“Close your eyes, Kayla,” a mother says to her 9-year-old daughter, while holding back the knife in her husband’s hand. This story of violence is not fiction; it’s one of 14 eye-opening narratives by Scriber Lake High School students in their new book, ‘We Are Absolutely Not Okay: Fourteen Stories By Teenagers Who Are Picking Up the Pieces.’ The student writers will be at Revelations Yogurt on June 6, from 5-7 p.m., to sign their book, alongside their editors, instructor Marjie Bowker and author Ingrid Ricks.
Picking up the pieces is what these kids do, from a father’s alcoholic rage on New Year’s Eve, a “tweaker” dad’s eight-ball meth high, and a mother ‘s slide into gambling and addiction. But trouble doesn’t just rain down from parents; it also comes via peers. In “Run Up or Shut Up,” 12-year-old Fabian Vazquez makes sure to get the purse and cell phone from a woman stepping out of her luxury car, while worrying he might accidentally blow off her head with the .22 in his hands during a gang venture.
The Scriber Lake book began in November, when author Ricks was contacted by Bowker, an English teacher at the Edmonds-based alternative high school . As Ricks explained recently: “(Marjie) had been given a copy of my new coming-of-age memoir, ‘Hippie Boy: A Girl’s Story.’ She felt my story would be a perfect fit for her students and asked if I wanted to form an author partnership. I jumped at the opportunity…to help them claim their power and find their voice.”
Finding her voice, Lauren Nein, a student who wrote about her father’s depression and her own attempt at suicide at age 12, wants My Edmonds News readers to know more about Scriber Lake. “(Scriber is) not what you think it is,” she said recently in an email interview, “and it’s not what you’ve heard. When I was first told I needed to attend Scriber, I did not want to go. I thought it was a school of druggies and thugs, but I was incredibly wrong. It’s an amazing school with amazing teachers who made my graduation in the next few weeks possible!”
Fellow student Neil Tingley seconds that Scriber is a very “stereotyped place.” He says some students have the potential to “surpass Martin Luther King’s charisma, to surpass Beethoven’s wisdom in music, and to achieve things greater than the known human limits.”
When asked whether the editors worried about the book causing more pain with its revelations of addiction, suicidal thoughts, sex and crime, Ricks replied: “Marjie and I talked with the students in-depth about putting their stories into the universe, and the criticism that comes from writing honestly and sharing personal stories. We also encouraged the use of pen names in cases where we felt it was necessary to protect the student’s identity. These students, many of them graduating seniors, are some of the most self-actualized people I’ve ever met. They have claimed their power around their most challenging personal experiences and are now committed to raising awareness about the serious challenges teens face and starting a dialogue that will help other teens.”
Fortunately every story comes with a happy ending. Vasquez is now a 4.0 junior at Scriber Lake High School, and holds the record of 1,001 sit-ups performed in a single session. Stephanie Tangedahl – the girl with the meth-addicted father – plans to become a dental hygienist and, in her words, “make a difference in peoples’ mouths.” To find out what happens to Kayla, you need to read the book.