SOUTHBOROUGH – Two Southborough writers are launching a new project to spotlight stories in Northborough and Southborough.
Led by Jennifer De Leon and her husband, Adam Stumacher, the project is called Story Bridge. It was launched during a keynote speech De Leon gave last week at Trottier Middle School in Southborough.
“Our goal is to help others use their stories and narratives to help build bridges across identity and to use stories as a way to break down those walls,” De Leon said April 7.
De Leon and Stumacher did similar work in every community in Massachusetts.
De Leon shares his story
De Leon’s presentation titled “The Power of Storytelling” was organized by the Northborough/Southborough School District’s Coalition for Equity, which launches conversation kits to encourage community engagement.
De Leon spent two hours at Algonquin Regional High School on the morning of April 7, leading a workshop with freshmen, who read his novel, “Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From.”
“My mission as an author is to write books that go against what you might see in the news about Guatemala,” De Leon said.
De Leon is currently an assistant professor of English at Framingham State University and a faculty member of the MFA in Creative Nonfiction program at Bay Path University.
“Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From” tells the story of 15-year-old Liliana, who struggles to fit in at her high school after being accepted into the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity Program in Massachusetts.
Throughout the novel, Liliana discovers that her father is undocumented and has been deported to Guatemala.
“It’s a book I needed as a youngster,” De Leon said.
The author grew up outside of Boston
De Leon’s parents are from Guatemala and moved to the United States when he was 18 years old.
Growing up in suburban Boston, De Leon felt divided.
“I had to code-switch a lot…I was one Jenn during the week and another Jenn on the weekends,” De Leon recalled.
Thinking it would be better when she got to college, De Leon said she faced various microaggressions that still made things difficult.
De Leon said one of the ways she found her way was through stories.
She read “The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros in her freshman year. It was as if the dialogue jumped off the page, sounding like her aunts and uncles, she said.
De Leon shared a 2018 statistic on diversity in children’s books, which showed that 5% of characters were Latinx. In comparison, 50% were white and 27% were animals.
“If young people don’t see themselves reflected in the books they read, then they feel invisible,” De Leon said. “They feel like they don’t matter.”
Applications due May 1
Story Bridge is open to members of the Northborough and Southborough communities aged 14 and over.
“We’re wired to remember stories…Why not cultivate that and harness it and use it to fight hate?” said DeLeon.
There are 10 spaces in the program, which will see De Leon and Stumacher coaching the members by writing and presenting their stories.
The group will be able to share their stories at an event in October.
Interested persons should apply by May 1.
Visit https://jenniferdeleonauthor.com/nsboro-storybridge/ for more information.
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