The 2022 Porchlight Business Book Awards Longlist is here! Shortlist to be announced December 15th.

Staff Picks

What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing from Complex Trauma

Emily Porter

March 17, 2022

Share

A raw and honest memoir, detailing how this amazing woman pulled herself through a horrific upbringing that no one should have to brave, and her healing journey after being diagnosed with C-PTSD, What My Bones Know brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart reading how Foo triumphed after trauma.

What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing from Complex Trauma by Stephanie Foo, Ballantine Books

As an avid listener of the podcasts This American Life and Snap Judgement, I have listened to Stephanie Foo for years, gravitating towards her voice and loving the way she presents her stories. When I saw she came out with a book, I was drawn to it immediately and also dumbstruck at the life she had to endure during her youth. Most of us cannot even begin to imagine the horrific trauma she was forced to live through as an innocent child. 

Growing up her father and mother constantly beat her and threatened her life, with a knife to her throat or driving recklessly with her in the car dancing dangerously close to oncoming traffic or California cliffs. She was hit, threatened, and made to feel less than any person should ever feel by the two people who were supposed to protect her. Constantly parenting her own parents, Foo was never given the love, attention, and nurturing the average child would receive in childhood. This ongoing abuse throughout her childhood and adolescence fostered anger, and rightfully so, along with a loss and confusion of self that she needed to address in order to live a healthy and productive existence. 

Suffering from C-PTSD, or Complex PTSD, which is not acknowledged as a legitimate diagnosis in the United States, Foo goes on a lifelong journey to heal from the abuse she endured as a child and learn how to work through all the feelings and trauma she carries as an adult—including the estrangement from her parents that causes confusing and difficult emotions.   

Here, she speaks to her research of C-PTSD as soon as she received her diagnosis from her therapist: 

The books taught me that when we live through traumatic experiences, our brains take in the things around us that are causing the greatest threat, and they encode these things deep into our subconscious as sources of danger. … It occurs when someone is exposed to a traumatic event over and over and over again—hundreds, even thousands of times—over the course of years.

Through this remarkable self-journey, Foo not only begins to unravel a past that she boxed up in her mind but also creates a healthier and more stable looking future where she can grow from within. She discovers secrets within her family that signifies they knew of the abuse she lived with, but also connected with her inner child which aided in protecting herself from what she experienced as a child. She finds that she has created a family along her life journey full of understanding and present friends and colleagues as well as her boyfriend turned husband and his welcoming, jovial family. Relearning how to nurture her own relationships including with herself, Stephanie, sometimes questions what is the real self and what traits are her diagnosis. She comes to accept that she is a kind, loving, and caring person who has chosen her family in adulthood. We walk with her as she comes to terms with her diagnosis and what happens within the brain when we try to suppress memories or experiences that are traumatic: 

Every adaptation our brain makes is an effort to better protect our bodies. Some of these backfire—the deadly result of an overactive stress response. But some might actually be advantageous to our health.

This book, sometimes difficult to read, in the context of how a parent could so mindlessly and cruelly torture an innocent child, is incredibly inspirational as we follow Foo on her quest to understand her abuse, her diagnosis, and her search for what generational trauma looked like in her childhood community and beyond. It shows Foo working through her trauma, researching, asking questions, and bringing us along for the ride as she opens up about her past, her present, and her diagnosis working with several therapists. 

Stephanie Foo works through the trauma of her abuse and also looks back to her family's history. Otherwise known as generational trauma. What did her parents experience? What did her aunts and uncles, grandparents and great-grandparents experience? War, grief, trauma, of their own, passed down through their DNA, their blood and into her. 

I want to have words for what my bones know. I want to use those gifts when they serve me and understand and forgive them when they do not. 

A raw and honest memoir, detailing how this amazing woman pulled herself through a horrific upbringing that no one should have to brave, and her healing journey after being diagnosed with C-PTSD, What My Bones Know brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart reading how Foo triumphed after trauma. 

You can hear one of Stephanie’s most listened to storiesThe Favorite for This American Life. 

About The Author

Emily Porter is our Community & Publicity Manager who loves conversing with the wonderful authors we work with. A film photographer and long-time film industry nomad, she has had a constant love for books throughout her life. When not at work she enjoys curling up with her cats, adding to her bookshelves, practicing yoga, and photographing new landscapes. Travel. Cats. Coffee. Tea. Film. Books. RadioLab. National Geographic. Patti Smith. Dinosaurs.

Learn More

We have updated our privacy policy. Click here to read our full policy.