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From the New York Times bestselling author of The Recovering and The Empathy Exams comes the riveting story of rebuilding a life after the end of a marriage—an exploration of motherhood, art, and new love.
Leslie Jamison has become one of our most beloved contemporary voices, a scribe of the real, the true, the complex. She has been compared to Joan Didion and Susan Sontag, acclaimed for her powerful thinking, deep feeling, and electric prose. But while Jamison has never shied away from challenging material—scouring her own psyche and digging into our most unanswerable questions across four books—Splinters enters a new realm.
In her first memoir, Jamison turns her unrivaled powers of perception on some of the most intimate relationships of her life: her consuming love for her young daughter, a ruptured marriage once swollen with hope, and the shaping legacy of her own parents’ complicated bond. In examining what it means for a woman to be many things at once—a mother, an artist, a teacher, a lover—Jamison places the magical and the mundane side by side in surprising ways: pumping breastmilk in a shared university office, driving the open highway in the throes of new love, growing a tender second skin of consciousness as she watches her daughter come alive to the world. The result is a work of nonfiction like no other, an almost impossibly deep reckoning with the muchness of life and art, and a book that grieves the departure of one love even as it celebrates the arrival of another.
How do we move forward into joy when we are haunted by loss? How do we claim hope alongside the harm we’ve caused? A memoir for which the very term tour de force seems to have been coined, Splinters plumbs these and other pressing questions with writing that is revelatory to the last page. Jamison has delivered a book with the linguistic daring and emotional acuity that made The Empathy Exams and The Recovering instant classics, even as she reaches new depths of understanding, piercing the reader to the core. A master of nonfiction, she evinces once again her ability to “stitch together the intellectual and the emotional with the finesse of a crackerjack surgeon” (NPR).
About the Author
Leslie Jamison is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Recovering and The Empathy Exams; the collection of essays Make It Scream, Make It Burn, a finalist for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award; and the novel The Gin Closet, a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize. She is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine, and her work has appeared in publications including The Atlantic, Harper’s, the New York Times Book Review, the Oxford American, and the Virginia Quarterly Review, among many others. She teaches at Columbia University and lives in Brooklyn.
“You don't have to be a mother to find bone-deep truth in this memoir. You don't have to have loved hard and then lost, gone through a divorce with a kind man who turns cruel, or weathered the COVID-19 pandemic as a single working mom. You just have to be a person with a heart to feel the beauty, the pain and above all, the humanity that runs through this force of nature in book form.”—Good Housekeeping
“Leslie Jamison’s blazing memoir kept me riveted for the single day it took to guzzle it down. This wry, hilarious, and utterly unputdownable book is a gift that feels like an immediate hit and a forever classic.”—Mary Karr, New York Times bestselling author of Lit and The Liar’s Club
“Splinters is as sharp and piercing as its title—a brilliant reckoning with what it means to make art, a self, a family, a life. If I were offered one guide as a writer, as a mother, as a teacher, as a human being constantly reinventing herself out of necessity, I’d want that guide to be Leslie Jamison. This memoir is a masterclass.” —Maggie Smith, New York Times bestselling author of You Could Make This Place Beautiful
“In Splinters, Jamison offers a riveting portrait of rupture that is at once a page-turner about divorce, a romance about parenthood, a mystery of self after splintering, and a promise that however many times we break or are broken, art and love will never fail to mend us.” —Melissa Febos, author of the National Book Critics Circle Award winner and national bestseller Girlhood
“Leslie Jamison’s memoir, Splinters, is a stairway behind the eyes of a woman in the midst of transformation, written so brilliantly, and with such a skilled hand, that readers are likely to find themselves peacefully lost even in its darker moments. These pages are so magnetizing that I wanted to race along, but forced myself to slow down enough to savor the language. No one should be this good at writing. This gorgeous book will blow you away.”—Ashley C. Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Somebody’s Daughter
