I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (novel)

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I Never Promised You a Rose Garden
Author Joanne Greenberg
Country United States
Language English
Genre Autobiographical novel
Publisher Holt, Rinehart & Winston
Publication date
Pages 291
ISBN 0-03-043725-3
OCLC 239462

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (1964) is a semi-autobiographical novel by Joanne Greenberg, written under the pen name of Hannah Green. It served as the basis for a film in 1977 and a play in 2004.


The character of Dr. Fried is based closely on Greenberg's real doctor Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, and the hospital on Chestnut Lodge in Rockville, Maryland. While at Chestnut Lodge, Greenberg described a fantasy world called Yr to her doctors, quoting poetry in the Yri language. However, some of Greenberg's doctors felt that this was not a true delusion but rather something Greenberg had made up on the spot to impress her psychiatrist. One doctor went so far as to state that Yri was not an actual language, but was a form of bastardized Armenian.[1] Fromm-Reichmann wrote glowing reports focusing on Greenberg's genius and creativity, which she saw as signs of Greenberg's innate health, indicating that she had every chance of recovering from her mental illness.

Similar to what occurred in the novel, Greenberg was diagnosed with schizophrenia. At that time though, undifferentiated schizophrenia was often a vague diagnosis given to a patient or to medical records department for essentially non-medical reasons, which could have covered any number of mental illnesses from anxiety to depression.

A 1981 article in the New York Times two psychiatrists who examined the description of Blau in the book claim that she was not schizophrenic, but rather suffered from extreme depression and somatization disorder.[2]

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  1. ^ "Alberta Szalitza, who had seen Joanne in a series of strikingly unsuccessful sessions during Frieda's vacation, was far less taken with Greenberg's creativity. She insisted to colleagues that Yri wasn't really a language, just "a poor set-up of some words that were similar to Armenian" that Greenberg had put together from having had Armenian friends. Szalitza seemed irritated that Frieda ignored the fact that Joanne translated the same words differently on different days and showed other inconsistencies in her use of this so-called language (minutes of staff meetings; Szalitza interview)." Gail Hornstein, To Redeem One Person Is To Redeem The World: A Life of Frieda Fromm-Reichmann (Free Press 2002), pp. 425-426.
  2. ^ Sobel, Dava (February 17, 1981). "Schizophrenia In Popular Books: A Study Finds Too Much Hope". The New York Times.

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