Every generation discovers its voice, and perhaps today’s 20-somethings can find a friend in Nicole Asherah. An artist and poet, she has penned her debut book to critical acclaim from Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly Booklife, and Clarion Foreword. She focuses on the gritty and conflicting emotional process involved with healing in her powerful, moving debut book, A Life Cycle: A Guide to Healing and Rediscovering Yourself (March 14, 2022).
While many would consider Nicole young at only 22 years old, she carries the wisdom of many lifetimes lived. Based on Nicole’s journal from three years ago when she was 19, A Life Cycle
takes us through a full year of transformation in
her life after being sexually assaulted, revealing
hope for a new generation.
I have had a chance to get to Nicole, as I am
promoting her to the media, I am deeply impressed
with her ability to take her personal experiences
and convey them to others in a way that her
writings are really about the reader, and not
Below is a thoughtful and provocative interview
what inspired you to write your debut book, A Life Cycle? A Life Cycle was inspired by one of the darkest years of
my life. I never planned on writing a book while I was writing it. I
simply was writing poetry in my journal throughout the year like I always
do. The book begins in February 2019 when I started backpacking around
East Asia. After about a month and a half of traveling, I arrived in Lombok, Indonesia, for a volunteer homestay helping children learn English. On my second day, I was sexually assaulted by the local man I was staying with who had created this program. My sexual assault brought all these wounds from childhood to the surface in more vivid detail than ever before. The four sections of A Life Cycle follow the year of my life after my sexual assault. I didn't know who I was or what I wanted most of the time but by writing these poems, going to therapy, and releasing old trauma, I became a person I never imagined I could be. I became a person I am so incredibly proud of. The truth is I felt so alone during this process of transformation which is why I decided to publish A Life Cycle. There have been many books in my life that have given me the words I needed just when I needed them but there was nothing for me during this dark period of transformation. I know that my words can now offer something I lacked for others who are experiencing any kind of emotional turmoil and deep change.
- What challenges did you overcome or
confront to pen your book? If
we are speaking in the technical realm, finding a publicist seemed
impossible for weeks; formatting my book was one problem after the next;
and hiring people to work with caused me to learn a lot about how to set
good boundaries in work relationships. If we are speaking mentally, the
last year of putting my book together made me have to truly learn to
believe in myself and value what I bring to the world. It also made me
learn to ask for help from others. I put a massive amount of work into A
Life Cycle, but it would never have become anything without all the
work my family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances put into it.
- One of your poems reads: “Kindness
will leak through. Humanity is most beautiful when we could choose to be
our worst but decide to be our best.” Can you elaborate on what you mean
here? I think people forget balance
exists in the universe for a reason. It is a concept that I dive into
throughout A Life Cycle. Pain exists because there was happiness.
Happiness exists because there was pain. We can never fully appreciate an
experience until we understand the work it takes to get there. In the last
few years, there has been so much pain and despair throughout the world
that people want to remark on. But on the other side, there has been a
boom in pregnancies, community mutual aid, the citizens of different
nations banding together against worldwide injustices. Despite how twisted
and cruel humans can be at times, we always band together for survival as
a species. This makes us beautiful.
- A number of your passages revolve
around pain. How do you handle pain?
It would be silly to say I
enjoy pain because no part of me wants to experience pain, but I have
learned to accept pain for what it is: a chance to do better. I find
myself falling into different kinds of sadness, anxiety, and loneliness
all the time. When I find myself slipping into these states of mind, I try
to pause and discover what it is I am truly lacking. Negative emotions
simply mean there is something we are still yearning for in our hearts. I
see it as a chance to both become a better version of myself and be better
to myself. Pain is inevitable but what is infinite is the way we can learn
- You also touch upon the theme of
forgiveness. Are you referring to forgiving others – or ourselves? I
am referring to both. During “The Healing”, I was at some of the worst
points in my relationships with family members. I was tearing them apart,
so they could learn to treat me better and I could learn to forgive them.
But I am always a person learning to forgive herself at her core. At our
core, humans will either tend towards blaming themselves or blaming
others. I was someone who
always blamed myself. I still do. I don’t think we are taught growing up
how to acknowledge mistakes and apologize and accept the consequences
well. I think it’s why so many of the good or bad actions adults take are
spurred from guilt.
- And, with pain and forgiveness, can
healing follow? Of
course, but I don’t think it has to be so linear. This is what I tried to
show in my book. No one wakes up one day and forgives themselves and is
healed. Your pains have been ignored and layered on top of each other to
coalesce into who you are. This means healing is a process of stripping
back beliefs you had and ways it has leaked into all facets of your life.
I worry people are too hard on themselves when trying to heal but I also
worry that people want a quick fix that will never happen. Life is messy.
You cannot witness such high highs without lows. Life needs balance.
- Two lines from your book seem to not
only summarize how you feel as a young woman lost in a complex world but
are perhaps how many of us feel? “I don’t know how to save the world. I
don’t even know how to save myself.”
- As a young woman who has been
through some real-life challenges, do you feel you can be the voice for
other women – or as an inspiration to others? No,
I am not nor will I ever be the voice for women because there isn’t one
voice. There should never be one voice. No man gets asked if they are the
voice of men because that sounds absurd. Yet anytime a member of a marginalized community tries
to claim their systematic struggle as a portion of their identity, people
try to make them the voice for systematic problems. I am happy to be an
inspiration to people. I didn’t have many inspirations growing up because
everyone seemed to have such simple stories. I could never relate. I
always felt complicated. If I can make people feel less alone and afraid
of the intricacies of their life then I would most certainly love to.
- Your book is inspired by the healing
process after trauma. For you, the specific trauma was your sexual
assault. Do you think this book is specifically for sexual assault
survivors? No, not at all. While I think
sexual assault survivors would find my book a great friend and tool during
their healing process, I think this book is meant for everyone. I know
trauma is such a trigger word, but the literal definition is a deeply
distressing or disturbing experience. I would be shocked if there is one
person on earth that hasn’t had a deeply distressing experience. This book
is for anyone who has been hurt; anyone who is healing; anyone who is
learning to find joy in life; anyone who is learning to love. A Life
Cycle isn’t really about me and what I went through, it is about what
everyone goes through.
For more information, please consult: www.nicoleasherah.com
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