Interview with Author Beth Bruno {+ A GIVEAWAY of A Voice Becoming}

A VOICE BECOMING is written by a fellow sojourner, still in the middle of the journey, processing her own story as she casts a vision for her daughter to discover hers. Readers will join Beth in a yearlong journey of teaching their daughters that women lead, women love, women fight, women sacrifice, and women create. Moms learn how to use film and books, tangible experiences, volunteering, interviewing other women, traveling, and more in a creative and life-altering way to help solidify these important concepts in the mind and life of their young teen.

1. Why did you decide to write this book?
I did not set out to write a book like this. While my husband researched and designed the year that became the Man Maker Project: Boys are Born, Men are Made, I did my own research. Even less had been written about rites of passage for girls. And what I found felt insufficient given current culture and the realities youth face. My girls did not fit the archetype described in many existing books and I knew I would miss their heart if I employed those models. That, paired with the enormous expectations they had after my son’s “man year,” meant creation of our own journey was inevitable.

2. Tell us a little bit about you and your girls. What is your relationship like?
We are some pretty independent women! Once we got over the initial toddler Sunday school tears, my girls marched confidently away from me toward every new adventure. The youngest started overnight camp at age 7 (which I still can’t believe we did!) I’d say we’re close, but not intertwined. As in, I never struggled with being a helicopter mom. We share the passion gene and get fired up about strong women doing cool things. They play along with my quirky interests, but the older they get, the fiercer their sarcasm and teasing gets. I give them a lot of fodder, but down deep, I sense they love it.

3. Can you share about a difficult time parenting your tween daughter?
How to choose one? Lest you think all is easy and swell all the time in our household, believe me when I tell you I have been called “dictator of the universe.” My kids are still kids and I am still a very human and fallen parent. The biggest challenge for me is sustained empathy. There are a few themes on repeat in each child’s life and I tend to go through cycles of mercy and exasperation. In the Appendix, I write about Ella’s theme with friends and I have to tell you, this is one of those cycles for me. Deciphering between truth and perception, emotion and reason, makes it difficult to navigate problems with tweens. My challenge was to show up every time she needed me to. To be present in the pain and not checked out in fatigue. I did not always succeed.

4. How did your daughter feel about the year during the year? After?
Ella ate up my intention toward her. Honestly, it made me realize how much she needed my attention. She understood it was a big deal to “become a woman” and knew to take serious each thing we did together. I even think she was proud to tell her English teacher the books she brought to class were “assigned” by me. Since completing the year, I’ve noticed a beautiful, albeit difficult, by product: She is more mature than peers. Recently, she articulated this by saying “I’m going to run for President and make it mandatory that all girls have a Becoming year.”

5. How does your work to prevent human trafficking intersect with raising strong girls?
I spend most of my time addressing two different types of girls: “at-risk” and overly active. With community service providers, I am working on intervention models with vulnerable kids, response protocols, and prevention tools for those most at risk of being exploited. In high schools, I speak to the whole student body, but it is often the overly involved, good students who want to take on leadership. These two groups have something in common however: girls who live small stories are often more vulnerable to traffickers. It doesn’t matter if she comes from a chaotic home or a church-going family, if a girl has a gaping hole in her heart and she fills it with whatever feels good at the time, she is easier to manipulate. My passion to cast a vision for a bigger story, to lift girls’ eyes out of the daily obsession with bodies, boys, and besties, to a life of purpose and passion is my antidote to exploitation and ultimately, human trafficking.

6. You write a lot about story. Why has that become so important to you?
My husband and I have taken to calling ourselves story ninjas. There is something sacred that occurs when you’re in conversation with someone and they pause, or their voice falters, or they look askance and you know, right there, in that moment, story is present. Sometimes, we say, “whoa! Go back. What was that?” and if they want to play along, beauty unfolds. We have found that naming the story-moments has helped our marriage and parenting to be more dimensional, more whole-hearted. Just recently, a hurtful episode happened among the siblings. When we processed it, Ella named her story of feeling chronically excluded by friends so that when her own brother and sister did the same thing, she felt especially sad. It wasn’t just a thoughtless act on their part, it was salt on a wound and it triggered much more in her soul. Understanding story has helped us understand ourselves and our people in more meaningful ways.

