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Brooklyn Bookbeat: A turbulent mother-daughter relationship

New Brooklyn resident Domenica Ruta will appear at Fort Greene’s Greenlight Bookstore on Wednesday, Feb. 27 to discuss her debut memoir “With Or Without You.”  Photo by Meredith Zinner

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

New Brooklyn resident Domenica Ruta has just released her debut memoir – a coming-of-age tale titled “With Or WithoutYou.” In the book, which went on sale yesterday, Ruta examines her turbulent relationship with her mother. Ruta grew up north of Boston in the town of Danvers. Her mother, Kathi, was a drug addict and dealer in the neighborhood who was torn between her debilitating habits and her highbrow tastes.

Despite her erratic behavior, Kathi always emphasized to her daughter that art could transcend the perilous and often painful life that she herself was living. In her brave and poignant memoir, Ruta manages to recall her unconventional experience growing up in the ‘90s while at the same time illustrating the universal challenges of navigating family relationships throughout the journey into adulthood. 

In celebration of Ruta’s new book (and, of course, her new move to Brooklyn), Brooklyn Eagle checked in with the author, who shares with us her fears about publishing this memoir and offers a book recommendation.  

Your memoir is particularly courageous in that you recall some ugly and intimate issues that you and your mother struggled with. Were you at all worried about sharing these experiences with the world?

Incredibly. Terror-stricken, in fact. My internal monologue was a loud chorus of “Don’t do it!” on repeat. But that’s true with any kind of writing that is honest. I had to constantly reassure myself that getting good work published would be such a gift, and all of its attendant worries and troubles would be a privilege to deal with.

Do you have any advice for teenage girls who are currently enduring similar struggles?

I’m really moved by the Dan Savage campaign “It Gets Better.” I think it’s applicable to so many young people in our culture. Children and teenagers are so lost in this fog of solipsism. It’s a good thing, of course, as it’s how we all learned to become who we are. But at that age, our perspective is still growing, and we don’t understand that our whole lives will not be like 8th grade. We will not sleep in our childhood beds until the end of our days. There is a whole world out there, full of good and interesting people who can teach us different things. There is hope and help if you go looking for it.

When you were growing up, did you ever write in journals or diaries in an effort to work through your problems?

I have been writing in some kind of diary since I learned how to make sentences. Nothing really makes sense to me until I’ve written about it.

Did the process of writing this memoir give you any additional understanding or acceptance of your mother and your relationship with her?

Along with the process of soberly growing up; talking things through with wise friends, strangers, and paid clinicians; praying and meditating – yes, writing this memoir has helped me tremendously in that direction.

I hear you recently moved to Brooklyn. Where were you living before and what inspired the move?

I was living all over the Boston area – Beverly, Gloucester, Danvers, Somerville. My family is in Massachusetts, and cheesy as it sounds, my heart will never leave that state. But my tribe is in New York. Life for me is much easier here than there.

Are you partial to any Brooklyn neighborhoods in particular?

I would be happy as a dog in autumn absolutely anywhere within a short walk to Prospect Park. That is a gem right there in the middle of our borough!

What's the best book you read in 2012?

“Life on Mars,” by Tracy K. Smith.

What are you working on now?

A novel.

*           *           *

Ruta will appear at Greenlight Bookstore tonight Wednesday, Feb. 27, in conversation with acclaimed author (and Brooklynite) Emma Straub. Ruta will be available for an audience Q&A and book signing. 

The event will begin at 7:30 pm. Greenlight Bookstore is located at 686 Fulton Street in Fort Greene.

February 27, 2013 - 12:00pm


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