Underwater Daughter: A Memoir of Survival and Healing

She Writes Pr. May 2023. 272p. ISBN 9781647424220. pap. $17.95. MEMOIR
Deignan, a dancer and writer, reckons with the fallout of prolonged childhood sexual abuse by her father. It started when she was age four and lasted for seven years. Her ordeal was made all the more confusing by her mother’s wordless acquiescence. The author is adept at chronicling the toll of internalized shame. When a trusted adult raped her when she was 14, she spun into years of bulimia, promiscuity, and substance abuse until she discovered dance. This enabled her to climb out of what she calls a “self-imposed darkness” and a “cage of hate.” Marriage and motherhood provided ballast, at least temporarily. After a betrayal and painful divorce, Deignan struggled to balance a dancing career with single motherhood. She eventually remarried and expanded her family, and she also opened a dance studio. When she is sidelined by a bike accident, however, she is forced into a recovery that gives her the time and space to contemplate the scars her body carries, both physical and emotional.
VERDICT This debut author’s writing style, experimental and intimate, enables her to effectively put words to wounds that seem unspeakable. Memoir fans will find much to like in this one.
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