7. Why a bike? What’s the significance of the bike on the cover?
Bikes are a perfect picture of adventure and for me, a symbol of story itself. When we were living in Istanbul, we became desperate for a hobby that took us into nature and relieved us from the concrete congestion of the city. We heard of bikes being sold under an overpass on the other side of the city, the only place at the time, and we ventured out to buy two with a toddler seat on one. We lugged those bikes on the ferry that crossed the Marmara Sea to Islands without cars. We drove for hours to a park with trails through the forests. We clung to those bikes like canteens in a desert. And they came back to the States with us. As the years passed, that bike ceased to represent adventure and became utilitarian: it got me places. Function replaced passion. But recently, 16 years later, I bought a new bike – a fast bike my family calls the Ferrari – to reclaim desire. I am intentionally writing a new story.

Our bike adventure in Holland was also far more than just a physical activity. It captured our need for challenge and my search for metaphor. The journey also fulfilled a long held dream my mom and I had. As I framed the Becoming year around God’s questions to Hagar, where have you come from and where are you going, the bike became the perfect symbol for the epic rites of passage I sought to create.

8. What’s next for you in your writing, speaking, and nonprofit work?
If I did it well in A Voice Becoming, I left women with a sense of curiosity around the idea of “big story living” vs. “small storied lives.” But I fear that the natural assumption will play into women’s already existing insecurities and comparison: if I’m not doing that big thing or if I’m not growing something, I’m not living a big story life. I want to talk more about that. Because in a world that extols scale, how do we derive meaning from the small, yet still be caught up in a grander vision? I’ll be speaking about a storied life, a scaffolding of womanhood, and passionate, purposed living for women.

9. And how does how your nonprofit work tie into the book?
We all used to think only highly vulnerable youth experienced sex trafficking, but more and more we see children of dual parent, dual income, church-going families exploited. When any person has a longing in their heart seeking to be filled, they become more susceptible to the attention and manipulation of traffickers. Compound this with assault and many girls tailspin into destructive behaviors leading to exploitative relationships. In AVB, I aim to lift girls’ eyes above the small storied living of most teens, with the usual obsession with bodies, boys, and besties, to cast a vision for a greater story being told through them. Simultaneously, I hope to empower moms to engage their own stories and journey alongside their daughters, hopefully responding to the call of God on their hearts to offer the fullness of themselves to this world. With a vision like this, there is little time for unhealthy relationships and instead a deeper sense of self that cannot be shaken.

10. What do you say to people who say strong women/ feminism and Christianity are at odds?
I hope I don’t sound too cheeky when I question which Bible they’re referring to? I see strong women throughout scripture, on the pages of the Old and New Testament. I think of Hagar who returned to abusive Sarah with courage granted from an encounter with God. I see Ruth and Naomi who traversed the desert on their own and humbly won the favor of their kinsman redeemer. Esther need not be explained, nor Jesus’ mother Mary, nor sisters Mary and Martha. What about Phoebe? The first woman to be named a deacon. Or Tabitha, the only woman called a disciple? Strong women peppered Jesus’ lineage, birthed him, ministered alongside him, and have carried the mantel of the gospel ever since.

WIN A FREE COPY OF A VOICE BECOMING!!!

ThA Book Review of A VOICE BECOMING {plus, A GIVEAWAY!}is week, I’m giving away two free hardback copies of A Voice Becoming.

One will be to those who comment on my Instagram post by midnight (MT) of January 18th and tag friends you think would be interested in this book. I’ll enter you one time for each new friend you tag!

Another will be for new subscribers to my newsletter between now and midnight of January 18th. Sign up for my mid-month digest and end-of-month SECRET NEWSLETTER here:

On January 19th (my birthday, just FYI;-) ), I’ll announce the Instagram winner in the comments section of that post and email the winner of the newsletter sign-up!

 

You can buy A Voice Becoming here:


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

BETH BRUNO traded the Blue Ridge for the Rocky Mountains after two decades in mega cities. Upon graduating from Northwestern University in Chicago, she and her husband moved to an even larger city, Istanbul, where they led campus teams with Cru. Ten years later they moved to Seattle where Beth received an MA in International Community Development and launched a nonprofit aimed at preventing domestic minor sex trafficking. Beth regularly speaks and trains around the topic of trafficked youth, including interviews with local radio stations and lots of coffee with the FBI, Homeland Security, and local law enforcement.

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An Interview with Beth Bruno, Author of A Voice Becoming

Day 30: Talking Race with my Southern Mama {31 Days of #WOKE}

Talking Race with my Southern Mama

 

My mother grew up running through the orange clay of Buford, Georgia, a small town northeast of Atlanta. Though I’ve heard stories about their beloved black maid, Sadie, her father’s house calls as the town doctor and her attending boarding school to avoid the chaos of integration, I wanted to know more. Especially now, as I’m discovering the cost of a whispered history. We sat in her home in the mountains of Colorado this afternoon and had a chat while the kids napped.

