Jessica N. Crutcher was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio. At an early age Jessica started writing poetry and short stories. By the time Jessica had reached high school she knew that writing was her passion. When Jessica turned 19 she moved to Chicago, Illinois where she pursued a degree in Playwriting at Columbia College Chicago. During her time at Columbia she explored various writing styles and genres.
It wasn't until years later that Jessica had the idea to write a children's book based on her childhood experiences dealing with colorism, bullying, and self-acceptance. Inspired by her own experiences she published her first book in July of 2016 with Outskirts Press titled, I Love Me and the Skin I'm In.
Jessica's hope is to encourage young girls to love themselves no matter what obstacles they may come across, including bullying. "As women we can be very critical of ourselves and others. There are times where we may project our own insecurities onto others in an effort to feel better about ourselves. It is this negativity that is picked up by those closest to us. It is our responsibility to teach young girls to be confident, strong, educated women who are beautiful on the inside as much as the outside."
I Love Me and the Skin I'm in is your first children’s book --- congratulations! What did it feel like to bring your first book to publication?
When I first received notice that my book had been released I cried. I was completely overwhelmed, happy, and nervous all at the same time. I couldn’t believe that my dreams had become my reality. It was one of the proudest moments of my life.
Growing up did you always want to be a writer?
Yes. When I was in middle school we were asked to complete a poetry assignment. It was at that time that I realized how much I like poetry and writing in general. As I got older my writing style changed, but I knew that writing was my calling.
Your book helps children and their parents deal with a very sensitive issue: Bullying. What made you decide to tackle this subject in children’s books rather than a book for adults?
I believe that self-esteem starts at an early age. While bullying has been going on for ages, we are starting to see children handle bullying in a much more destructive way. From school shootings, to suicides we are seeing our children suffer and even die from the pressures of being bullied. Having experienced bullying myself I felt it was only right to speak on such a serious matter, and provide encouragement to young children.
How can books be used to address bullying among young children?
I think books can be used as a resource when addressing difficult life circumstances. Proving children with examples of bullying in books can show them how to handle situations they may experience in real life.
I read online that I Love Me and the Skin Im in was written based on your own personal experiences growing up. What were you like as a child? How did your childhood experiences inspire I Love Me and the Skin Im in?
I Love Me and the Skin I’m In, is loosely based on my childhood experiences. When I was in elementary school, the kids would bully me for having lighter skin. They would assume that I was mixed. Since I had the same complexion as all the mixed kids, it wasn’t easy defending myself. At one point, I started to believe they were right and my parents were wrong. In my book, I made sure that my main character spoke to her mom and teacher about the bullying she experienced. I choose to have the character handle the situation the way I should have handled it in real life. I was shy, and I didn’t speak up at times when I should have. Through my book, I hope to encourage kids who may be scared, shy or even embarrassed to have the courage to speak up when they are being bullied. I also want people to understand that the bullying I experienced is known as colorism. Colorism affects many communities, causing a divide between those that have a lighter complexion versus those that have a darker complexion. Talking about this issue, and explaining to our children that they are beautiful just the way they are will help to build their self-esteem even if they experience bullying.
Can you tell us about some of the responses you’ve gotten about I Love Me and the Skin I'm in—either from kids or adults, bullies or bullied?
So far, I have received positive feedback from both adults and children. Most have expressed that they experienced similar situations, and they truly relate to the characters in my book.
Bullying is a complex topic; but for someone who might be reading this right now, who may be experiencing bullying but doesn’t know what to do, or hasn’t found the courage to speak out, what is one piece of advice you would give to them?
Love yourself. If you love yourself, you will have the strength to stand up and speak out against those who are bullying you. Don’t allow anyone to lower your self-esteem. Hold your head high and rise above the negativity.
Besides tackling the challenges of bullying, what do you hope young readers will take away from reading your book?
My hope is to encourage young readers to love themselves. Too often we focus on building self-esteem later in life, but I believe it starts at an early age. If we teach children how to love themselves, they will be able to successfully handle difficult situations like bullying.
Are you working on another children’s book?
If so, can you tell us anything about it? You’ll have to wait and see.
Love yourself no matter what others say. Follow Jessica on her journey to understanding what it means to love yourself despite how others may view you. See how Jessica handles the challenges of bullying, and learns to love the skin she is in.
Available in Paperback online at Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Outskirts Press and Books A Million. Also, available in Kindle format at Amazon.