There’s nothing more moving than celebrating the New Year (belated) with a story that captures the spirit of madness, resilience, and hope. With great pleasure, we kick off 2023 with a Q&A with Beverly J. Armento, the author of the memoir, “Seeing Eye Girl: A Memoir of Madness, Resilience, and Hope.”
TMW: First, I would like to congratulate you on winning the Most Moving Book 2023 Award. How are you feeling?
Beverly: I’m most honored that Seeing Eye Girl was selected as the Most Moving Book in 2023; I thank you for this acknowledgment and recognition.
TMW: Seeing Eye Girl is your first book to the general public. How did the idea come to you when writing your story, and why did you feel it was necessary to share something so personal?
Beverly: I always wanted to tell the story of my early years, the years with Momma. However, my many years as an educator took my entire focus, as it should have, and I really didn’t have extra time on my hands. Upon retirement, I began taking Creative Non-Fiction classes, and soon several chapters started to take shape. Pretty soon, I had the makings of a memoir. All during this time, I was an active member of writing critique groups, where my colleagues gave each other important feedback on our writing.
My memoir is really a case study of one person living in a chronically abusive environment during the childhood years; the fact is, there are many, many people like me, who had or are currently living through Adverse Childhood Experiences. Such trauma leads to problems in adulthood if untreated. I hoped to shine a light on these issues, as they play out in modern times and on the important role of adult mentors in the lives of vulnerable children.
TMW: One of the reasons why we selected Seeing Eye Girl as the Most Moving Book of the year was because you weren’t afraid to be vulnerable with your story. Nevertheless, the message of hope still rings true in the book’s pages.
Additionally, I’ve read your interview with Sanctuary Magazine and how you mentioned school as your sanctuary. Is providing sanctuary a reason you became a teacher? What other reasons are there?
Beverly: I appreciate your saying that about being vulnerable yet hopeful. In a memoir, the author must be honest and open. This may be difficult especially when discussing issues that are generally not openly discussed. Hope is always important, if you want there to be a tomorrow. For me, much of my hope was found in school and church, safe places where I was nurtured and allowed to express my personality, ask questions, and be a leader. In school I was Strong Beverly. I loved school and my teachers, and decided I wanted to be like my teachers: I wanted to be the one to encourage children, to empower them to be strong and capable. In part, I wanted to reflect the lessons my teachers taught me, and to pass on their lessons to the next generation.
TMW: I know you’re a retired professor now, but looking back as a teacher, what did you hope to provide to your students?
Beverly: I hoped to inspire my students to love learning, love being in school. I hoped to nurture them to dream, to think big, to envision themselves as successful, capable adults one day. I wanted each child to feel that they had great ideas, that they were important, strong individuals. As a teacher educator at the University level, my goal was to inspire prospective educators to think the same way: that they had chosen an important profession and that everything they did and said in the classroom had an effect on children.
TMW: Even though Seeing Eye Girl is your first book, it left such an impact. The sad truth is that childhood abuse is still prevalent in many societies. What message can you impart to students or young adults who may be going through the same things you did?
Beverly: In the ideal world, school, sports, and religious institutions would be safe havens for all children and each child would have at least one respected adult mentor who could encourage and guide the child. In the ideal world, there would be mental health services available to young people as well as adults who harbor childhood trauma. I’d like to see us, as a society, and as a planet, strive toward such an ideal world, one where each child lives in safe, wholesome, and nurturing environments.
TMW: Many children who have undergone abuse may seek comfort in the pages of a book. How important is it for young people to stay hopeful during the dark times of their lives?
Beverly: Resilience and Hope are so important to a child’s survival. Both of these attitudes/skills can be “taught” to young people. There is enough research now on trauma that implications can be drawn for practice. I’d like to see more of this work going on in schools on a regular basis. Please see my website: beverlyarmentoauthor.com for my Blog (starting by March) in which I’ll discuss these topics in more detail.
TMW: Now that you’re retired and living a happier life, do you have any more plans to continue writing?
Beverly: Indeed! I’m currently working on a second memoir, and I intend to use my Blog as a means to continue the discourse on Adverse Childhood Experiences and the important role of educators.
TMW: Thank you for giving us the time to do this Q & A with you. It’s been a pleasure to be in contact with you. After reading the book, I can’t help but feel moved to develop resilience, which many readers have also felt. Once again, congratulations on winning The Most Moving Book Award!
Beverly: Thank you so much for this opportunity. Again, please do follow me on my website: beverlyarmentoauthor.com and on Facebook: @Beverly Jeanne Armento. Thanks to all the readers who have or will read Seeing Eye Girl. I appreciate you!