cover image What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing from Complex Trauma

What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing from Complex Trauma

Stephanie Foo. Ballantine, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-0-593-23810-3

Foo, radio journalist and former producer of This American Life, recounts her astounding story of living with complex PTSD (C-PTSD), a diagnosis that describes the psychological pain experienced by those who’ve suffered recurring traumas. To find her “redemption arc” and reckon with her trauma, Foo felt she needed “to tease apart the careful life I have crafted for myself, the one that is threatening to unravel at any minute.” She exceeds her intention by delivering a heartrending portrayal of the physical abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of her parents, immigrants from Malaysia (“If you are beaten for hundreds of mistakes, then every mistake becomes dangerous.... The world itself becomes a threat”). Foo also writes of the therapeutic work she undertook in her adulthood to heal and the agency she’s gained from it. “C-PTSD is a wily shape-shifter,” she writes. “Each episode is its own odyssey... requiring new bursts of courage.” What takes this brilliant work from a personal story to a cultural touch point is the way Foo situates her experiences into a larger conversation about intergenerational trauma, immigration, and the mind-body connection (“I was casting abuse and bad parenting as a central theme across my community—was this perpetuating a negative, unhealthy stereotype?”). This is a work of immense beauty. (Mar.)