When Laura Davis joined author Ellen Bass to write The Courage to Heal in 1988, she had no idea it would have the impact it did.
The self-help book focused on recovery from child sexual abuse, aiming to help survivors overcome their symptoms. Davis, a creative writing student of Bass at the time, drew upon her own experiences of childhood sexual abuse for the book.
It ended up launching an international movement of incest survivor empowerment, and became a bestseller in North America and Europe. The two authors were thrown into the limelight, and things became even more complicated when the text was deemed controversial, with some readers and critics criticizing the book’s advice and approach to healing.
“It made me famous for the worst thing that ever happened to me,” Davis said. “It catapulted me into a position of being a role model for healing at a time when I was still deep into my own healing process. I was in this big public arena when I was still struggling internally, coming to terms with what had happened.”
Now, Davis is back with a new book: a memoir that she describes as both a sequel and a prequel to The Courage to Heal. It is her seventh book, and her first in 19 years.
The Burning Light of Two Stars: A Mother-Daughter Story follows Davis’ journey of reconciliation with her mother after decades of estrangement.
“It’s the story of our determination to love each other, and the dramatic, surprising collision course we ended up on at the very end of her life,” she said. “I really did think at one point in my life that I would never speak to my mother ever again. And yet I was the one at her deathbed. It was quite a journey.”
Davis says she has been working on the book for the past 10 years. It has not been easy, she says, to once again dive into the past—both for her, and some on her side of the family.
“When I wrote A Courage to Heal, I was disowned by my mother’s side of my family,” she recalls. “It was painful for me, as I’m sure it was for them. I had partially made peace by not bringing up the subjects that had caused the rift. I had healed enough that I didn’t need their validation. We held that stance for two decades. But writing this new book means bringing those things into the public again.”
Davis has lived in Santa Cruz County for 32 years, working as a news reporter, radio talk show host, blogger, columnist, featured speaker and teacher. All the while, she has continued to write and aimed to inspire others’ creativity.
“I’ve been in love with words my whole life,” she says. “I’ve used them as a way to understand myself, a way to find answers, seek the truth. To break silence, confront, grieve—to make important decisions. I love being part of the writers community here.”
Writing a memoir has been a completely new challenge, Davis says. Her first six books were nonfiction information texts. This time, she needed to tell an actual story.
“I had to learn about being a storyteller and what it takes to hold an audience in the palm of your hand,” she says. “I had to level up my craft in a new direction. It’s been terrifying and exciting, at this stage in my career, to have to learn a whole new set of skills.”
Davis said she hopes readers will connect with the story, especially those who are in similar situations.
“Millions of people are in the same position I was in,” she says. “Maybe not to the same extent … but where there’s a rift, an estrangement, a betrayal between someone and a parent. And yet then they’re in the position of deciding whether to step in, to take care of that person at the end of their life. It’s a really complicated, challenging situation.”
On Oct. 26, Davis will host a virtual event with Bookshop Santa Cruz, where she will do readings and hold a Q&A session. Guests can also pre order a copy of the memoir, which comes out Nov. 9. When released, it will be available in paperback, audiobook and ebook.
“I hope readers are gripped by the story, and find it a surprising page-turner,” Davis said. “I hope it makes them rethink their relationships … their own mothers, daughters, family members. Right now in our culture there are so many divisions between family members. We’re all looking for ways to heal this divide.”
To register for the Oct. 26 event, go to bookshopsantacruz.com. For information and to preview the first five chapters of “The Burning Light of Two Stars: A Mother-Daughter Story,” visit lauradavis.net.