Jenn Crowell Talks ‘Etched On Me’
Jenn Crowell’s Etched On Me tells the story of a young woman who overcomes a troubled adolescence spent in and out of psychiatric facilities, only to lose custody of her daughter when her mental health history is used against her. This coming-of-age novel is gripping and reminded us of Girl, Interrupted. Jenn answers our questions about this powerful read.
What are readers who pick up Etched On Me in for?
Etched On Me is extremely intense but also ultimately redemptive. I don’t spare any details or pull any punches in detailing the struggles of the book’s narrator, Lesley, but she’s also got a voice that’s so funny and irrepressible that readers have fallen in love with her.
We understand Etched on Me is partially inspired by your own experiences as a new mother and also on the true story of a young British mother that deeply moved you. How did you balance both of these sides while writing, and did the writing process ever hit too close too home?
Having a real-life story to draw upon was definitely helpful. It served as a constant reminder that while Lesley and I share some life experiences, this book was not about me – it was about the larger battle women and mothers like us face.
That having been said, some parts of the book were brutal to contemplate, and I resisted writing those scenes because I thought I couldn’t bear them. Eventually I realized that I needed to set my fears aside and tell what needed to be told.
Do you have any recommendations or advice for other young mothers who are struggling?
I want to validate them for the hard, hard work they are doing – both physically as caretakers and emotionally in their own healing. Our culture is terrible at supporting mothers in general and mothers with mental illness in particular; it often seems like the only time mothers in that predicament receive attention is when they’re being judged as inadequate. So I want to bear witness to that first and foremost.
As far as advice, I would say: Never, ever forget that your child needs you. Yes, you, with all your perceived flaws and fumblings. It’s hard to believe that, much less remember it, when you’re depressed. But it’s true, and if you carry that knowledge with you, it can be a real motivator for recovery.
What can we expect next from you?
I have lots of novel ideas floating around in my head, though they traditionally take a long time to come to fruition. Some involve familiar characters from earlier books; others spotlight brand-new voices. Interestingly enough, they’re almost all inspired by real-life situations and topical headlines in the way Etched On Me was.
What books are currently sitting on your own nightstand?
The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers
Love, Water, Memory by Jennie Shortridge
Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape, by Jenna Miscavige Hill
Learn more and order your copy of Etched on Me here.
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