Some of my best memories my freshman year of college were made in conjunction with a spunky California-girl named Gena Young. Man that girl was headstrong. She knew what she wanted, and she was focused. Also? She was a ton of fun. Gena and I took an American Sign Language class together, and as part of the class we entered a sign song contest -- wherein we had to pick a song and then sign the lyrics (you know . . . happy hands). Sterling, my then boyfriend (who actually knew American Sign Language), helped us put together a hilarious routine to a song I can only remember being called "The Goat Song." We practiced signing about this crazy goat in the community bathroom, watching ourselves in the mirrors over the row of sinks. And we won! We were such great goat signers that we won first prize. And really, once you've signed about goats with someone, you are pretty much bonded for life.
My girl, Gena Young Mabee, has written a book! It's a YA memoir called Standing Out: Sometimes Alone, and it documents Gena's experiences in junior high through the first days of college, focusing on those often painful adolescent experiences centered around 'fitting in.' Two things to know about Gena -- she is Mormon and she's black, and those identifications, obviously, shaped her growing up years. The book then, is also about how Gena navigated the teenage years while staying true to her religion and to her own sense of self -- not an easy task for anyone.
What I love about the book, aside from the fact that Gena is fabulous, is the big picture perspective it offers. Gena writes about feeling left out, alone, confused, determined, happy, depressed, loyal . . . just about every teenage (and human) emotion really. I've handed my copy over to Rebecca (my 16 year old), and I'm dying to hear what she thinks. It's tough being in high school where there is such a mixture of goodness and friendship, betrayal and temptation. I want my kids to know that it's good to stand your ground. Decide what you believe in and what you want and never deviate. Gena's book talks ALL about that. My feeling is that the book will be overwhelmingly comforting to Becca -- to read about another person's hardships, disappointments, and successes that are really so very similar to her own. I know I felt comforted, and I'm 42. So hey!
And, as a bonus, I'm in the book! I won't tell you where. Just know that I'm going to swoop in and save the day in a very heroic and stylish fashion.
Currently the paperback book can be bought on the StandingOut website. The Kindle edition is available through Amazon, and a little birdie told me that Amazon is stocking the paperbacks starting next week. It would be a great Christmas gift for any teen.
Congrats to Gena. I'm so proud of her!