Teenage girls face a number of challenges, from learning to navigate the approaching adult world to reconciling relationships with one another. Each face these obstacles with different outlooks and experiences.
For the Smith sisters, these challenges became the inspiration for books for other girls like them.
Donna, Shannon, Charity, Faith and their mother Patrice Smith have co-authored not one, but two, young adolescent chapter books entitled “The Struggle Books,” published by Real Food is Real Good LLC. Each installment is focused on the daily struggles of four sisters, stuggles much like the ones the Smith sisters and their peers face everyday.
“In many ways the books reflect the girls’ lives,” Patrice Smith said.
During their summer vacations, Patrice Smith asked her four girls to do the one thing all kids expect to leave behind over break: homework.
“Our mom made us write and do math over the summer so we wouldn’t forget what we learned during the school year, said 11-year-old Faith Smith, the youngest of the sisters. We complained about having to write, so she said, ‘write about what you complain about’ …then we started writing a book.”
The project took off from there, with each of the girls creating her own character and being in charge of her story. While having five authors might seem chaotic, the Smith family embraced the challenge.
“Each person contributed their perspective on different situations and everyone got three chapters to write. We would sit down together and brainstorm and write down ideas,” said Shannon Smith, 14.
What came out of those sessions was the first book, “The Struggle: Mom and the Summertime Blues.” It took several editing processes and countless hours, but the four young authors had something to show for all their summer homework.
“The most important part of this project was to teach the girls how to have an idea and turn it into something tangible. Their father and I wanted them to be able to use this experience in their futures to teach them the process of starting and finishing a project,” Patrice Smith said.
But the girls weren't done. When they returned to school, they realized just how much more there was to write about in the lives of four teenagers, particularly four young African American protagonists.
“We continued with this process because the girls love to read, but when I asked them if they could think of funny, advanced reader books with African American girls as main characters, they couldn’t,” Patrice Smith said.
Patrice Smith noted that so many books about young African American women center around slavery or abuse. She wanted her daughters, and the many girls like them, to have a different perspective about what life can be like.
“We decided to write books that showed that African American kids are funny too,” Patrice Smith said.
The second book centers around the four characters dealing with a classic teenage problem: sharing a bathroom. Fittingly, the second book is titled, “The Struggle: 4 Girls & 1 Bathroom” and picks up right where the first book left off.
“In the second book, we focused more on our lives at school. We talked more about our teachers and friends along with different people that we interacted with throughout the year,” said Donna Smith, 16, the oldest of the sisters.
After the books were published, the girls became somewhat of local celebrities, with teachers reading the books to their students to the girls holding book signings at their church.
So what’s next for the series and its young authors?
“We hope to possibly write a third book to finish out The Struggle Books series and work together again to write a Christian-like dystopian novel,” said 13-year old Charity Smith.
While the experience has taken a lot of hard work and determination, the Smiths are proud of all they’ve accomplished.
“You have to put in the work if you want the results. We hope this project will encourage and inspire other kids to achieve greatness and to not be afraid of hard work,” Patrice Smith said.
The books are available at www.amazon.com.