LESLIE SCHWARTZ discusses her memoir THE LOST CHAPTERS
The Lost Chapters: Finding Recovery & Renewal One Book at a Time (Blue Rider Press)
From the books I read in jail, a slow hope began to grow. …I thirsted for freedom, not from jail—that would come soon enough—but in a more expansive way, from myself. And what I wanted more than anything else was an ordinary god, one that had nothing to do with religion. Books could give me that wisdom, and show me the way out of darkness.
So begins The Lost Chapters: Finding Recovery & Renewal One Book at a Time, a powerful new memoir by award-winning novelist Leslie Schwartz about her harrowing spiral into hopelessness and the stories that restored her.
In 2014, Schwartz was sentenced to 90 days in Los Angeles County Jail for a DUI and battery of an officer. She served her time at the tail end of a 414-day relapse into alcohol addiction after more than a decade of sobriety. During that year and seven weeks, she was in what she describes as a “chronic state of blackout.”
The damage she inflicted upon her friends, her husband and teenage daughter – to say nothing of herself –was nearly impossible to fathom. She could no longer work, losing job after job; her family eventually moved away; and her friends, no longer able to help, left. She found herself completely alone in the mental illness that accompanies alcoholism…until Lynwood jail. Known for people doing the hardest time anyone will ever do in the state of California, it was here in this brutal place – “each minute an entire anthem to human depravity” – that she began a path toward restoration.
Incarceration might have ruined her, if not for the stories that comforted her while she was locked up-- both the artful tales in the books she read while there, and, more immediately, the stories of her fellow inmates. With classics like Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings to contemporary accounts like Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken, Schwartz's reading list is woven together with visceral recollections of her daily humiliations faced in the county jail system. Through the stories of others—whether rendered on the page or whispered in a jail cell—she learned powerful lessons about how to banish shame, use guilt for good, level her grief, and find the lost joy and magic of her astonishing life.
Leslie Schwartz is the author of two novels, Jumping the Green and Angels Crest. Her books have been translated into 13 languages, and “Angels Crest,” the movie, was released in 2011. Schwartz has an MFA in Creative Writing, is the recipient of many awards, grants and fellowships, and has been teaching writing for over 20 years. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.