How far should a daughter go to fix a fraught relationship with her mother?
Rica Ramos-Keenum examines this question in her forthcoming memoir, Nobody’s Daughter: A Memoir of Healing the Mother Wound, which releases from She Writes Press on May 9.
In her early forties and about to remarry, Rica Ramos realizes that starting over could mean leaving her mother behind. She longs to heal the relationship, but her mother still refuses to acknowledge the sexual abuse Rica suffered at the hands of her stepfather, or her own culpability throughout the years. With old traumas resurfacing and a new life unfolding before her, Rica grasps the power of unspoken grief—and the potential to suffer or heal. Will she and her mother ever cross the chasm between them, or are some secrets meant to stay buried?
As Rica navigates her options, she faces two ultimate choices: submit to a culture that shames daughters for not honoring their mothers, or muster the courage to go her own way. Offering a bold and lucid look at mother-daughter relationships, Nobody’s Daughter underscores every woman’s right to truth and validation.
In addition to Nobody’s Daughter, Rica Ramos-Keenum is the author of Petals of Rain: A Mother’s Memoir. She’s also contributed to several anthologies, including “Art in The Time of Unbearable Crisis” and “Forgiveness is the Hardest Thing.” She’s a former journalist and current mother of two adult sons and one 60 lb. rescue dog that thinks she’s a lapdog. Rica enjoys connecting with readers and authors, and hosting monthly book giveaways on her website, Ricawrites.com.
To celebrate the upcoming release of Nobody’s Daughter, I am excited to share this interview with Rica.
Audrey Arnold: What motivated and inspired you to share your story?
Rica Ramos: Good old life. As a memoir writer, my experiences motivate my writing. But more importantly, the process helps me find clarity. Author Dani Shapiro summed it up well when she said, “The page is your mirror.” I wrote Nobody’s Daughter during a chaotic time in my life. I had just remarried, and I was suddenly a member of this great new family. My in-laws are loving and supportive. They gather often, and being with them was eye-opening in many ways. They hugged (a little awkward at first), laughed, and were genuinely interested in one another’s lives. Being with them made it difficult to carry on with my mother. There were so many layers of hurt that I lived with because it had become a way of life. When I asked her not to bring my stepdad to my wedding, she was outraged. I had taken a risk—opened Pandora’s box. But I just couldn’t picture the guy who’d sexually abused me throughout my childhood posing as my dad at my wedding. I’d had enough of the fake life and was ready to pull out the rug we’d swept the truth under.
Audrey: It takes great courage to write about and share personal stories. What was the experience of writing Nobody’s Daughter like for you? Did it differ from your experience with writing your previously released memoir, Petals of Rain?
Rica: The experience was indeed different. I had just lived the moments I wrote about, so everything was fresh and still raw. In my first book, I had many years of distance to shape my perspective. Conversely, writing Nobody’s Daughter was like ice-picking my soul, but it was necessary to chip it all away so I could enter that new life with my husband. I also learned to create boundaries, which I hadn’t done. So often we believe we’re strong if we just leave the past behind. It’s part of adulting. But that’s crap. Trauma does not have an expiration date. We can’t just throw it away without feeling all those emotions and properly grieving. Nobody has the right to say, “Move on.” Those words only intensify the pain.
As for the actual writing, I was less anxious because I had authored Petals of Rain—a whole damn book, so it wasn’t as hard to convince myself that I was capable of writing a ‘whole damn book!’
Audrey: What would you say was the hardest part about writing Nobody’s Daughter?
Rica: I would have these surges of creative energy while writing, but when I walked away, I’d be thinking, “What have I done?” I know a lot of writers go through this. I was hesitant about putting the story out there because I hadn’t explored that side of my relationship with my mother, at least not to that extent. And while she doesn’t read my books, I still felt guilty about what I had to say.
You said it takes courage to write such personal things, and a lot of people have told me this. But let me clear the air. I’m not courageous—trust me! I just have this scary little troll living in my head. He makes awful threats when I don’t write what I feel. He was screaming, “Write that thing, or you’ll never sleep again!” I also have Jill as a mentor, and I really think she’s in cahoots with that troll. But I have no doubt she’s helped me become a better writer.
Audrey: In your book, you talk about writing being a healing practice for you. Was writing this book a healing process for you as well?
Rica: Absolutely! If I didn’t find writing rewarding, I would probably take up the ukulele and be a terrible musician. I think art and creativity, in any form, are essential for personal growth and general happiness. Everybody has a passion. When I see people putting their passions aside, whatever they may be, I wonder how they can navigate life. How much chocolate does it take to live like that?
Audrey: What do you hope readers will take away from Nobody’s Daughter?
Rica: I’m a lover of books, and I have explored all genres. I typically close a book feeling as if I’ve traveled somewhere else, and picked up little trinkets along the way. There’s a lot to learn from someone else’s story—whether fiction or memoir. I hope readers who’ve grappled with family dysfunction, or trauma in any form, will feel validated when they read Nobody’s Daughter.
Pre-order your copy of Nobody’s Daughter: A Memoir of Healing the Mother Wound today!