“Splinters is a stunning portrait of the intricate tapestry of human emotions. On every page, in exquisite prose, Jamison unearths moments of luminosity and grace amid pain. Giving language to fundamental experiences of love, grief, and parenthood all too often skirted past, this book is essential reading for anyone who cares about the power of language to help us find solace and recompense.” —Meghan O’Rourke, New York Times bestselling author of The Invisible Kingdom
“An astounding achievement. This is a memoir of emotional depth that reminds us that love, in its fullness, is as much a construction of jagged and flinty edges as an ideal of cloudless skies. In Splinters, Leslie Jamison is unstinting in her assessment of marriage gained and lost, of motherhood held close, and of loving oneself in the process, all conveyed with her unsparing and attentive eye.”—Esmé Weijun Wang, New York Times bestselling author of The Collected Schizophrenias
“I didn’t realize I needed someone to write this book. As it turns out, I needed Leslie Jamison to write this book. It moved me so much and hooked me so quickly. I absolutely consumed it, this book about hunger and aftermath, about pleasure and beauty and silencing and speaking up, and that new language you get to invent and learn at the same time with your child. Splinters is enormously satisfying—full of passages, images, and ideas that are, quite simply, some of my favorite things I’ve ever read.”—Mary-Louise Parker, New York Times bestselling author of Dear Mr. You, and Emmy, Golden Globe, and Tony Award winner
“Christ Almighty this book is good. It’s a masterpiece. No one else I’ve read has captured motherhood—the painful overabundance of it, the extreme delight, the cascading fears—the way Leslie Jamison does in Splinters. No one else I’ve read has evoked so powerfully what it feels like to be pulled by too many competing tethers until you’re half a mother, half a writer, barely a wife, hardly a real person. The electric truth at the heart of this book is that, in this shattering and reassembling, you’re reorganized into a new kind of person, one attuned to abundance, open to chaos and surprise, gratified by the tiny pleasures of being alive. In Splinters, Jamison offers us an emotionally rich odyssey on the terrors and triumph of becoming whole.”—Heather Havrilesky, author of Foreverland: On the Divine Tedium of Marriage and the “Ask Polly” advice column
"Jamison’s genius—a word I use without hyperbole—is her capaciousness, how she gives us the blushing baby and the shitty diapers, the sweeping romances and their residue. We see Jamison half-whirling like Rumi in the throes of ecstatic love for a new daughter, knowing her ecstasy is real because she renders it wholly, alongside the pulverizing lonelinesses of loving deeply. Splinters is a praise song for what remains unannihilated, what has been salvaged from a time—a world—of annihilation. I find in Jamison’s work what I’ve sought my entire life: a rigorous and attentive steward for whom dailiness deepens, instead of diminishes, awe.”—Kaveh Akbar, author of Calling a Wolf a Wolf
Praise for Make It Scream, Make It Burn
"Jamison has emerged as a definitive chronicler of human connection and the beauty of mundanity... With this brilliant new collection that rigorously interrogates the human condition, Leslie Jamisonaffirms why she's the essayist of the moment."—David Canfield, Entertainment Weekly
"Razor-sharp... Leslie Jamison has been hailed as the newborn lovechild of Joan Didion and Susan Sontag. Even for a writer without Jamison's generous helpings of talent and success, it can't be an easy thing to live up to. And yet, she does, and then some... The essays are reported, but also confessional, weaving the realities of disparate others onto Jamison's own experiences to create something rich, human and, at moments, so smart and revealing the reader finds herself gasping."—Samantha Shoech, San Francisco Chronicle
"Intelligent and vibrant... Make It Scream, Make It Burn tackles the all-too-human topic of yearning and its oft-corollary, obsession. Both gurgle beneath the writer's sonorous and captivating prose."—Janet Kinosian, Los Angeles Times
"Sharply analytic and deeply personal... Make It Scream, Make It Burn is a heady hybrid of journalism, memoir, and criticism... This is a writer who is incapable of being uninteresting."—Heller McAlpin, NPR
"A dazzling collection about the outer reaches of human connection... Acute in her analysis and nourishing in her observations, Jamison is at the height of her powers here as she investigates what we owe one another."—Adrienne Westenfeld, Esquire