On a balmy Tuesday during the summer before ninth grade, a car accident on a rain-slicked highway flipped Janna’s safe and happy world upside down, and her adolescence dissolved into a summer of restraining belts, feeding tubes, therapy schedules, and chicken salad sandwiches from the hospital cafeteria. Since that day, Janna’s life has been a navigation through the inescapable struggles of her father’s brain injury, a study of her mother’s resilience and unconditional love, and a challenge to find her own identity and acceptance as an adult.
Brain injury is insidious. It’s tricky and tiresome. For those asked to love and support a TBI survivor, the struggles are deeply personal and often unresolved, and the victim’s recovery is repeatedly thwarted by insurmountable obstacles, along with the battles fought with insurance companies for proper patient care and effective treatment.
Janna Leyde’s coming-of-age memoir encompasses the acute and lasting effects of TBI on both survivors and their loved ones. He Never Liked Cake is for children who feel the weight of life crashing down, for families who fight for the new normal, for survivors who fail to see how life is different—and, for everyone, this is a story about how to embrace life when it doesn’t work out the way we had it planned.
Maybe New York was becoming too much on top of brain injury, which would always be too much. Brain injury slaps you with an acute change and then slowly tears away everything you love about a person one piece at a time. And even though brain injury had built my character, just like my grandmother had said it would the night we drove home from the hospital, the night I wished on the stars between the defogger lines, it had always been too much. Sure, it was all for a reason, a reason I had yet to come up with. Years of searching, and I still end up in the backseat, ruminating on God and existence and the consequence of good and evil in humanity. I lived my parents’ struggle. I was their kid. It was my birthright. I owed it to them, to their past, to my childhood, to our old happiness.
Janna Leyde is a writer and certified yoga teacher. She is a regular contributor to health and wellness-focused blogs and magazines and has a master’s in journalism from New York University. She grew up near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and now lives in Brooklyn. He Never Liked Cake is her first book.