“To outsiders, Deidi might seem like a normal, quiet little girl. Her family places presents around the tree at Christmas and shares loving moments. But what Deidi has been through by the time she’s 7 years old is a litany of horrors. As this book starts, her family is about to move from a rural community to a bigger city in Washington state. She is packing up her belongings and remembering the last four years of her life, starting from 1968. Her first memory is her third birthday party . . . It’s a joyful recollection, but there are linguistic clues that things will change.
“. . . This novel, ‘based on a true story,’ is a harrowing read, and it should be. Blume captures Deidi’s innocence beautifully: how she tries to be good; the inviting fantasies she wishes were reality. The terrible things she endures stand out that much more for it. The author, who works as a producer of public service media and research projects, says she hopes the book ‘will help adults to experience life as a very young child who needs them does.’ This enlightening work skillfully does that and more.
“A disturbing and illuminating tale about sexual abuse.”
“This insightful, poignant, and riveting story juxtaposes the innocence of a child with all that is evil in relationships. The evocative beauty of the imagery as seen through these innocent eyes draws one into a world in which resilience and love prevail, despite the inhumanity of barbaric sexual and physical trauma by those responsible for protection and unconditional love. It simultaneously horrifies and inspires and is a testament for anyone who survived through childhood, has trusted and been betrayed, loved and lost. It is truly universal and needs to be told. It reveals the crucial elements of our choice to transmit love or pain that reverberates through the generations.
“This is a must read for anyone working with children in education, spiritual guidance, or mental health as well as for adults who have struggled with their childhood memories. Little Girl Leaving highlights Selma Fraiberg’s concept of the Magic Years. She describes the awesome omnipotence of children, that they see themselves raising the sun in the morning and the moon at night by their own actions. Deidi’s story highlights the universal need for attachment, love, security, and approval. We all retain the little child inside us who is frightened of dark rooms, criticism, and punishment. Her story also reveals the protective mechanism of dissociation and how, in Deidi, it was essential for her survival. For many children in similar situations, ‘leaving’ as she does is their only mode of coping. Deidi managed to stay ‘whole.’ For some, stories like this end in suicide or violence.
“Deidi’s survival is inspiring and unusual. It focuses on the innocence of childhood from the perspective of resilience. It shows a true understanding of how love and fear, dependence and independence, dread and hope can co-exist not only in the same person, but at the same instant in time. It illustrates the very essence of Stockholm syndrome in someone too young even to imagine any alternative.
“This story invites the reader to expand these dynamics to children growing up in war zones, suffering abuse through elders they are taught to trust, and for women and men everywhere who have not revisited their childhood trauma memories for fear they are being disloyal to those they love. It illustrates why the ‘Me Too’ movement is so long overdue: We hide our shame, not sharing our stories, not fully understanding that we are not responsible for the abuse. It also highlights our primal need to love and be loved, regardless of the actions of our loved ones. Our connection to our family and culture of origin is what keeps us alive and makes us human. However, when families of origin become destructive to children, those children need other adults to provide authentic family to keep them alive and secure their opportunity to develop properly. Providing this real definition of love for all children is the measure of our humanity and our evolution.
“I applaud the author for her courage in telling this unvarnished and universal truth that is frequently kept secret or disbelieved. As a family therapist and family life educator, I believe that everyone living with or around children should read this book.”
—Judith Landau, MD, former president, International Family Therapy Association; senior Fulbright scholar;
consultant to the United Nations and World Health Organization
“Little Girl Leaving, Lisa Blume’s debut novel, is sadly tragic, but deeply moving and evocative.”
—Gabrielle Glaser, New York Times bestselling author, Her Best-Kept Secret;
winner of the Award for Excellence in Journalism, American Psychoanalytic Association
“Frosted Flakes, Tang, crayons, Jiffy Pop, visits to Grandma and Grandpa, newborn kittens: the stuff of normal childhood flowing almost naturally—almost, there is the terror—into scenes of rape and physical and emotional abuse.
“‘Remember, this is our special secret,’ Deidi’s alcoholic father whispers to her. Deidi’s mother warns her that the ‘baddest things will happen if I tell.’ No longer willing or able to keep secrets, Deidi—awake and alive to the unending beauty of the world juxtaposed with its secret horrors—offers her colorful, confused, and conflicted memories from ages three to seven in short, snapshot chapters that deliver an extraordinarily powerful punch to the heart and the gut of the reader.
