A Family Secret Reveals Mental Illness and Death in
Elizabeth Buzzelli 6/1/09
By Steve Luxenberg
As family secrets go, maybe Steve Luxenbergs isnt the biggest. As obsessions go, maybe it is. Annies Ghosts, his investigative memoir, covers a lot of bases, from family secret to family secret; from family tragedy to tragedy, while along the way he raises as many questions as he answers. The biggest of these questions being why he wrote the book at all?
Before his mother, Beth Cohen, died, her long guarded secret came to light. She wasnt the only child shed always claimed to be. There was a sister, Annie Cohen, who died in a mental hospital. Beth told her children she didnt remember the sister. After all, shed only been four years old when Annie entered Eloise, near Detroit, an asylum for the insane.
When that proved to be a lie too, Luxenberg, began to delve into the reasons behind his mothers now obvious subterfuge. He took a leave of absence from his job at the Washington Post and began this very personal trek which would take him from Depression era Detroit to the Holocaust in the Ukraine, and even more disturbing, to the mental facilities of the time, to the forced incarcerations, to moves to other facilities without as much as an announcement, let alone agreement.