Author Jennifer Finney Boylan visited ASL the week of November 11 as part of the Bergeron Fellow Program, where an author in residence is invited for a week at the school. The Bergeron Fellow Program, which began 24 years ago, consists of the author working with English classes on student writing, a Professional Development component with middle and high school faculty, as well as a public lecture by the author.
Boylan is an author of 16 books, a transgender activist, and a professor at Barnard College, where she teaches courses in fiction and non fiction writing, as well as a course in writing revision. To add to this, Boylan is a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, where she writes about a variety of topics, mostly including LGBTQ issues.
Throughout the school week, Boylan participated in many events; mainly, she went to High School English teacher Ms. Alissa Mear’s class Gender in Literature to discuss her book She’s Not There. In these discussions, students discussed identity and which parts of peoples’ identities define them as a person, as well as analyzing Boylan’s writing in the book.
Boylan also gave assemblies to the middle school and high school, met with high school journalism students and the social justice council, and met with middle schoolers at a lunch drop in. At these events, the main message that she wanted to convey was that, even though it may seem challenging, you can find the courage and love that you need to become yourself, as well as the message that life will always get better.
Boylan said, “… In a bigger sense, I want people to know that it can be hard to find your true self but with love you can do it. You can find your courage to become yourself, and it is something I think we all go through. In some ways I am less concerned about talking about transgender experience than I am in terms of telling people to find their courage and to become themselves even when it seems hard.”
For her, these messages relate strongly to her past life experiences. In a middle school assembly on November 13, Boylan read a story she wrote called In The Early Morning Rain. The story is about a trip that she took to Nova Scotia in her twenties, where she was extremely sad and was questioning her identity as a male. Despite this sadness, a voice in her mind gave her the sense that love would prevail if she hung on a bit longer and that life would get better.
In terms of her favorite activities that she participated in at ASL, Boylan really enjoyed meeting with middle school students during a lunch recess to answer questions as they were curious and gave her hope for the future. She also enjoyed meeting with the high school journalism students as she enjoyed talking about writing with them and found many common interests.
In general, Boylan really enjoyed her time at ASL and found it to be a great fit for her. She said, “Everyone has been very welcoming to me and has seemed very interested in what I had to say.”