Working at Paradigm is honestly one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve been teaching for over 15 years. I’ve been doing this work for a very, very long time. I think it’s the way that Paradigm works with their young people. I think it’s the way that the therapists and the counselors and all the different therapies work together. I’ve never had this kind of experience where my work is able to really work in conjunction with other therapists.
What I see happening, in my work, is that young people come in. Sometimes, they’re not able to talk. Sometimes, they’re not able to really share verbally. We do a series of writing exercises, and they’re exercises that I’ve crafted really over 15 years. Young people open up. They tell their stories. One young person will tell a story, and then it will help another person to have that courage. So by the end of a workshop, everyone has sort of been able to open up and have courage to work and to tell their stories.
I have a novel that’s getting ready to come out, and it’s being published by Hogarth Press. That’s a division of Random House. I’ve been working on it for about 10 years. It is just a dream come true. It’s about a young woman named Ruby, who grows up in an all-black Southern town, and she’s had some very, very, very difficult and horrible experiences as a child. So she runs away to New York City in the 1950s, and she gets to rub shoulders with the liberate [SP].
Then she’s yanked back home. A tragedy happens, and then very, very slowly, everything starts to fall apart, including her, her mind. She slowly slips into insanity and wanders these red roads of east Texas for 11 years, until a very, very kind church deacon and a very sheltered man, Ephrem [SP], helps her and heals her. What they do together is that they uncover the mystery of what happened to Ruby. Why did she fall apart? What happened in her childhood?
My story comes from really three different sources. It comes from my mom and growing up in a very, very small, very, very oppressive town where a lot of not great things happened. Her sister was murdered by the clan, and that weaves through this story. One of the other things that it comes from is my own past and my past of abuse and the things that I lived through and the way that I was able to survive that and the healing I was able to do.
A very, very large part comes from the young people I’ve worked with. Although this book takes place in this sort of thumbnail of a town, in this tiny, tiny area, it really is meant to speak to and echo all of the things that are happening to young people all over the world. Really that’s one of the reasons I wrote the book. I was inspired by what’s happened and what I’ve seen happen to so many young people.