A gripping memoir about being raised in the 1980s by a loving but erratic single mother who is today diagnosed with frontal-lobe dementia. In the vein of Plum Johnson's They Left Us Everything, Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle and Susannah Cahalan's Brain on Fire.
Throughout her childhood in Detroit, Damian Rogers was never given a satisfactory account of the circumstances that led to her own birth. The "truth" behind the stories she was told by her mother--free-spirited, beautiful and troubled Joanna--constantly shifted, and Damian was left only with fragments: her mom's trip to California after finishing high school, a mysterious trauma and psychotic break, then a return to Detroit, pregnant. Now, as 40-something Damian struggles to cope with Joanna's early-onset dementia, she realizes she may never know the full story.
At once a riveting portrait of a time and place (working-class Detroit, Michigan; and the shadowy suburbs of Southern California), an unconventional mother-daughter saga, and an exploration of how memory shifts and shapes our intimate relationships, An Alphabet for Joanna is also a meditation on mental illness and creativity. Acclaimed poet Damian Rogers crafts a unique work that is at once a moving memoir and a powerful philosophical reflection on how we build lives out of fragments of stories. And by tracing her mother's story into the present day she poignantly shows that even when memory fails, we can remain connected through a web of art, empathy, imagination and love.
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 the 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. She teaches creative writing at Ryerson University. Damian Rogers lives in Toronto.