Often times we choose not to read a book or an article because we are not intrigued by the cover, or the title. We choose not to acknowledge others because they are unkempt, and we choose not to enter places because they are uninviting. The Soloist is a book that relates to the issue of not judging a book by its cover, or profiling people wrongly because of the way they present. Nathaniel Ayers is the main character in the Soloist, a book that is based on a true story about a reporter who befriends a homeless street musician. Through further investigation Steve Lopez discovers that Nathaniel was a gifted student at Julian – a school of the performing arts in New York. The story is sad and poignant because as the writer assesses Nathaniel demise, he realizes that Nathaniel is a victim of not only schizophrenia as a mental illness but also a victim of his social and economic status.
It is evident throughout Nathaniel’s life starting from his early years, in the school system at Julliard and as an adult. Several occasions people living with mental illnesses face many challenges that are stigmatizing and negatively affect the way that they are treated in life in general. Studies indicate that living with the symptoms of the mental illness, in an unsupported environment often has negative effects on their ability to work, live independently or have a satisfactory quality of life. According to the book The Soloist Nathaniel through his early years was did not have the parental support from his family. There was an association with poor family disorganization and poor family background. His father left at an young age leaving him and his brothers, sisters and mother to fend for themselves. It was also an initial factor toward his homelessness.
The book provides a view on schizophrenia as a mental illness and the negative effects that can plague one’s life when they are not supported by family, social system in which they exist and the lack of economic resources. Unfortunately, many people suffer from various forms of mental disease; schizophrenia being one of the most common, especially in young men. Nathaniel suffered from hearing voices in his head, which made him very paranoid. The constant turbulence that Nathaniel experienced in his head through “voices”, contributed to his isolation and refusal to live in a home. Ayers spent his days playing the violin on the streets of Los Angeles.
It was here that Steve Lopez, a journalist for the LA Times met Ayers.
Lopez, Steve. The soloist: a lost dream, an unlikely friendship, and the redemptive power of music. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2008. Print.