Daughter, Mother, Wife, Girlfriend, Artist: On Splintered Identity

Splinters by Leslie Jamison

I’ve read just about everything Leslie Jamison has put out, and while her writing has matured and changed over the course of time, she still writes some of the most incredible prose. She has a way of writing a sentence that reads like magic. Previously, she has investigated the personal lives of others, researched writers and other artists who struggled with alcoholism, and explored her own experience with sobriety. This time, she’s writing about the birth of her daughter and her divorce from her daughter’s father. 

Splinters looks at Jamison’s splintered identity — as a daughter, mother, wife, girlfriend, artist, academic, writer — and how these many facets of who she is have informed her art. The memoir is divided up into different sections, each examining a state of mind or a phase in Jamison’s life. They build on one another, giving us a more complete picture of Jamison’s lived experience.

Jamison loses herself in her new daughter, discovering a new love of her life while simultaneously trying to cope with the disintegration of her marriage. Her divorce is messy and complex, the bitterness lasting years as they both struggle to figure out a way to co-parent their young child. Jamison explores sex and dating, wondering how on earth she can start over with another person, but try again she does.

I particularly enjoyed the audiobook edition, which she reads herself. Much of the listening experience feels like we’re sitting across from Jamison at her favorite grungy diner as we listen to her describe these many facets of her personhood. Listening to her narrate her story feels like we’re witnessing her verbally process her experience of early motherhood and all of the messiness that has entailed.

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