Healing My Life from Incest to Joy
By Donna Jenson
2017, 383 pages
Review by Lea Grover
With a title like Healing My Life from Incest to Joy, you might think Donna Jenson’s new book would be a heavy, difficult read. But though she is honest and deeply human as she tells her story of childhood incest, what is most striking about this book is the joy.
Jenson, a successful community builder and playwright, focuses not on the details of her abuse, but on the steps she took to build a life of meaning and beauty. Through her, we learn techniques of storytelling, therapy, and relationship building. She does not ask the reader to suffer with her, rather inviting the reader to heal with her. With a conversational tone and genuine friendliness, she invites the reader into her life, getting to know and love the friends who support her, the daughter who encourages her, and the diverse and compassionate “Family of Choice” surrounding her.
This book is not prescriptive, not a “how-to” guide to overcoming trauma, but it is a detailed account of what helped Jenson, how and why she came to learn new tools for introspection and growth, and where any person could find them, should they have an interest. It’s the kindness of this storytelling that is so striking. Jenson does not pretend to speak on behalf of all survivors, but she clearly speaks to all survivors of incest. This book firmly says, “If I can do it, so can you,” and reading her words, she compels you to believe them.
Scattered throughout the book are excerpts from letters, diary entries, and notes for her play, giving a rare insight into Jenson’s vulnerable process of becoming the best version of herself. It offers a guide for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to see themselves as whole, and validated in their choices to build an adult life outside the structures of their abuse.
The joy Jenson has for the life she has built is apparent on every page, and with every new page that joy transforms into hope, and gratitude. Healing My Life from Incest to Joy will speak to anyone who has tried to heal, who wants to heal, or who has begun to heal their own lives. Jenson not only offers readers the understanding of a friend, but helps them to understand themselves.