Leslie Jamison’s Memoir ‘Splinters’ Is a Balancing Act of Self-Exposure

Leslie Jamison’s Memoir ‘Splinters’ Is a Balancing Act of Self-Exposure


The marital troubles began after the birth of their daughter and the publication of “The Recovering” in 2018, she writes in the memoir, when she and Mr. Bock became emotionally distant. “Our home was a place in which I’d come to feel alone, and so — in retaliation, or from depletion — I made C feel alone, too,” she writes. “His barbed comments left me so frayed that I stopped trying to detect or soothe the hurt beneath them.”

After separating in 2019, she began to take notes for “Splinters” while living in a sublet next to a firehouse, where she felt the grief of rupture alongside a “sense of hope and deep love,” she said. She wanted to explore those seemingly contradictory feelings on the page.

In her memoir, Ms. Jamison breaks these life events into shards for the reader to piece together over the course of the book. By writing in short, intense vignettes, she said, “it felt like I broke open something in my language,” and discovered a new way of writing. “That’s always the feeling that I want.”

Less than an hour after Ms. Jamison’s daughter is born, on Page 9, a nurse takes the baby down the hall to receive treatment for jaundice. It takes another nurse’s words of comfort for Ms. Jamison to feel the tears on her cheeks. After a little while, Ms. Jamison writes, she wheels her IV pole down the hall to observe her daughter blue-lit under the nursery’s bilirubin lights.

Forty pages later, she reveals that during that “little while,” she had pulled out her laptop and continued fact-checking an essay on female rage from her hospital bed, “bleary with shame and pride.” Having finished copy edits just before her water broke, she had planned to continue working from the hospital.

“Why did it feel somehow like saying, ‘I got to work and I was glad to get to work’?” she asked. “Why does that threaten to invalidate the feeling of sadness that I narrate the first time?”


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