Recently, I read With or Without You by Domenica Ruta. This is Ruta’s first published book, but watch for more as I anticipate a wide following of her works. She was born and raised in Danvers, Massachusetts. Ruta is also a graduate of Oberlin College and holds an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin. She was a finalist for the Keene Prize for Literature and has been awarded residencies at Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the Blue Mountain Center, Jentel, and Hedgebrook. Pretty impressive credentials, if you ask me.
Be forewarned that most people that have published memoirs did not enjoy the best childhoods, but their writing offers catharsis for what they’ve been through and guidance for the rest of us. Domenica Ruta’s life was no picnic, but her memoir is very unapologetic. Not that she has anything to apologize for, but her writing holds no trace of the anger and resentment that you would expect. It is laid out as a “this is what happened, here I am now” style. Late in the book she does express anger for some of her mother’s actions (or lack of action), while at the same time acknowledging how much her mother did give her. Ruta’s memoir serves as encouragement to anyone that must make a choice between family and health. Recognizing that you may not be able to overcome addiction without stepping away from a loved one is an issue that many people face. Being able to say “I was there, I participated, and I want out” is a significant achievement for a person.
I expect many great things of Domenica Ruta. Considering her age, I’m also hoping that she continues down the path of Mary Karr and gives us more memoirs in the future. Reading a memoir is a good reminder of what it is to be human. If you read one and feel relief that someone else has shared your experiences, you can take solace in their words. If you read one and feel grateful that it is not your story, you can feel compassion for another human’s trials. Either way you are better connected to the human race.