News Release

Janet Sternburg’s White Matter: A Memoir of Family and Medicine released by Hawthorne Books September 15, 2015

For immediate release 28 Apr 2015

Contact: 503-327-8849 rhughes@hawthornebooks.com |

This is a unique book. The writing is beautiful, the observations refined, the subject gripping.—Antonio Damasio, Author of Descartes’ Error and Self Comes to Mind


Who knew that in 1949 Egas Moniz was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for developing the lobotomy?


Who knew that in the early 1950s Walter Freeman traveled the United States in his lobotomobile doing guest surgeries in hospitals?


White Matter is Janet Sternburg’s story about her aunt and uncle who underwent lobotomies and a fascinating study of the surgery’s popularity. The phrase “prefrontal lobotomy” was common currency growing up in her family and she details this scientific discovery that disconnects the brain’s white matter, leaving a person without feelings, and its undeserved legitimization and impact on her family. By the late 1970s, the surgical practice was almost completely out of favor, but its effects left patients and their families with complicated legacies as well as a stain on American medical history. Every generation has to make its own medical choices based on knowledge that will inevitably come to seem inadequate in the future. How do we live with our choices when we see their consequences?

Janet Sternburg is a writer of memoir, essays, poetry and plays, as well as a fine-art photographer. She lives and works in Los Angeles and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Hawthorne Books
2201 NE 23rd Avenue, Third Floor, Portland, OR 97212
503-327-8849

Hawthorne Books is distributed by PGW (800-788-3213 / www.pgw.com).