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'Dusk Night Dawn': Anne Lamott On Recapturing Hope In Dark Times

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Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott has authored some 19 books over the years. She explores the thorny issues of faith, motherhood, childhood, addiction and sobriety. In her latest book, "Dusk Night Dawn: On Revival and Courage," she posits some questions: How can we recapture the confidence we once had as we stumble through the dark times that seem increasingly bleak? How do we cope as bad news piles up? When do we get our sense of ourselves and our safety back? And how did we get so much older so fast?

Highlights from the Interview with Anne Lamott

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On the title and the premise of this latest book
Although I had originally wanted to call it "Doomed: Thoughts on Hope," the publisher didn't think that had a big selling ring to it. So I'd been touring the country to promote this other book, and everywhere I went, people just felt really doomed and sad and scared, scared for their children's future. The (United Nations) climate change reports had just come out and then not long after an entire continent caught fire, Australia and then my state of California caught fire. Because we hadn't raked our forest correctly, I guess.

But it wasn't just what was happening on land. It was also what was happening at dining room tables, you know, because families are hard, hard, hard. And so everywhere I went, I said to people, this is all going to be hard, turning around... but we're good at hard. And so I started writing stories that addressed both — that were good at "hard," and how we revive, you know, how we resurrect, how we get a second wind. So, that was how the book got started. And then I discovered this amazing thing, which is that "twilight," the word for "twilight" means both the dusk as that trippy light that is coming and "twilight" also means the dawn, when the darkness ends and begins to fade or bleed into the light and a brand new morning.

On a woman named Esther — and forgiveness
Esther was a woman who I'd really betrayed in my twenties when I was drinking in this small town. And I'd had an affair with her husband and when I got sober, I just wrote to her — a deep contrition--and said what a disgrace I was and if there was any way I could make it up... I didn't expect her to forgive me. And she wrote a beautiful letter. She was Jewish. And she wrote back that I needed to forgive myself ...She basically expressed that she forgave me, but that was going to be child's play compared to me forgiving myself.

On writing about her parents and forgiveness
When I'm writing about my parents, I've mentioned that my mother was from Liverpool. And so she was uniquely crazy because she was sort of like a classic English "Monty Python" character where her focus was on all three of us kids doing better and better and better and achieving more and more... So much of my mother's fixation having arrived from the docks of Liverpool was on the surface and on the appearance of things.

And it really hurt me. You know, I always wished there were twelve-step programs for the children of the English. So we could heal from some of the damage. And my father was raised by Christian missionaries in Tokyo, and he just hated Christians — of which I accidentally ended up being one. And then I had so much unlearning to do from my parents. And then, I think, one of the things about getting older is that you really do throw a lot of stuff out of the airplane that's kept you flying too low for your entire life.

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Yvette Benavides can be reached at bookpublic@tpr.org.