Traditional New Orleans norms often depict mothers, grandmothers and aunts cooking alongside one another in the kitchen, while expressing and sharing a range of emotions and conversations.
Atlanta transplant Erica Miller, a public relations-turned-engineering executive, has now added writer and published author to her list of endeavors. Earlier this year, Miller released her first book, titled “Gumbo: Ingredients of Being a Woman.”
A lover of New Orleans food, culture and people, Miller said she chose Louisiana’s official state cuisine, “gumbo,” as the title of her first literary offering as an extended metaphor for the experiences of women.
A collection of short stories and poetry, “Gumbo: Ingredients of Being a Woman,” Miller said the book represents a unique mixture of good, bad, hurtful, exciting and terrifying experiences women encounter.
“Gumbo” explores a number of vignettes that range from being a single mother, insecurities of women, domestic violence, sexual abuse, life-threatening diseases, suicide, love, trust, dishonesty, friendships and women looking for love in all the wrong places.
In fact, “Gumbo” is Miller’s inspirational message for women, so they will understand that they are not alone in their life journeys.
“Each experience is an ingredient,” Miller explained. “Every woman makes up her own ‘gumbo.’”
Born on the southside of Chicago, and despite having twins at the age of 15, Miller went on to pursue her dreams of attending Tennessee State University.
After obtaining her Bachelors of Arts, she received a job offer in Atlanta to work in entertainment.
Leaning on her advertising and marketing skills, Miller worked as a booking agent with Block Entertainment for artists such as Jacquees and Gorilla Zoe.
Miller also assisted Sharon M. Tomlinson, CEO and founder of Blueprint 4 Hollywood, as an executive assistant.
Miller has since transitioned from working in entertainment to working in corporate America as an engineer.
After writing and taking notes for about six years, Miller said it took her a little over a year to collectively write and publish “Gumbo.”
“It’s a blessing to me, knowing people are connecting well with ‘Gumbo,’” Miller said. “I’m always here to help. I feel like it’s my calling and purpose for being here.”
“I just wanted to put out my art, even if it was only five people who read it,” she continued. “If it meant something to them, that is what’s important to me.”
Miller pointed to the short story, “I Stayed,” as one that is the most important to her among others she shared in “Gumbo.” The story speaks to the current phenomenon of women surgically altering their bodies, she said.
“In society today, everyone is going through that,” she said. “If you look on social media, women are completely changing their image for ‘likes’ and love. We’re making the outside look better, but not the inside. The inside is broken.”
In “I Stayed,” the story’s protagonist has not only become aware of the infidelities and dishonesty of her boyfriend, but she is also subjected to physical abuse by him.
The protagonist concludes that in order for her boyfriend to value and respect her, she must change certain aspects of herself, such as the frequency in which she has sex with him, her weight and her hairstyles. She must also finalize a decision to have her breasts surgically enhanced or not.
Miller also highlighted the lack of self-love amongst women today. “Women continuously tend to fall victim to abusive and toxic relationships,” she said.
Without utilizing promotional techniques to market her book, Miller was presented with the opportunity to have “Gumbo” distributed by Barnes & Noble, Inc. worldwide.
In addition to Barnes & Noble, “Gumbo: Ingredients of Being a Woman” can be purchased on Amazon and Kindle as well.
Miller also plans to follow this book up with “Gumbo: Ingredients of Being a Woman 2.0,” which will include additional poetry and short stories.
Associating much of her success to walking in her life’s purpose, Miller said, “I think it’s about knowing where you want to go, and doing what you have to so you can get there.”
Because she is passionate about mentoring, Miller has also created an organization, Grit, Grace and Glow, in order to uplift women and teenage girls in the greater Atlanta area.