Me: Do you remember specific ways you saw segregation in Buford?

Most of the blacks lived on one side of the train tracks and the whites lived on the other. I really don’t remember seeing many black children. We all kept to ourselves and went to different schools on different sides of the city. My dad was a doctor and I remember there being separate waiting rooms for whites and “coloreds,” as we called African American people then. My dad’s nurse, Katie, was black, though, and she was a close friend of our family. I don’t think she had much education, but was trained by my grandfather, who was also a doctor.

I don’t remember much overt racism growing up, but I do remember it was illegal for African Americans to even go to the next county over, Forsyth [We stopped and looked up more information on this at this time and found this Fresh Air podcast about the racial cleansing that went on in Forsyth county in 1912.]. Once when we were driving through Forsyth with my dad’s black nurse, Katie, I remember she had to lie down on the floor of the car because it was illegal for her to even be in that county. She also came on vacation with us, which always felt a bit clandestine because it wasn’t like she could even eat in restaurants with us.

Me: What was the perception of Martin Luther King, Jr.? What do you remember hearing about him? How did you feel during the Civil Rights Movement?

It was a bad time. I can’t believe my mom even let us kids watch the news during that time. Although he was respected for his non-violent stance, I just remember my mom telling me that it wasn’t going to end well for Martin Luther King, Jr. because the cops certainly weren’t taking the same nonviolent stance. I didn’t do any marches at that time, but I did do a march later when we lived in Florida for MLK day to become a national holiday. I remember the private Christian school your brother went to for a while voted not to observe MLK day.

Me: Can you tell me more about your house help growing up?

So our main interaction with African Americans was through our maids. Sadie was our maid for 23 years and was like family to us. The day my father told us she had terminal pancreatic cancer was the only day I remember my father crying. We loved her.

She would come to our house every day from 9 AM to 5 PM except Wednesdays and Sundays. We all came home for lunch since our school and my dad’s office was so close and we’d have traditional southern food. When we ate, Sadie would sit in the kitchen just a few feet away while the rest of us ate at the huge round table. Sadie would also do our laundry, clean and come on Saturday mornings to make us pancakes. Since I had four sisters, I remember her chasing away neighbors who were bothering us with her broom. We always hated Wednesdays when Sadie had the day off because the house just felt emptier somehow.

It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I realized Sadie couldn’t read or write. I also eventually found out she had a daughter being raised by relatives in the north. Because she worked full-time with our family, she wasn’t able to take care of her daughter.

We went to Sadie’s funeral in the black church when she died. We were the only white people there and they had us sit in the front row.

My best friend growing up also had house help. Their family was even more well-off than ours, so they had a live-in upstairs and downstairs maid. And their maids wouldn’t just put the food on the table for them to eat family-style, but would serve them at every meal. They also had a chauffer.

My aunt and grandmother had house help, but they would mostly just clean for them, not cook for them like ours did for our family.

Me: Do you feel like the portrayal of house maids in the book and movie The Help was realistic?

Yes, it was. In that movie, the help wasn’t supposed to use the bathroom in the house. Our maids did use our bathroom, but my wealthy friend I was talking about had a separate bathroom in the garage. And your dad’s grandmother in Jackson, Mississippi, had a bathroom out in the shed for her house help.

Me: What do you remember about the schools being integrated?

It was my junior year of high school and instead of continuing  in the public schools, my mom decided to send me to a private boarding school. There was just a big fear that the schools would be violent when they went through the transition to integration. My sister who was five years younger than me did eventually attend the public schools and observed some violence, but it wasn’t as bad by the time she graduated. I don’t remember there even being many black people when I went to college at the University of Georgia, though I’m sure there were some.

***

Check back tomorrow for the last post in the series! (Woot!) I’ll be doing a bit of rehashing, reflecting and ruminating on how to move forward from here.

New to the Series? Start HERE (though you can jump in at any point!).

A 31 Day Series Exploring Whiteness and Racial Perspectives

During the month of March, 2017, I will be sharing a series called 31 Days of #Woke. I’ll be doing some personal excavating of views of race I’ve developed through being in schools that were under court order to be integrated, teaching in an all black school as well as in diverse classrooms in Chicago and my experiences of whiteness living in Uganda and China. I’ll also have some people of color share their views and experiences of race in the United States (I still have some open spots, so contact me if you are a person of color who wants to share). So check back and join in the conversation. You are welcome in this space.

Image: By Esther Bubley [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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