Award-winning poet Damian Rogers' gripping memoir about being raised by a loving but unreliable single mother who struggles with mental illness only to be later diagnosed with frontal-lobe dementia. In the vein of Diane Keaton's Then Again crossed with Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle and Susannah Cahalan's Brain on Fire.
Throughout her life, acclaimed poet Damian Rogers was never given a satisfactory account of the circumstances around her birth. The "truth" behind the stories she was told by her mother--the free-spirited, beautiful and often troubled Joanna--constantly shifted, and Damian could collect only fragments: a trip to California, a mysterious trauma, a miscarriage followed by a psychotic break, and a dramatic return to Detroit, pregnant. Now, in the present day, as 40-year-old Damian copes with Joanna's debilitating frontal-lobe dementia, she realizes she may never truly uncover the full story.
At once a riveting portrait of a time and place (Detroit and Southern California from the mid-1960s to the late-1980s), an unconventional mother-daughter saga, and an exploration of how memory constantly shapes and reshapes our intimate relationships, at its heart An Alphabet for Joanna is a meditation on the relationship between mental illness and creative life. Damian Rogers writes effortlessly across genres, including lyrical memoir, investigative reporting, and powerful philosophical reflection, as she pieces together the ways we build lives out of stories. And by tracing her mother's deterioration into the present day, she poignantly shows how, even when memory fails, we remain connected through art, empathy, and imagination.
DAMIAN ROGERS has published two acclaimed books of poetry: Dear Leader (2015), which was named one of the best books of 2015 by the CBC and the Globe and Mail and was a finalist for the Ontario Trillium Poetry Prize; and Paper Radio (2009), which was shortlisted for Pat Lowther Memorial Prize. She has also published work in many magazines and online journals, including Boston Review, Brick, The Walrus, Hazlitt, White Wall Review, Event, Four Way Review, Taddle Creek, Riddle Fence, Toronto Star, Maisonneuve, Salt Hill and more. Damian is the co-host and co-curator, with musician Jason Collett, for "The Basement Revue," a popular music and literary cabaret. From 2010 to 2017 she was the poetry editor at House of Anansi Press and the creative director of Scott Griffin's annual "Poetry in Voice" recitation contest. She lives in Toronto with her son and her husband, musician Mike Belitsky of The Sadies.