[TMA Recommends] It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War, by Lynsey Addario

I love my local library!


I don’t read memoirs much. I love a true story, but I haven’t ventured into autobiography territory since my heart was burned by James Frey’s “memoir” A Million Little Pieces years ago.


But my faith has been restored…by an amazing woman (and mom, of course). Lynsey Addario’s memoir It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War is everything I could have hoped for and more: harrowing true tales, strong and imperfect women, brutal honesty about the dilemmas of life.


You may have heard about the crazy bidding war for the rights to the book and the privilege of portraying this astonishing woman on screen (It eventually went to the team of Stephen Spielberg, Jennifer Lawrence, and Warner Bros. to the chagrin of Reese Witherspoon and Natalie Portman).


Well, if I had that kind of pull I would have fought tooth and nail, too. The woman is just that interesting and the story is just that good.


Rather than spoil a book that I do hope you get to read, you mama warrior, you, I’ll relate some of the easily-forgotten life truths that the book reminded me of:


  • Passion and purpose are not just for the young and idealistic. Passion gives dimension to the banality of ambition, and can serve as a guide when you are trying to piece together your life as a actress and mom. Lynsey’s passion for her work is not replaced or diminished by her passion for her child; rather, her new life as a mom sharpens and enhances her passion for her craft in a way I completely identified with.


  • No one knows what life is supposed to look like, so create your own unique, gorgeous, disgusting cocktail of experiences. When we were little, my brother and I would make concoctions from the most disgusting liquids we could find in our fridge, and then make each other drink them. Sometimes they were good, mostly they made us gag. But even the most gag-worthy blends (caper juice and rotten liquified grape carcasses, anyone?) were always unique and dare I say exciting. Life can be like that if you’re willing to add miso paste to pickle juice and just see what happens. Lynsey’s story is compelling because she’s created a life that is singularly unique and remarkably brave, and that is so satisfying to read about.


  • How magnificent that we get to experience this space of art and motherhood. Many people have to leave their babies to return to a shitty job bagging groceries or whatever (I’m not saying bagging groceries itself is inherently a shitty job, I’m sure many people find joy in that job. I’m saying it’s sounds shitty to me). I leave my babies and get to do work that fills me up so much that after awhile my heart doesn’t always notice that I’m away from them.

Addario writes, “Three months after giving birth, I started traveling again. I took my first assignment for the Times Magazine in Alabama, photographing mothers addicted to methamphetamine. Being away from Lukas was worse than any heartbreak, any distance from a lover–anything I had ever known. I cried all the way to the airport, throughout the journey, and right up until the morning I loaded the memory cards into my Nikons, placed my lens in their pitches, strung them along my waist, and set off for the rugged barn in rural Alabama to visit Timmy Kimbrough and his three children. With my first few frames, I lost myself in my work.” (emphasis mine).

We get to have work that we lose ourselves in, and we get to have our heart break from the love. That is such a gift.


I hope you are consuming inspiring books, mamas. What’s on your bookshelf for 2016? My Goodreads challenge is to read 52 books this year so I’m gonna need some suggestions! Comment here or in the TMA Facebook group.


TMA Recommends is a series about sharing stuff. The best stuff. The kind of stuff that helps make my life as a working mama actor not just do-able but delightful. They’re not critiques, because why would I waste space talking about stuff I don’t like? I only recommend stuff that I use and love, and unless I explicitly mention it, I’m not compensated for my opinions in any way.