SOUTHBOROUGH – Two Southborough writers are launching a new project to highlight stories in Northborough and Southborough.
Led by Jennifer De Leon and her husband, Adam Stumacher, the project is called Story Bridge. It was kicked off during a keynote address De Leon delivered 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 these walls,” De Leon said on April 7.
De Leon and Stumacher have done similar work throughout communities in Massachusetts.
De Leon shares her story
De Leon’s presentation called “The Power of Storytelling” was put on by the Northborough/Southborough school district’s Coalition for Equity, which is launching 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 students, who are reading her novel “Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From.”
“My missive in being an author is to write books that are counter-narratives to 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 Bay Path University’s MFA Program in Creative Nonfiction.
“Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From” tells the story of 15-yearold Liliana, who is struggling to fit into her high school after being accepted in 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.
“This is a book that I needed as a young person,” De Leon said.
Author grew up outside of Boston
De Leon’s parents are from Guatemala and moved to the United States when they were 18.
Growing up in the suburbs of 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 get better when she got to college, De Leon said she faced various micro-aggressions 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 felt like the dialogue was jumping off the page, sounding like her aunts and uncles, she said.
De Leon shared a 2018 statistic about diversity in children’s books, which showed that 5% of the characters were Latinx. In comparison, 50% were white and 27% were animals.
“If young people don’t see themselves reflected in the books that they’re reading, then they feel invisible,” De Leon said. “They feel that they don’t matter.”
Applications due May 1
Story Bridge is open to Northborough and Southborough community members who are at least 14 years old.
“We’re wired to remember stories…Why not cultivate that and harness that and use that to fight against hate?” De Leon said.
There are 10 spaces in the program, which will see De Leon and Stumacher coach the members through writing and presenting their stories.
The group will be able to share their stories during an event in October.
Those interested must apply by May 1.
Visit https://jenniferdeleonauthor.com/nsboro-storybridge/ for more information.