Local author and journalist discusses new memoir
Aug. 9, 2022
Veteran journalist and former reporter at the Arizona Republic, Laura Trujillo is the author of a new memoir called “Stepping Back From the Ledge: A Daughter’s Search for Truth and Renewal.” She shared her heartfelt story with us on Arizona Horizon.
Laura had been close to her mother for most of her adult life, raising her four children within a few miles of their beloved grandmother’s Phoenix home. “We were really close, and she was a really incredible grandma. I have four kids and my sister has four kids and she was so much fun,” Laura told Ted Simons during the interview.
But just three months after moving her young family to Cincinnati for a new job, Laura received heartbreaking news: On April 26, 2012, Laura’s mother killed herself by jumping from the edge of the Grand Canyon, a place Laura knew her mother had always loved.
Her mom’s suicide left Laura and her family trying to piece together what had happened. “I thought everything was going really well,” Laura said. “She had some things that didn’t seem great, but we weren’t really concerned about her.”
Laura and her mother had shared a profound and special bond, yet each had also kept from the other the deepest truths about their lives. As an adult, Laura finally broke her silence about the sexual abuse she had suffered as a teenager at the hands of her stepfather—a secret Laura had buried to protect her mother. After her mother’s death, Laura writes about how she embarks on an emotional journey for answers. She began searching for clues that could explain the depression, intergenerational trauma, and shared heartbreaks in her family.
Laura finally returned to the Grand Canyon in 2016. She was ready to look for answers. “I could say it out loud now: This is where my mom killed herself. She jumped from the edge of the Grand Canyon. From the edge of the earth,” she wrote in her book.
Laura states in the book that at first, she had been shocked and numb. Now she wanted to understand how this could have happened and what she could have done differently. What could have caused this, she wondered. “Was there a tipping point?” she asks in her memoir.
Things later become more clear: “I wondered why we didn’t see it coming somehow, why we didn’t do more… Looking back over the years, there were signs of depression and sadness, anxiety and regret, but sometimes we didn’t really see, and we were silent about so many things,” she reflects in chapter one.
“I know it’s a memoir, but I think of it more as talking about suicide and the stigma of mental health,” Laura said. “So much of that story throughout the book is me trying to figure out why my mom killed herself. So many people go through that, when you look at the number of people who kill themselves each year.”
Laura’s book has received many accolades. The New York Times Book Review calls is a “seismically moving memoir.” And Publisher’s Weekly states: “A gorgeous and elegiac debut… never once reaching for pat metaphors or an easy conclusion, Trujillo recounts her wrenching path to healing and how she held her family together during unimaginable grief. In the process, she offers an aching and stunning portrait of her fallible but loving mother. This shines a humanizing light on a subject too often relegated to the shadows.”
Today, Trujillo is the managing editor for Life and Entertainment at USA Today. She’s a former reporter and editor for The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Arizona Republic, and The Oregonian. She now does advocacy work on behalf of suicide awareness.