“This book is difficult to read, and yet Deidi’s resilience can be felt on every page. Her deeply felt, expressively written story will help others find their voices and realize, perhaps for the first time, that they are not to blame. Nor are they alone.”
—Katherine Ketcham, author, The Only Life I Could Save: A Memoir and Broken: My Story of Addiction and Redemption,
with William Cope Moyers
“I was totally transfixed from the beginning of Little Girl Leaving. The book, with the beautiful and terrible side by side, is authentically written from the child, Deidi’s, point of view.
“She reflects on the first years of life as she is about to leave her rural home. I watched wheat fields, small towns, and birds change with the seasons through her eyes. She brought milestones between 1968 and 1972 back to life by showing what it was like for a little girl to witness adult reactions to the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., as one example. Deidi’s confusion about God and Jesus is priceless. Many of her observations of the world around her made me laugh out loud. Then Little Girl Leaving would make me pound my fist and make me cry. I could not put this book down.
“Little Girl Leaving captures the childhood traumas that often lead to destructive outcomes later in life. In my profession, having dealt with addiction and recovery for more than thirty years, I am constantly challenged by individuals and their loved ones who struggle with such outcomes.
“I encourage every adult to read this book. This book will certainly open your eyes. Through the beautiful eyes of a little girl.”
—Joyce Sundin, certified intervention professional; board member and former ethics chair, Network of Independent Interventionists
“Little Girl Leaving is a mesmerizing story—a page-turner, told by a beautiful child, little Deidi. You will love her voice. You will laugh, you will cry with her. Deidi will get inside of you and won’t let you go, even after the last page is turned. That is the power in this story. Little Girl Leaving will move you, if you let it, to open your eyes to the child within you, your own children and family, to other children and families, so you will notice pain and fear in a child’s eyes—and when they are saying, help, save me, do something.
“Little Deidi captured my heart from page one. Her gentleness, resilience, and thankful heart drew me to her. She loves everything: the trees, the flowers, birds, kittens, her brother, mommy, daddy, and her dog—faithful guardian and friend. For Deidi, every day is a new day of wonder and excitement mixed with terror, confusion, and unknowing. The day and night before fly away like birds and disappear by the howl of a magnificent coyote, and the magic of Deidi’s imagination makes each day a new possibility.
“Little Girl Leaving is an enthralling read, a brilliant read, a happy, sad read. I believe this story of Deidi and her family will be revered as a great classic; it will not disappoint. Little Girl Leaving delivers a fascinating story, excellent writing, and a charming and brave little girl you will never forget.”
—Mary Dispenza, educator, activist, and national distinguished principal; author, Split: A Child, a Priest, and the Catholic Church
“In her groundbreaking work, first-time author Lisa Blume nails it. Little Girl Leaving is a stunningly poignant first-person account of multigenerational childhood abuse. It is a story of about survival and courage. The title perfectly encapsulates the layers, nuances, and essence of this book. On one level it is the story of a seven-year-old girl packing to move to a new town. On another level it is about a little girl leaving behind a more innocent understanding of the world as her intellect and comprehension grows. At yet another level, Little Girl Leaving is about a girl sinking deeper into more frequent dissociative states, psychologically leaving her physical reality for a safe internal space.
“The reader simultaneously sees the confusion and pain as well as the love and good times held within an abusive family system. In this novel, told in the voice of a child, the reader hears, sees, and feels what it is like for a young child to live with, try to make sense of, and navigate within the secrets of a multigenerational abusive family system.
“Through this important work, Deidi takes the reader by the heart and shows them the reality of her world in its pain and its beauty. Deidi’s confusion, heartbreak, and indomitable spirit shine through. This book gives the reader a glimpse into how the often unimaginable becomes normalized. Little Girl Leaving leads the reader toward a deeper understanding of the psychological contortions a child undergoes in order to survive. As a former chaplain for police and sheriff’s departments, I’ve seen the devastating impact of childhood sexual abuse, including in ministering to the families of adult victims who committed suicide.
“The cover of Little Girl Leaving evocatively foreshadows the jagged, multifaceted terrain covered within. Lisa Blume offers fresh perspective and keen insight through the voice of childhood recollections. Effective, convincing, and haunting, Little Girl Leaving is an emotionally powerful book well worth the read.”
