For those of you that don’t know, I work at an emergency shelter for survivors of domestic violence and their children. My official job title is Safehouse Youth Advocate. I’ve not been in this role long, and because I will be moving out of state to pursue an AmeriCorps program position I, unfortunately, will not be in it much longer (only about a month at the time of writing).
In my remaining time I decided that I wanted to make sure that my managers’ investment in me was worth it. I spent a lot of time updating our youth resources and information (by which I mostly mean “barely scratching the surface of our resources”) and found that we had a dearth of teen related resources. Then I discovered that most of the relevant and reliable information and resources for and about teens weren’t available in articles and essays on the internet, they were books we didn’t have the excess funding to purchase.
I emailed New Harbinger Publications and they were kind enough to donate ten books to the shelter: The Sexual Trauma Workbook for Teen Girls, The Anger Workbook for Teens, Stopping the Pain, The Anxiety Workbook for Teens, Beyond the Blues, The PTSD Workbook for Teens, Communication Skills for Teens, The Divorce Help Book for Teens, The Self Esteem Workbook for Teens, and It Happened to Me: A Teen’s Guide to Overcoming Sexual Abuse.
But as you can see, I wasn’t only interested in self-help books or workbooks written by clinicians and psychologists (one of the bigger selling point of New Harbinger’s books for me was the fact that they are written by experienced professionals in their field). I also wanted to provide the teens who come through our shelter with works of fiction. Of course there are a lot benefits to reading: some research shows that reading fiction helps improve brain connectivity and function while it has been long noted that reading about the internal worlds of fictional characters can help build empathy skills (there is literally an entire book written on the subject).
Over at Buffer they note nine distinct benefits to reading, one of them being stress reduction – a very important benefit for people who find themselves in a domestic violence shelter.
I reached out to a number of authors as well, especially authors writing from minority perspectives but I was also keeping a keen eye out for novels featuring characters and situations the teens in our shelter might identify with. These are teens who have undergone trauma of many varieties and varying severity. As such I was looking for novels that featured protagonists experiencing and overcoming trauma. A quick google search will reveal several lists (such as this one or this one) but it is through The Hub’s Booklist: Dating Violence, Consent, and Healthy Relationships that I also found several books recommended on the basis that they portray healthy romantic relationships and provide examples of romantic respect and consent. This struck me as a vital in a DV shelter specializing in Intimate Partner Violence, where much of what the youth have seen modeled for them is not only unhealthy and disrespectful but often quite violent.
Of the authors who have responded to me it is Heather Demetrios, author of I’ll Meet You There, who has already shipped a donation of two books to me: two hardback copies of I’ll Meet You There and one hardback copy of I See Reality, a collection of short stories including one by Demetrios.
I borrowed a copy of I’ll Meet You There and am reading it now. Maybe I’m biased because Demetrios was so generous with her donation or because she’s also just genuinely a nice person and was so pleasant doing business with, but so far I think the book is just wonderful. I can’t wait to officially have the little library up and running and start recommending it to teens and parents alike. As it stands I would definitely recommend it to people who enjoy John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars or Looking for Alaska. (Side note: I’m still waiting, John Green! Please donate some books to our library I love your books I want them in my tiny shelter library!)
Because my time in the shelter is drawing to an end this may very well be a project I don’t get to finish. There is a significant chance I’ll have to pass it on to my replacement and that it will be a work in progress for quite a long time. I wanted to write this post, though, because I am so grateful to the people who have contributed thus far. I highly recommend checking out New Harbinger to see if there’s anything that might be fitting for you or someone you know (they have a large selection of books specific to teens but are not limited to writing for teens) and checking out some of Heather Demetrios’s work. Being as these are people who take seriously the need for domestic violence shelters and, additionally, the need for those shelters to have a variety of resources for the youth who might find themselves in a shelter, it seems to me that they have certainly earned the readership.