Critical Acclaim for the First Edition of
Winnie: My Life in the Institution
from the popular press, advocacy organizations,
and the professional mental health and social work communities

Although she could not remember the number of weeks in a year or how to tell time, she had an uncanny memory for details of her life. She was a natural storyteller, dropping easily into dialogue and recounting events expressively. This is a portrait of a damaged but exceptional mind.

  • Lillian Thomas, The New York Times Book Review

In Winnie: My Life in the Institution, journalist Jamie Pastor Bolnick has taken Winnie’s original 20-odd-page “autobiography” and expanded it with hundreds of hours of interviews that [she]conducted with her. Winnie’s insights and longings reveal the demeaning, as well as the humorous, side of institutional life…Winnie and “her book” give us a chance to see ourselves—our passions and prejudices—from the perspective of someone on the inside looking out.

  • Patricia Long, Psychology Today

Winnie: My Life in the Institution…is a story of unspeakable injustices and cruelties…[but] also contains an almost incomprehensible optimism and good cheer…Unsentimental, wonderfully comic and also unbearably sad, this is not a book only for people interested in institutions or mental retardation…This book is simply the story of a woman who managed to grow and even thrive with about as much nourishment and care as a weed gets growing through the crack in a sidewalk…Reading this book makes one’s life seem, suddenly, infinitely precious.

  • Joyce Maynard, best-selling memoirist (At Home in the World) and novelist, Mademoiselle

You will love Winnie Sprockett for her honesty, her compassion, her quirky sense of humor…Written in Sprockett’s voice, with all of her faulty but imaginative grasp of language, this book tells the story of a feisty woman of irrepressible spirit.

  • Frances A. Koestler, New York Newsday

I hope I will never forget Winnie…She is curious, observant, spirited and, when her highly tuned sense of justice is offended, rebellious…What she hands down is a precious legacy to help us understand the Winnies of today.

  • Patricia Holt, The San Francisco Chronicle

[Winnie’s] poignant writing, originally attempted to nullify a relative’s taunt that she was retarded, is supplemented by interviews with and reflections of freelance journalist Pastor Bolnick…Winnie’s own words open to the reader the stratified world of retarded men, women and children…full of Winnie’s wonderful zest…makes her memorable on these pages.

  • Publishers Weekly

[T]he fruit of Bolnick’s many taped interviews with Winnie, …[i]t is, as Bolnick writes, “Winnie’s voice and Winnie’s story.” And a unique voice it is—strong and clear: Her tale of learning at long last to read seems to echo Helen Keller’s flashing discovery of language…compels belief with its distinctive voice and force of character…[and] opens a rare window into her world.

  • Pat Jeffries, The Oregonian

Beyond being a touching—and sometimes very funny—testament to an irrepressible spirit, Winnie reflects the need for human kindness and the power it has to nurture the spirit, even when life seems to have conspired to crush it.

  • Kirkus Reviews

A book worth more than many textbooks on mental retardation and on human relations...This book should be read by anyone working with people.

  • Gisele Konopka, Doctor of Social Work, Readings: A Journal of Reviews and Commentary in Mental Health

…[A] moving, yet delightful first person account of Winnie’s life in an institution. The word delightful may seem out of place, but despite the feelings of loneliness and abandonment that Winnie felt, she always kept an incredible optimism, sense of humor and determination. That perspective was Winnie’s most amazing virtue…Put simply, it is a joy to read, walking a delicate line between poignancy and humor.

  • Dick Collier, The ARC (Official Publication of the Association for Retarded Citizens of the United States)

The author has captured Winnie’s wealth of experience, arranging and editing it so that it always remains her words, voice and story. The hours spent reading her will provide valuable insights for parents, human services workers or just someone who likes a good story. Winnie’s is it.

  • Harry Kamish, On the Record (Newsletter of the Association for Children With Retarded Mental Development)

Winnie’s story is told with her own words and gives us a rare insight into the life inside institutions as it is experienced by the people who live there.

  • The Center on Human Policy, Law, and Disability Studies, Syracuse University

After spending thirty years working with and for the mentally retarded, I have met many “Winnie Sprocketts.” This is Winnie’s story but it could also be the story of all the other Winnies in the world today…Winnie’s story is about being a person, a real person with dignity, value and love. Winnie’s love for life came forth. I thank her for sharing it with me.

  • George A. Zitnay, Director of Mental Retardation Programs, The Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation

Praise for the NBC TV Movie of the Week
based on Winnie: My Life in the Institution
starring Meredith Baxter (Birney) and David Morse

Birney and Morse do an outstanding job, expressing overwhelming feelings in little bursts of childlike directness and evasiveness. Writer Joyce Eliason has created pithy dialogue and director John Korty has produced an environment that never descends to caricature. A good cast does the rest... looking convincingly at the world through [Winnie’s] eyes ... it tells a story that needs to be told and tells it well.

  • Leo Seligsohn, New York Newsday