Click on image to see and hear Issa in conversation.

His memoir The Hospital Always Wins became the first work published by an African American from behind the walls of a mental institution

A unique and powerful memoir of incarceration, rebellion, sex, drugs, death, race, and art

Published by Chicago Review Press

The Reviews Are In

Kirkus Reviews


“Issa Ibrahim’s memoir is a report from the inside, a rare story of a patient making his way out of the labyrinth of mental illness. Written with immediacy and honesty, it’s a captivating tale of survival against great odds, and a true original.” -John Turturro, actor, director, and writer

“I picked up The Hospital Always Wins and couldn’t put it down. Issa Ibrahim writes with remarkable clarity and an artist’s skill for evoking place and time and the inner landscape of his own mind.” -Robert Whitaker, author of Anatomy of an Epidemic

“A beautifully written masterpiece of shocking truths, powerful drama, and gripping storytelling. It pulled me down the rabbit hole and spit me out under a deadly cold light, deftly transformed to an unexpected warmth by the remarkable compassion of the author. I couldn’t put it down until the truly shocking finish.” -Xavier Amador, author of I Am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help!

“I can’t express how awesome I thought this book was. It’s morally complex, vivid in setting and character development, and the pacing of this memoir kept me turning pages into the night. I found it somehow reminiscent of On The Road, even though it wasn’t about a road trip; maybe more like if Kerouac, Richard Wright, and Vincent Van Gogh had all gotten together and written One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.” -Susie Rodarme, reviewer with Book Riot

“Artist Ibrahim’s desperate memoir feels as though it was carved from his heart. In his early twenties and overtaken by the onset of mental illness, this son of freethinking, creative parents killed the mother whom he both adored and emulated. Years of substance abuse had taken its toll and Ibrahim had imagined she was possessed of demonic powers. When he was arrested and tried, he pleaded insanity and was remanded to Creedmoor, a New York state mental hospital for the criminally insane in Queens. Over decades of incarceration, Ibrahim suffered nearly every mental, physical, and emotional abuse that could be conceived by a racist, sexist, fatally flawed mental-health system designed to favor authority, right or dead wrong over care and compassion. That the man held himself together enough to become an accomplished artist and writer speaks to unimaginable personal strength and spirit. Indeed, art may have saved him. The palpable frustration, futility, and desperation Ibrahim expresses in his moving and important book demands occasional breaks to confirm that the sun still shines and people can still be kind” -Donna Chavez, reviewer with Booklist

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