Q&A: Michigan Notable Books author Sharon Emery

Sharon Emery (Courtesy)

Three Rivers Public Library will be hosting Michigan Notable Books author Sharon Emery on Tuesday, May 9 for a talk and book signing celebrating Emery’s newly-released memoir It’s Hard Being You: A Primer On Being Happy Anyway.

Emery’s book depicts the extraordinary challenges she has conquered in her life — first her fight to overcome her incurable and severe stutter, and then the extreme grief she experienced after the death of her daughter. It’s Hard Being You is a dive into how Emery not only survived these tragic and challenging events, but how she took that pain and learned to thrive. 

In the memoir’s foreword, former NFL player Steve Gleason provides an introduction to what we can gain from what we lose. Gleason played for the New Orleans Saints and has lived with ALS for more than 10 years. Through the Team Gleason foundation he now advocates for people with incurable and debilitating diseases. 

According to Emery’s website, It’s Hard Being You is her way of recounting her challenges and achievements while giving them meaning and finding where they fit in her life. Emery says this process is what she considers “vital” to surviving what happens to you — telling the story. Readers will learn what Emery wants her children to understand about life’s losses and the “limits that keep happening, despite our desperate attempts to avoid them.”

Emery received her B.A. from Wayne State University, has an M.S. from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. and was a Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. With more than 20 years in journalism, including editing at the Capital Bureau of Booth Newspapers (now Mlive), Emery also taught journalism for nearly a decade at Michigan State University. Emery is a former chair of the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition Board, and considers equal rights for people with disabilities one of the nation’s unfulfilled promises.

For more on It’s Hard Being You: A Primer on Being Happy Anyway, Watershed Voice interviewed Emery:

Beca Welty (BW): Can you explain what the process of writing this memoir was like for you? What led you to the decision to put your experiences down on paper? 

Sharon Emery (SE): So many things had happened to me that had made my life wonderfully full, even though those things were not, in themselves, wonderful. Somehow, adversity had enriched my life. I wanted my children to know that a full life requires processing the experience of both the good and the bad.

BW: Where do you believe you have found your resilience and strength?

SE: Along the way, we all need at least one stable, supporting person to help us through. I was lucky to have the parents I did, although they were far from perfect, and a full cast of people and family that I sought out – including my longtime life partner – to stand with me.

BW: How have adversities (both in your life and those you love) shaped you? 

SE: Life’s challenges give us great perspective on all of our experiences.  In a way they enhance our experience of the world, although we need support as we make that journey.

BW: What do you believe is the difference between surviving and thriving?

SE: Thriving is the next step beyond surviving. First, we have to make it through what befalls us, we have to survive. But then we have to make the leap into the new world that survival offers; then we can thrive.

BW: What do you hope your memoir will invoke for those who read it?

SE: I hope readers will see that the limits they face and the losses they suffer do come to some good, if they can figure out how those events fit into the story of their life. What do you want your life story to be? Then try with all your might to live it.

Emery’s talk and book signing will be at the Three Rivers Public Library on Tuesday, May 9, at 6 p.m. Library director Bobbi Schoon will introduce Emery who will then give a short talk about the memoir and answer audience questions. Seats may be reserved ahead of time on the library’s website. “On my book tour, the Q&A sessions have been great, so I’m really looking forward to this,” Emery told Watershed Voice.

Beca Welty is a staff writer and columnist for Watershed Voice.