—Kristi Schiroo, chaplain, Ridgeview Medical Systems, Minnesota; former chaplain, McLeod County Sheriff’s Department; founding member, Crow River Critical Incident Stress Management Team
“Written in the diction and syntax of a very young girl in an abuse-ridden family, Little Girl Leaving is a sensory barrage. At first the reader might wonder how so many different family members could enact so many different forms of abuse. On the other hand, the vivid images and the distinctness of the different abusers’ personalities form the braid of a convincing and disturbing narrative. The physical beauty of the child’s world and Deidi’s love for her erratically tender and remorseful parents is mixed with the terrible physical and psychological pain she endures at their hands from ages three to seven.
“Most wonderful is how variously the child’s goodness of spirit tries to maintain itself—first by forgetting, then by escaping into happier stories until at the end her dreams conflate with reality and her sanity is in question. Through this saga of growing horror winds the clear thread of the narrator’s growing comprehension of her situation, along with her compassion and her creative gifts. This is a page-turner, a book that will teach members of luckier families how abuse perpetuates from generation to generation, as victims and perpetrators and enablers conspire to hide the family evil.”
—Sharon Solwitz, creative writing professor at Purdue University; author, Once, in Lourdes; Bloody Mary; and Blood and Milk, winner of the Carl Sandburg Prize and the Doheny Award of the Center for Fiction; finalist for the National Jewish Book Award
“In the voice of Deidi, a trusting child whose literal and emotional vocabulary evolves over the course of four formative years, Blume leads us in baby steps down a darkening corridor that ultimately opens to an excruciating paradox: the mysterious and wonder-filled, still-new world as explored by a happy, curious toddler and the harsh intrusion of family violence and sexual abuse. As the child’s comprehension develops, we travel with her faster and faster into the darkness, nearly racing back toward half-light by book’s end.
“How does one turn the unfathomable into the believable without lecturing, without seeding hatred, without sounding vengeful or outrageous—in a voice, even, of great tenderness? In Little Girl Leaving, first-time novelist Lisa Blume has done just that.”
—Sally Anderson, editor-in-chief, Strategic News Service, FiReBooks, and FiReFilms; co-editor, Poets Against the War
“Little Girl Leaving left me literally speechless. The experience of getting to know the child, Deidi, made me have to think about so much that is good in the world. She is a righteous child. Her voice took me back to my childhood and memories about the importance of favorite toys such as Play-Doh. Overall, Deidi exemplifies a type of radical acceptance without ever receiving this particular form of therapy. Her increasing dissociation throughout multiple forms of abuse manifests her remarkable resilience. In the end, Little Girl Leaving offers a critical opportunity for understanding this virtual childhood epidemic that is colorblind, immune to socioeconomic status, and screaming for our attention.”
—Ann Delgado, therapist, Community Psychiatric Clinic; former sex offender treatment specialist
“Little Girl Leaving is a read I will never forget. Gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, warm, humorous, and a book that will make your blood boil. Deidi, the little girl who tells her story of abuse and triumph, will make her way into your heart. Lisa Blume brilliantly positions her as the main character, trying to make sense of her abusers and those who enable them.
“I have figure skated at an elite level, and during my younger years I often competed against Tonya Harding. The Academy Award–winning movie, I, Tonya, showed her being abused from a young age. I saw it with my own eyes at the skating rink. It was painful and confusing for me, and I'm sure other kids skating with us, to see adults not do anything. We have such a long way to go—to act when abuse is obvious, and to recognize it when it's not.
“Little Girl Leaving shows us how the worst abuse is unseen, and how children usually endure it alone. It shows us that it often starts with the youngest children, which seems unthinkable. But Little Girl Leaving makes you do more than think about it. This riveting story of a wonderful little girl will inspire you to do whatever you can to stop it. I recently had the opportunity, with my husband and children, of being with Pope Francis at the unveiling of my husband’s painting of the Pope greeting the refugees at Lesbos. As I think about this now, it reminds me of what Little Girl Leaving has left in my heart. Whether as nations, institutions, or families, we need to protect the children.”
