Flint woman founds national women's group Pretty TOUGH, pens anthology 'Not Damaged'

FLINT, Michigan—Esha Wooten, 22, a woman, mother, author, and creator of Pretty TOUGH Women’s Empowerment Group, gives platform to individual voices and celebrates women’s stories and their power. 

Her anthology, “Not Damaged” creates a place for the authors’ personal accounts of stillbirths, domestic violence, and familial abuse — with or without happy endings. Each of the book’s 14 chapters is a window into a woman’s most vulnerable moments, Wooten explained. 

Each is separate, but also connected. Wooten herself pens two of the books’ chapters, detailing two instances of childhood rape.

The book and Wooten’s advocacy work are inspired by her core belief that experiencing trauma doesn’t ruin someone’s whole life story — although it seems to buck popular opinion. “They all feel like we all turn out really, really bad,” said Wooten. “Like, yes, it was a negative situation, but my life doesn’t have to be negative.”

Wooten, a 2015 graduate of Flint Southwestern Academy, always used writing as a way to escape. Even in elementary school she would create little magazines complete with her own stories and illustrations. 

It was a way to connect to herself and writing would eventually be her way of connecting to other people.

After long hours scrolling through social media, Wooten realized that it sometimes was an outlet for women to share their emotions, feelings of isolation, and stories. She then realized that by sharing her own story, she could help other women feel less alone. 

In 2017, Wooten created Pretty TOUGH Women’s Empowerment Group on Facebook to bring women together to support one another. The following year, it inspired her to take on the book project. 
“Everyone doesn’t have diaries anymore … so this is really the way people decide to vent,” Wooten said. 

To compile the book, Wooten reached out to the Facebook group asking for stories. Eventually, 12 women joined Wooten and agreed to also write their stories to the project. For the next 8 months, Wooten devoted late nights to editing as well as changing names and details to suit the anonymity of each author. 

It was difficult work, often requiring emotional breaks for her to deal with the tragic nature of each story before continuing to edit and read. Along the way, she was supported and motivated by the authors who asked for feedback and progress reports on the book project. 

“Not Damaged” was self published earlier this year — but in some ways it is a not yet completed book. It features a unique opportunity for readers to also be a part of the book. Chapter 15 is left blank, an opportunity for readers to add their own testimony. 

Keeping with Wooten’s goal of showing that tragedy doesn’t have to define one’s life, each chapter ends with an italicized quote from the anonymous contributors telling of how their lives changed for the better. 

“Not Damaged” is sold through Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and iTunes. Wooten also is a frequent guest at women empowerment events, where copies of the book also are sold. 

And, plans already are in the works for Wooten’s next book, another anthology, this one compiling transgendered and immigration parent-seperation stories.  

For more information, visit https://prettytoughwe.wordpress.com/

Read more articles by Alexandria Brown.

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