Reading Tyrell by Coe Booth with Second Chance Students

by Stella Akua Mensah

literature for all of us Second Chance TyrellDuring the last month of my book group at Second Chance Alternative High School, we started Tyrell by Coe Booth. We talked about sexual harassment, mentors, parental figures that are not our parents, receiving and offering earnest support when folks are struggling, homes away from home, homelessness, poverty, polyamory, different roles we play in our families, dealing with neglectful mothers, and responsibilities.

We opened the group with the question, “How do you define being ‘grown’ or being an ‘adult’?” People had a lot of takes on this, mentioning living alone, financial independence, and spiritual/emotional independence. Participants agreed quite unanimously that we are never fully “grown”—that we never stop learning and evolving.

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Sinclair Alternative High School Poetry Bash!

sinclair poetry bash main

by Erin Brown

Literature for All of Us celebrated the end of another successful school year at Upton Sinclair Alternative High School with our annual Poetry Bash. Students, teachers, book group leaders, and board members gathered at the Poetry Foundation in downtown Chicago to honor the words and voices of over 70 young people—all participants in our weekly book groups at Sinclair, located in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.

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Gender Exorcists

by Marty Kezon

literature for all of us gender exorcistsThe title came easily. It took only a few minutes of brainstorming before one of the quieter participants spoke up to offer a potential name for our poetry book: “What if we call it ‘Gender Exorcists’?” The group’s excitement was immediate, and the consensus unanimous.

This moment came during a recent book group at TransWorks, a Chicago House program that advances employment and work opportunities for trans and nonbinary individuals. Since the fall of 2016, Literature for All of Us has partnered with TransWorks to weave the book group model into their six-month long mentorship cohorts. During monthly meetings, LFAOU’s book group becomes a way for each cohort to build community, connect around urgent issues, and engage with the work of trans and nonbinary writers.

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Process art with Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Students

by Abby Harris-Ridker

On Wednesday May 23rd, I took 5 book group participants from Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Alternative High School to do process art with Literature for All of Us’ friend Cal Calvird at his studio, Create Space. As Cal explained to our students, process art is a natural extension of book group, it is a way to process, write, and reflect on whatever is happening in your life. Cal’s process is simple, yet hard to describe in full detail - as the students acknowledged, you have to do it to understand its power.

Campos Group PicWe started with intention writing. There are only two rules for intention writing.–First, make things active in order to breathe the intention into existence. For example, instead of writing I want to relax, you write I relax or I am relaxed. Second, don’t write things in the negative. For example, we were instructed not to write an intention saying “I am not anxious,” because then what are we experiencing instead? We were guided to frame that feeling in the positive and write something like, “I am calm” or think about how we wanted to channel that feeling into our intention - for example, “I hold my anger and use it to repair the world.” We took time to quietly write our intentions and reflect silently.

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