One of the coolest things I get to do as a writing and publishing coach is to work for a company that pairs up mentors with teens who are doing truly amazing independent projects in the arts, like writing and publishing, film, theater, and more.
Honestly, this work brings me some of the biggest joy in my life as a writer: helping young people from all walks of life tell their story.
I am a self-expression evangelist, and, by that, I mean it’s my solemn belief that everyone has an important story that deserves to be told, via writing, or whatever form. Self-expression is the root of free speech, and the root of story-telling.
Without it, we can’t tell the stories that build empathy and understanding.
I believe that story-telling is, and will continue to be, at the heart of our evolution and our awakening as humans. Building empathy allows us to put ourselves in other people’s shoes, seeing issues from perspectives that are different than our own.
In this way, we learn to hold space for others and be inclusive, and work toward creating an equitable society for all.
Rebecca Solnit once said, “People and live and die by stories.” It’s true—media portrayals of marginalized groups deeply affect how those groups survive in our society.
Positive representation and inclusivity are literally a matter of survival.
All of this is deeply entwined with other things, for example, our education system, and the deep inequity of how students of color, immigrant children, and LGBTQ students are treated versus white cis-gendered students.
And this inequity results in further trauma, on top of the already insidious ancestral damage children of color and immigrant children may carry with them.
I can relate. As a child of immigrants in an Amerian society, it was not easy growing up in America. I will always feel like an outsider and still have prejudice cast on me when I use my full ethnic birth name.
For example, someone at an office I once worked at overheard my supervisor say that because I was x nationality, they believed I was likely a thief. That was deeply hurtful, and to this day, I wonder if people think less of me because of my ethnicity.
Despite the trauma of always carrying with me a feeling of Otherness, I realize that my whiteness has afforded me certain privileges, and am working toward making any space that I’m part of a space of equity and inclusion. Whether it’s a class I’m teaching, a reading series I’m part of, what have you, I believe in equity and inclusion, 100%.
Which is why I’m so happy to tell you about the project I worked on this summer:
I was the lead mentor on the project team that helped Seattle teen author Azure Savage bring their book to life.
It’s called “You Failed Us,” and is an examination of their experience being a student of color and LGBTQ in the Seattle school system. It’s sort of a hybrid memoir/essay collection that also contains quotes from interviews with other students.
It is honest, and pulls no punches: our current education system is hazardous to students of color.
If you’re an educator like me, this book is a must-read. I found it incredibly eye-opening, and useful.
If you’re a parent, it’s a must-read.
Honestly, it’s a must-read regardless of who you are. If you’re white, and cis-gendered, and want to be a better ally to those who aren’t, then please, for the love of all that is holy, read this book.
Azure is an incredible writer, and produced such an incredibly polished work, for someone so young. They had a vision, and executed that vision so well. They’re using their personal experience and extensive training in matters of racial equity to create change, and I was so privileged to have been involved as a mentor, proofreading the text closely and advising for flow, and using my experience as an accomplished indie publisher to advise on matters such as publishing, cover design, pricing, community outreach, and the launch event.
It was a huge honor witnessing Azure and helping their project be born.
The book is currently not available online for purchase, but if you’re in Seattle, you can purchase it directly from the author, and pick it up at their launch party. See the info on the flyer below.
To read more about this historic book, please go here.*
My name wasn’t mentioned in the above-linked article, but I am, and always will be, super proud of Azure and the work.