This Nonprofit Supporting Teens From Underserved Communities Just Released an Anthology — and It's an Essential Summer Read

The collection showcases the work of New York City teens from underserved communities who are mentored by professional writers.

Book cover for Girls Write Now Anthology for 2022
Photo: Courtesy of Girls Write Now

Now more than ever before, women's voices from underserved communities are in need of being uplifted — and the nonprofit Girls Write Now has been long committed to that mission by mentoring teens from New York City's public school system to express themselves through the written word. The result of its most recent program is the anthology "Taking Root: the Girls Write Now 2022 Anthology," out now, filled with creative writing from its young writers on the topics resonating with them during this challenging time.

"This anthology is a catalog of seeds — the work of a network of young writers and mentors, each cultivating a shimmering, emergent voice," the organization's founder and executive director Maya Nussbaum told Travel + Leisure of this anthology's theme. "For the past two years, today's youth and young adults have weathered an adolescence shaped by an ongoing global pandemic. Throughout it all, they have found new ways to build community and take root."

Taking form as personal essays, short stories, and poetry in both fiction and nonfiction genres, the topics range from friendship and heartbreak to self-care and intergenerational relationships.

"Roots allow for living beings to journey into our past and forward into the future, toward and away from home, and enable us to withstand the storms that invariably pass through," Nussbaum said, adding that the overall theme includes reflection of "endurance, change, and growth."

While the organization releases an anthology of its mentees' writing annually, this year's stands out from its predecessors. "'Taking Root' teems with the raw emotions, opinions, hopes, dreams, and fears from the next generation — fresh off the pandemic," Nussbaum explained. "And the world is taking note. We have sold out our limited-edition first-print run. But new copies are on the way — these are voices that must be heard — stories that will change minds, heal communities, and impact the way we live our lives and understand ourselves." A limited number of copies are available now through Books are Magic (as well as pre-orders on McNally Jackson) for $20.

The book features a forward by Grammy-nominated musician and anti-bigotry activist Allison Russell, who said to "never underestimate the power of a story," while Penguin Random House CEO Madeline McIntosh writes in the introduction, "It looks like ours will be a world in which we sorely need new leadership, and I'm so grateful to Girls Write Now for everything they're doing to empower it."

Nussbaum launched Girls Write Now in 1998, centered around its writing mentorship program. "At a time when the voices of women-identifying, trans, and gender-expansive youth and young adults are under increasingly violent and direct assault, Girls Write Now prepares to enter its 25th season of advocacy and opportunity," she told T+L. The group currently works with 90% youth of color, 90% in high need, 75% immigrant or first generation, and 25% who identify as LGBTQ+ and gender-expansive.

"For 25 years, Girls Write Now has been amplifying transformative stories that break down the barriers of gender, race, age and poverty," she said of the first program of its kind, which has been lauded for its impact on social-emotional growth for its participants.

"Our work has never been more important," Nussbaum said, quoting the words of late writer and activist Gloria Jean Watkins (who went by the pseudonym bell hooks): "No Black woman writer in this culture can write 'too much.' Indeed, no woman writer can write 'too much.' No woman has ever written enough."

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