—Bente Stangeland Mullally, double gold medalist, US Figure Skating Association
“Lisa Blume’s book, Little Girl Leaving, is remarkable and profoundly moving. She is able to tell the story of horrible and inhumane abuse through the eyes of a child from the age of three to seven years old. What is truly extraordinary is that, to the very end of the book, the main character, Deidi, is present in a state that I call Holy Innocence. She speaks from her heart honestly and authentically, yet she does not blame or attack the people who are cruel and abusive to her or her brother or the animals in her life. Innocence is a gift of childhood, and there are special people who can maintain innocence on a spiritual plane that allows them to experience the cruelty of others without letting it touch their own soul. This quality is a gift that allows Deidi to survive and continue loving, to keep her heart open, and to maintain connection with the people by whom she needs to be loved.
“I highly recommend this book to all health and mental health practitioners, teachers, and parents. It is a call to action for all societies and cultures to wake up and take collective social action to stop the abuse of children.”
—Laurie Moore, MD, American Board of Neurology and Psychiatry Lifetime Certificate holder; fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists with special interest in survivors of adversity and multicultural populations
“Ms. Blume has captured the experience of this child and her family and the abuse that occurred in a relatable way. Intergenerational abuse, domestic violence, lack of resources, secrecy, and lies are all portrayed. As an African American child who grew up in Eastern Washington in the ’60s and ’70s, the small-town, rural experience rang true for me. Feeling different and having no one to talk to about it rang true for me. It is not an easy read, but a sober reminder about what is happening in many families behind closed doors.
“Whether you're a professional, an adult, or a victim, this book will grab you and take you into a world that you may know nothing about, and inspire those who need it to get help.”
—Johnna Lehr, psychotherapist, MSW, LICSW; former Child Protective Services investigator, abuse and neglect; Division of Licensing Resources investigator, abuse and neglect in Washington State licensed facilities
“A book may entertain you, but a good book informs and stays with you long after closing the cover. Lisa Blume’s debut novel has done the latter.
“Little Girl Leaving is an important story that needs to be told. It is an inspiring story based on a young girl struggling to come to terms with and overcome her traumatic life. Written from a very young child’s perspective, it captures the breadth of both childhood and the adversity associated with sexual, physical, and psychological child abuse and neglect. It also highlights how abuse is perpetuated throughout a family. However, most importantly, this story will touch the hearts and minds of all those who have been in a similar situation. It will hopefully give them the ability to find support and recognize they are not alone.”
—Glenice J. Whitting, PhD; author of Something Missing and Pickle to Pie, shortlist, Victorian Premiers Literary Awards and winner, Ilura Press International Fiction Quest; creative writing teacher, Godfrey Street Community House, Australia
“Little Girl Leaving is as innovative as it is disturbing. The narrative captures elements of child abuse which, all too often, are lost or not understood by justice systems. The author has succeeded in conveying the insidious malevolence and criminality of the adult perpetrators. Likewise, there is a skillful portrayal of how their acts are absorbed into and affect daily lives and routines. The long, slow erosion of innocence is particularly tragic. It is a harrowing account but one which all professionals working in this field should read.”
—Raymond McMenamin, solicitor advocate; Shrieval Convener of the Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland;
appointed part-time judicial office holder; former spokesperson for the Law Society of Scotland’s
vulnerable witness legislation; former president of the part-time Sheriffs’ Association
“Little Girl Leaving is a must-read book for clinicians, therapists, teachers, welfare workers, social workers, and any adult who works with children. Little Girl Leaving is a compelling story of a wise girl who describes early traumatic experiences of incest and sexual, physical, and emotional abuse in her own voice and under her own terms of endearment. In addition, she very genuinely reveals increasing dissociative episodes. Her story unfolds via vivid descriptions of interpersonal and intergenerational trauma and her desperate attempts to rescue herself, her brother, and her parents. Deidi is an amazing girl who knows right from wrong and has great insight beyond her years. Through her books, coloring, playing, animals, and being connected with nature as well as people, she overcomes the unimaginable. Her resilience is captured throughout the book as she tries to do good, no matter how painful and frightening life becomes, with the beauty of her essence always somehow enduring.”
—Rocío Chang-Angulo, PsyD, co-director, Center for Trauma Recovery and Juvenile Justice, University of
Connecticut; steering committee member, National Child Traumatic Stress Network;
clinical advisor for the Jordan Porcow Foundation and Connecticut Public Broadcasting