Antonia Deignan joins The Spotlight this week to discuss her memoir, Underwater Daughter
Author Name: Antonia Deignan
Book Title: Underwater Daughter – A memoir of Survival and Healing
Book Genre: Memoir
Release Date: May 02, 2023
Publisher: She Writes Press
Welcome, Antonia! Please tell us a bit about your book.
In Underwater Daughter I reveal the experience of being sexually mistreated during my childhood by my father, and the trauma of being raped at age fourteen by a man I knew. While stumbling through my twenties and battling eating disorders, substance abuse and reckless, sexually motivated behaviors, I begin to use the art of dance as a spiritual guide and incorporating my body’s wisdoms into teachings of love and forgiveness.
What was the spark?
The spark to write Underwater Daughter, came after a bike accident which occurred when I was fifty-five. My injuries kept me housebound and inactive for two years, and suddenly, for the first time in my life, I didn’t have creative movement in my toolbox to help me cope, and without a familiar roadmap to recovery in sight, I fell into a depression. So, I began to write.
What drew you to write a memoir about this experience?
I realized I had never forgiven myself for what had happened when I was little. Consequently, there were others I had also not forgiven. I came to realize that if I ever wanted to experience real life love, I needed to do some forgiving. Real life love, what I discovered, was self-love.
What made you want to tell this particular story?
As I began to understand the role of dance in the healing process of my past, I thought maybe someone else out there might benefit from this way of journeying through past traumas, a self-exploration that accesses the memories, the experiences, and the emotions that we hold within our bodies.
What was your research process like for Underwater Daughter?
I have read many books on surviving trauma. But truly, most of my research came from my time spent alone, re-visualizing the ways I physically expressed myself, and searching within for the messages embedded there. I know it sounds kooky, but it is my belief that our experiences and memories and relationships are stored in our very cells, the meridians of energy within us. And by accessing these, we can reshape them, and arrive at different perceptions of the past.
From your perspective, what’s the hardest thing about writing and researching? And what do you love most about it?
I’m reluctant to say researching is hard. It is exhilarating. Perhaps, emotions can be powerful and challenging in the process of researching, but difficult emotions are also informative and enlightening. The hardest thing about writing is not writing.
What’s capturing your imagination these days outside of reading and writing?
The body will always be my muse. Additionally, because of the intense journey I experienced writing my memoir, I feel captured by the ideas of living each day in service to love, and kindness, rising above self-sabotage, and remembering that all beings struggle and suffer and grieve every day, and that as humans, we can work harder to love better, together. We are all miraculous and I believe in the possibility of starting over, beginning again, and the blessings found in the truths that we hold in our bodies, and discovering love and forgiveness there. An outgrowth of that is I host online meditations and writing events, in the hopes of encouraging others toward this same kind of self-exploration and self-love.
Any new writing projects in the works?
I am writing a novel. I think I am rewriting my past, (ha ha) but truthfully, my aim is to write a love story, that, oh, so hard to attain, real life love.
Where can readers find you?
(Please check out my Events tab on my website, to keep track of where I will be! And anyone interested in my meditation and writing events can let me know when signing up for my newsletter!)
Thank you, Antonia! Underwater Daughter is available for preorder.
Tuni’s father began sexually abusing her when she was just four years old. Her mother, though aware of the abuse, was a silent witness—one either incapable or unwilling to intervene—and the abuse continued until Tuni was eleven. Three years later, when Tuni was fourteen, she was raped by an adult actor who was part of her cast in a professional theater production. These traumas would go on to shape much of her life.
Underwater Daughter follows how Tuni grappled with her relationship with her parents, the aftermath of her rape, an eating disorder, drug and alcohol excesses, and shame as she came of age and began to build a life. In order to not lose her inner innocence, in order to protect herself, in order to believe in love, she began early on to create imaginary worlds into which she could escape—to use dreams to transport her away from her fears. By early adulthood, she was well practiced at slapping lipstick (pink, frosty, kiss-me, gloss-over, perfect lipstick) over whatever darkness might be bubbling beneath. Hired by a dance company right out of high school, she found success as a dancer in Chicago and New York, but in her personal and emotional life, she continued to struggle. Ultimately, it took her decades of dancing, hiding, faking, fucking, costuming, implanting, dissociating, marrying, divorcing, and purging—all while staying silent about her past trauma—before a bike accident at age fifty-five forced her to stop and truly take stock of her life. As she did, she came to a resting place, finally, in regard to her father; developed the loving relationship she’d always wanted with her mother; and came to understand that, in the end, love is all anyone wants—or needs.
Antonia Deignan (Tuni) is a mother of five children by choice, a dance by calling, and a writer by necessity. She was born on the east coast, but lived primarily in the Midwest, where she danced with multiple dance companies and raised her children. She opened her own dance studio and directed a pre-professional dance company before a bike accident wish-boned her path, and her identity. She has multiple publications in magazine and online formats. Her memoir, Underwater Daughter will be published May 02, 2023, with She Writes Press.