Running with Scissors: The Story Behind the Controversial Literary Journey

Running with Scissors is a captivating memoir written by American author Augusten Burroughs. Published in 2002, this book offers readers a glimpse into Burroughs’ unconventional upbringing and the series of events that shaped his life.

The Plot: A Journey Through Chaos and Survival

The story revolves around Burroughs’ childhood and teenage years, spent under the care of an eccentric psychiatrist named Dr. Finch. As the narrative unfolds, readers become acquainted with Burroughs’ dysfunctional family and the peculiar individuals who become significant figures in his life.

Award Recognition and Critical Reception

Running with Scissors received widespread attention and critical acclaim upon its release. Despite the controversy surrounding its authenticity, the book became a New York Times Best Seller and was adapted into a film in 2006. With its raw and intense storytelling, the memoir garnered several nominations and awards for its literary merit and unique perspective.

One of the notable recognitions the book received was the Alex Award, presented by the Young Adult Library Services Association. This award is given to books originally published for adult readers but with content suitable for young adults. Running with Scissors was praised for its ability to resonate with readers of various ages, particularly teenagers dealing with the challenges of adolescence.

However, it is important to note that the book also garnered some criticism. Some readers and critics questioned the accuracy of certain events and character portrayals, leading to debates regarding the memoir’s reliability. Despite these concerns, Running with Scissors remains an impactful literary work that explores themes of resilience, identity, and the power of human connection.

Memorable Characters: A Colorful Cast Within the Chaos

Within the pages of Running with Scissors, readers encounter a variety of eccentric and memorable characters who leave a lasting impression. These individuals contribute to the unique atmosphere of Burroughs’ upbringing and play significant roles in his personal growth.

1. Augusten Burroughs: The protagonist and author of the memoir. Burroughs provides a firsthand account of his experiences, taking readers on a tumultuous journey through his unconventional upbringing.

2. Dr. Finch: An unorthodox psychiatrist who becomes Burroughs’ guardian. Dr. Finch’s unusual methods and chaotic lifestyle have a profound impact on Burroughs’ development.

3. Natalie: Augusten’s mother, a poet struggling with mental illness who ultimately hands over her parental rights to Dr. Finch.

4. Hope: Dr. Finch’s wife and a steadfast source of support for Burroughs throughout his tumultuous adolescence.

5. Neil Bookman: A close friend of Dr. Finch who plays a significant role in Burroughs’ life. Neil provides Burroughs with stability and friendship during his troubled teenage years.


Running with Scissors is a powerful memoir that takes readers on a rollercoaster journey through Augusten Burroughs’ unconventional upbringing. Despite the controversy surrounding its accuracy, the book remains a compelling and thought-provoking exploration of adolescence, family dynamics, and the human capacity for resilience. Through its well-drawn characters and gripping storytelling, Running with Scissors continues to captivate readers interested in literature that challenges societal norms and pushes the boundaries of memoir writing.

Scroll to Top