Laura June spent nearly a decade in journalism before she ever considered writing a book of her own. Even then, she imagined she would dive into fiction writing if she got the urge to publish. However, giving birth to a daughter changed everything. The desire grew to write about what was present in her own life—entering motherhood with her newborn. The result: Now My Heart is Full: A Memoir, published by Penguin Books.
“I found that this kind of writing resonated with people, not because I was an expert in parenting, but because I was the opposite of it,” June said during her talk at the “Readings on Mental Health” series at Buffalo Street Books on October 7.
Initially, June began writing essays about her daughter, Zelda, as well some journalistic pieces that covered maternity leave and healthcare. These ventures led to a gig with New York magazine, an ideal platform for developing material for a book on motherhood.
Before submitting a book proposal, June realized her own mother remained “the elephant in the room.” June’s mom had died at age 52, and had been an alcoholic for as long as June could remember. She decided that in order to write a book about motherhood, she needed to include her relationship to her own mother, and the memoir began to settle on the question, “How would I describe my mother to my daughter?” While June’s memoir is often explained as a story about mothers, June understands it to be that and more. It encompasses genealogy and alcoholism/addiction as well as a compelling story about how these elements shape mother-daughter relations.
June read an excerpt of her work, which centered on her initial conception of her relationship with her mother:
“This dissonance — that my sober mother loved me very much, that she braided my hair and sang to me, bought me little matching jumpers and sock sets, and made sure I was inoculated and had a lunch packed with little love notes in pen on the napkin tucked inside, but then forgot to even bother picking me up occasionally, with barely a nod in my direction in apology after the fact — this dissonance that I began to experience, where suddenly I wasn’t first on her list but now seemed last, was quite confusing. I was too confused to take it personally. I felt nervous, and it was the nervousness that I would also keep for years to come.”
As this small section indicates, June’s work integrates nuanced emotion and complexity to tell a rich and poignant story about motherhood and alcoholism.
In a Q&A session after her reading, a woman asked when June intended to share this story with her daughter, who is now 4 years old. The book remains on the shelf for now, but June suspects when the time is right, the book will find its way into her daughter’s hands.
—By Margaret McKinnis
Margaret McKinnis, an intern at The Sophie Fund, is a junior at Ithaca College majoring in Writing and minoring in English and Honors. She is a nonfiction editor at Stillwater, a student literary magazine, and an assistant director of the New Voices Literary Festival.
“Readings on Mental Health” is presented by the Mental Health Association in Tompkins County, hosted by Buffalo Street Books, and sponsored by The Sophie Fund.
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