Alumna Joan Gaustad's art memoir, “Someone’s Missing . . . and I think It’s Me” published

November 18, 2020
Book cover of

VCU Publishing announces the digital publication of Someone's Missing...and I Think It's Me, by Joan Gaustad, ‘75 BFA, Arts. An artist working in Richmond, Gaustad was married to prominent artist and respected VCU faculty member Gerald Donato who died in 2010.  

Subtitled Our Great Adventure with Dementia, the book is a unique blend of memoir, advice and art. Gaustad chronicles her experiences with her late husband as they tried to navigate the mysteries and terrors of his early-onset dementia. Beautifully illustrated with original artwork by the author, Donato and artist friends, Gaustad takes a brutally honest, sometimes harrowing and, ultimately, life-affirming look at their challenged marriage. Although she says her original intent was to create a guide for those dealing with brain illness in loved ones, the book became a testament to the beauty and humor to be found above and beyond the medical travails. Someone’s Missing is a moving love story.

In Gaustad's words, "It is often said that memory makes us human, so those who are always 'in the moment' are sometimes seen as missing. It seems that what actually makes us unique as human beings is our ability to project not only into the past and future but into each other. To see my beautiful, brain-tangled husband look at a child, a tree, a fellow patient or me, was to be awed by our infinite capacity for empathy."

Sam Byrd, scholarly publishing librarian, and Katie Condon, digital specialist, worked closely with Gaustad to produce the final work, contributing digital dissemination, copyediting and layout. VCU Libraries subject specialist liaison and collections librarians were consulted on the selection of the work for VCU Publishing. Coincidently, Megan Goldfarb, who works as a collections specialist at VCU Libraries and is a graduate of VCU School of the Arts (BFA, Painting and Printmaking), had a strong role in the initial editing of the book. Kelly Gotschalk, director of development and major gifts for VCU Libraries, was an early advocate of the book and brought it to Byrd's attention. Byrd reflects that “this was an engaging project where Joan had already completed the majority of the work, and we were able to contribute some of the lessons learned from our recent publication of Politics of Annexation.”

Gaustad says, ”With Someone's Missing...and I Think It's Me I wanted to create the book I had been looking for during Our Great Adventure with Dementia. I am grateful that VCU Publishing, with its broad reach, will make this story of discovering what there is to be cherished in what we are given, available to those with challenged lives—all of us."

The online version is freely available to read and download through Scholars Compass. The print version will be available in spring 2021. Sales of the book will benefit the VCUarts Donato Scholarship Fund. A virtual book launch event will be held during the spring semester.


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