Alyson Gerber writes from experience–which to me, is the best kind of writer. Her first book, “Braced,” is all about a teen girl struggling with scoliosis–and all the heartache that comes with adolescence (a time I do not envy).
Growing up–and finding your identity–is extremely difficult, especially when you are faced with adversity with your peers. This type of narrative is universal, but difficult to actually talk about in “real life.” What I love most about Gerber is the fact that she’s willing to be vulnerable and write about her experience, even if it is fictionalized.
I was lucky enough to speak with her about why her experience growing up with scoliosis, what her favorite Jewish holiday is, and her biggest pet peeve:
What inspired you—or was the catalyst—for you to write “Braced?”
I wrote “Braced,” because I have scoliosis, and I wore a back brace during middle school (from ages 11 to 13). During that time, I spent 23 hours a day inside of a thick plastic shell. It was really hard for me. I didn’t know anyone else who had a brace, and I didn’t open up to anyone about how alone and insecure I felt.
At the time, there wasn’t a book that talked honestly about what I was going through. And years later, during graduate school, when I really started to focus on writing for kids, I realized that the book I had so desperately needed, still didn’t exist. I wanted to change that and give a voice to this experience. My hope is that by raising awareness about scoliosis and sensitivity for kids who are being treated for the disorder that Rachel’s story might be a gateway to heightened understanding for others.
Favorite comfort food:
Anything with melted cheese (pizza, nachos, macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese…).
If you could be anyone or anything, just for one day, what would you be?
I’m really afraid of birds. I have been ever since I was a kid–so it would be great to spend a day as a bird to try to overcome my fear and also to experience flying.
What was your favorite children’s book or young adult novel growing up?
There are so many books that impacted me and shaped who I am and how I see the world. Judy Blume’s “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret“ was the first book I ever read where I heard my voice and my fears about how I fit into the world.
What TV show have you binge watched?
“Gilmore Girls” is my favorite TV show of all time. I’ve binged watched the series more times than I can count.
Biggest pet peeve:
I hate clutter. Everything has to go in a drawer.
If you were a Jewish holiday, which one would you be?
Purim. I love that we have a holiday that centers around a strong woman taking a big risk to stand up for other people and for what’s right.
What’s the best thing about yourself?
I’m not afraid to share my experiences and feelings with pretty much everyone I meet. I’ve found that being open about the challenges I’ve faced—like wearing a back brace—and the insecurities I’ve battled as a result of my experiences has helped me to connect with people and find mutual understanding and support. And I’m really grateful for those connections and friendships.
What’s the worst?
I can be very hard on myself, and I’m working to change that.
I wanted to be an actress. Broadway was the theme of my bat mitzvah.
What’s your weirdest family tradition?
Every year on Thanksgiving morning, we have a gingerbread house decorating competition.