Author Mimi Baird visited the University of Michigan on Thursday to discuss her new book, “He Wanted the Moon” and to talk about the legacy of her father, Perry Baird — a Harvard-educated physician who suffered from severe bipolar disorder and eventually died in his mid-50s.
The University’s Heinz C. Pretcher Bipolar Research Fund hosted Mimi Baird for its 10th annual Pretcher Lecture, which brings in researchers and leaders in the field of bipolar genetics.
Bair said her father’s mental illnesses caused him to abandon his family when Baird was just five years old to seek permanent treatment at the Westborough State Hospital.
“My father divorced his wife, had his license revoked and his name removed from his office and plaques — he left his daughters,” Baird said, becoming choked up as she recounted all that her father faced in his life.
Baird’s book was inspired by an extensive manuscript her father wrote, reflecting on life with bipolar disorder and depression, which someone in Baird’s family uncovered it in Baird said she was inspired to organize the manuscript, “Echoes from a Dungeon Cell,” cohesively enough to publish a book.
Baird never knew her father well because he was taken by the police to Westborough when she was just a child, but she said she learned about his life though the manuscript. In this text, she recounted the intensive treatments and therapies he received.
“One of the joys of writing the book was my journey to find my father,” Baird said.
The book took Baird two decades to write as she had to find friends and family of her father to fill in gaps about his past.
“My family didn’t talk about these issues … there was a code of silence,” Baird said.
Her book is now in the process of being made into a movie by Brad Pitt and his production company, Plan B Entertainment, and Baird said she looks forward to seeing an honest portrayal of her father’s life.
“I would not sign the contract until I knew that they were going to be honest with the interpretation of my father’s book. Treat it with respect, treat it with dignity and that it is to be as authentic as possible. And they are going to do that,” Baird said.