the epicenter, the corner of 57th and Fifth, where I've asked that my ashes be scattered someday). But to move to New York to run for the United States Senate? What can you be thinking, to think so small?Perhaps you're in a time warp, Hillary, like the furniture they unloaded at the new Chappaqua house that had been in storage for years while you lived in government housing. (Get thee behind me, Danish modern!) Sometimes it seems you've frozen in the aspic of your marriage, a.k.a. The Long Enchantment. You were pretty audacious pre-Bill, when you got up on that podium at your 1969 Wellesley commencement, the first student speaker in the history of the school, and ad-libbed the line "The challenge now is to practice politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible possible."Oh, I know. In...
  • Ignore Them Off The Field

    By the time you read this, John Rocker could well be volunteering at an AIDS hospice, or signing baseballs at a prison, or shaking hands with little kids at a shelter for battered women. Expiation through public relations: that's the ticket in the modern mediacentric world. Of course everyone will understand that the left-handed pitcher with the incredible slider, the volcanic temper and the foul mouth will be going through the motions; as Rhett once said to Scarlett in Atlanta, the city where Rocker plays, not sorry he did it, just sorry he got caught.The words that got him into this mess, the words he spoke to a Sports Illustrated reporter as he zoomed through traffic, stopping to hawk a lugie at a tollbooth and rail against the ineptitude of Asian women drivers, had the ring of truth that only spontaneity and bedrock bigotry have: complaining about riding the subway with "some queer with AIDS," saying that he doesn't like New York because of the foreigners. "How the hell did they...
  • No Privilege For Parents

    The Supreme Court was preparing to extend the evidentiary doctor-patient privilege to social workers practicing psychotherapy, and Justice Antonin Scalia was, as usual, dissenting. "Ask the average citizen: would your mental health be more significantly impaired by preventing you from seeing a psychotherapist, or by preventing you from getting advice from your mom," he wrote. "I have little doubt what the answer would be. Yet there is no mother-child privilege."And there, in that last sentence, lies a tale of public ignorance, judicial conservatism and legislative stalemate, a tale that would do well to end where we just began: in the halls of the country's highest court.The law, as Mr. Bumble so pithily observed in "Oliver Twist," is a ass. The absence of the N in that sentence is glaring, but not so glaring as the absence of the privilege Scalia mentioned in his opinion. While the United States counts as commonplace privilege between attorney and client, priest and penitent,...
  • Now It's Time For Generation Next

    History is most often written in terms of inventions and events, revolutions and revolutionary ideas. But it is always essentially the story of people. The New Deal. The new technology. Cubism. Communism. These are tales of individuals, of Roosevelt and Gates, Picasso and Castro. Biography is destiny, often for the entire world. Had Hitler been a better painter--ah, it is a conundrum for the ages.And so I can predict with what I believe is considerable accuracy this about the century to come. It will be remarkable because its history will be shaped, and written, too, by a group of what promises to be remarkable human beings. The millennials, demographers have named them, born between 1977 and 1994, 70 million strong, the biggest bump in our national line graph since their parents, the baby boomers. These are our children; for my money they are a great bunch. My three are simply better than I was at their age. They are more interesting, more confident, less hidebound and uptight,...
  • The Inalienable Right To Whine

    Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I think it's time to retire the chicken. You remember the chicken. It showed up most conspicuously in the 1992 presidential campaign, when a couple of Clinton guys in a bar decided to rent a chicken suit and trail George Bush the elder around, complaining that he was afraid to debate. Unfortunately, the elder actually engaged the chicken itself in heated colloquy while on the stump, and many fowl puns ensued in the press. The decision by his opponents to introduce a "pander bear" into the menagerie to harass Clinton didn't catch on in the same fashion.The chicken, however, has always been good for a sound bite, in New Hampshire and Ohio Senate races, in the contest for a Florida House seat. The chicken even crossed the pond. After John Major's supporters sent a chicken to heckle Tony Blair, the Blair camp sent some folks in fox costumes, and a rhinoceros turned up to complain, justly, that the level of debate had gone to the dogs.At home and abroad...
  • The C Word In The Hallways

    The saddest phrase I've read in a long time is this one: psychological autopsy. That's what the doctors call it when a kid kills himself and they go back over the plowed ground of his short life, and discover all the hidden markers that led to the rope, the blade, the gun.There's a plague on all our houses, and since it doesn't announce itself with lumps or spots or protest marches, it has gone unremarked in the quiet suburbs and busy cities where it has been laying waste. The number of suicides and homicides committed by teenagers, most often young men, has exploded in the last three decades, until it has become commonplace to have black-bordered photographs in yearbooks and murder suspects with acne problems. And everyone searches for reasons, and scapegoats, and solutions, most often punitive. Yet one solution continues to elude us, and that is ending the ignorance about mental health, and moving it from the margins of care and into the mainstream where it belongs. As surely as...