When a Georgetown professor recommended Camryn Cobb that she write a book, she pondered: “What do I know the most about that I can write an entire book on?”
She then realized—herself.
At 20, Cobb was working toward her graduate degree in applied consumer analytics when she received an unexpected notification on LinkedIn from the Georgetown professor. He had read her personal blog, where she frequently posted opinion-piece articles on a myriad of issues such as climate change, legalization of marijuana, Gen Z, etc.
Cobb couldn’t tell if this message was real or not, but hesitantly replied. Little did Cobb know writing her novel would unlock memories she kept hidden in the depths of her mind for years.
“I started to figure out how to get myself to recall those memories,” said Cobb, now a 23-year-old Ph.D student at the University of Georgia. “I was trying to transport myself to those times and began journaling, then [I’d] go back to edit and turn into a story.”
Two years ago, Cobb published her first book titled To Hear a Girls Screams; A Memoir of Dreams and Insights, where she recollects her childhood days growing up as a biracial girl in a city just off the coast of Georgia near St. Simons and Jekyll Island called Brunswick.
As of 2022, 14,629 Georgia residents reside in Brunswick. The coastal city has a predominantly Black population making up 60.2 percent of the overall city demographic with 29.7 percent being of the white race.
There is a clear racial divide between white and Black residents with tensions continuing to escalate after the racially motivated murder of Ahuad Arbury in February 2020.
“I remember, in sixth grade, within the first few weeks, we’d have these race wars,” Cobb said.
Her book stressed the overall growing pains in her childhood and her encounters with racism as she navigated through her identity, social life, education and future within her small community.
Cobb’s noted traumatic experiences in grade school reflect a critical issue that affects many Black children who undergo racism in the school system. According to Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, a study showed that “97% of Black students reported experiencing at least one discriminatory event over two weeks among a nationally representative sample of Black American adolescents.” These instances of discrimination can be associated with an increase of depression and distress among Black children starting at a young age.
Cobb emphasizes at many points in her novel how in school, she was labeled by her peers as the often offended, bitter biracial girl because she spoke against racist, misogynistic statements.
The presidential election in 2016 was a hard truth for Cobb as political beliefs were at the forefront of conversations between her closest friends and classmates. President Donald Trump’s victory lewd to Cobb losing many friendships. “That’s when I started to kind of lose all those friendships, the more I centered politics in my life,” Cobb said. “I pissed everybody off.”
While these insults never affected Cobb, she recalled one instance that “took things too far.” In her book she states her “face was photoshopped on a woman who was picking corn and cotton, reminding me of the Black girl I was to them—not half white, mixed or biracial.”
Journey of healing
Erin Jones, licensed therapist and premier consultant, states while in her practice anxiety, depression and poor boundaries are the main mental issues she witnessed among Black women that ventures off into different themes and experiences.
In Cobb’s experiences, her healing journey started when she put her pen to paper and journaled all the distressing issues she encountered in school. Cobb referenced how addressing these issues brought awareness to her life, but only till after high school she realized how unsettling her situation was.
Expression is a therapeutic process of healing emotional trauma, stress and everyday problems one experiences by using some art form such as writing, painting, singing and more. No thorough research has yet to be conducted to support writing therapy.
According to The British Journal of Practice, “writing may facilitate cognitive processing of traumatic memories, resulting in more adaptive, integrated representations about the writer, their world and others.”
“Expression is everything because the feelings sitting inside of you causes not just mental distress, but physical illness as well,” Jones said.
Historically, people from all walks of life turned to writing as a therapeutic outlet to voice their everyday life experiences.
Some of the most notable Black women authors—Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, Nikki Giovanni and many more—created a collective consciousness by communicating their own experiences through writing.
Cobb referenced how she draws inspiration from Giovanni, Morrison and Lorde by taking courses within the African American Diaspora Program at UGA to better understand her culture and grow as a writer.
“[Giovanni, Morrison and Lorde] are telling me what it is, everything that I’m feeling and saying, they’ve been saying for decades,” Cobb said.
After Cobb’s book was published in 2020, people from her hometown reached out to her and continue to do so, speaking highly of her work. Cobb noted how she was scared of the scrutiny she would face once her book was published and the reaction of people from her hometown.
Cobb said many of the girls who reached out to her said they were relieved to find out they were not alone in their experience and things do get better.
“After I [published] the book, it just came so clear to me that this was supposed to happen,” Cobb said.
“[Expression] is just a vehicle to help you get it out,” Jones said. “It’s a vehicle that if you choose to share it, that could potentially bring some healing to others.”
Girls from her hometown currently in high and middle school reached out to her and saw themselves in her story, undergoing the same experiences she faced at that age.
“I wanted people to see themselves and really anyone to see themselves in my story,” Cobb said.