“My teenage years I was stabbed in the leg with a compass, set on fire, threatened to get punched in my face on numerous occasions,” says Felicia Clark. “I’ve had some really difficult times in my life and I want to let everybody know my story. And with all of the things that are going on right now, I simply want to empower other people. This is a story that has no color to it. Bullying, depression, suicidal thoughts, abusive households … these are universal problems.”
Clark is brutally honest about everything that has happened in her life story in the book she recently wrote titled “Forgive Yourself, Felicia.” The book is a woman’s journey through chronic disease (myasthenia gravis), traumatic abuse, bullying, suicidal feelings, and the struggles of single parenting. And more. So much more.
The official book launch event for the “Forgive Yourself, Felicia” will take place Saturday, Oct. 28, at Hotel Red in downtown Madison. The event is free and open to the public. Trilogy and Isaac Hill will perform and there will be local representatives from Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) and The Boys & Girls Club who will speak at the event. Clark says that there will be vendors at the book release party including from The Rape Crisis Center, Reflections of Us, CocoaBean & Co., Custom Creations Ceramic Tile By Deneen, and Sincerely Makayla Bath, Body and Mind.
The book launch is a very exciting ordeal for Clark who says that she has always been very passionate about writing.
“I wrote my first story at the age of 5. So I’ve always been a writer,” Clark tells Madison365. “I have a chronic illness – myasthenia gravis – and I’ve spent my days reading and writing poetry and other stuff. It’s always been a big part of my life.
“I was collaborating on a woman’s empowerment book titled ‘Women Thriving Fearlessly, Vol. 2” and I thought to myself, this would be a great story. So, I sat down to write about neurology and talk about myasthenia gravis,” Clark continues. “As I’m writing down stuff, I thought to myself: I’ve had this [myasthenia gravis] since I was 5 years old. Let me talk about living with this since I was 5 … and all of a sudden it just went from there and I began to write about bullying, loneliness, suicidal thoughts and growing up in a household with abuse.”
Clark, a single mother with two sons and a daughter – all teenagers, says that the book took her about three months to write. “I’d probably still be writing this right now if it wasn’t for Erika Gilchrist, she is a mentor of mine and she helped me quite a bit,” Clark says.
The book covers her childhood in New York and Chicago and also in Madison. She was raised by a father originally from the Bedford–Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn and a mother from the west side of Chicago so, she says, information was always given to her open and frank or “straight with no chaser.” That’s how she writes in her book.
“I’m hoping that my book will help people to feel comfortable to tell their stories to bring awareness and to empower somebody else.”
“Being raised in New York, you just learn how to be open and to say what is on your mind no matter who is standing there. So, I know people will be a little stunned by some of the things that I have written about,” she says. “I want from [ages] children to adult to be able to know that there are such things as rape, STDs, abuse, bullying, single parenthood. Let’s not be coy here.”
Most importantly, at the end of each chapter, Clark has lessons and words of advice for people reading her book.
In “Forgive Yourself, Felicia,” she talks about being told that she wouldn’t be able to have children with myasthenia gravis and then having three children of her own and raising them with the illness. Part of her goal with the book is to let people know about myasthenia gravis which, she admits, is relatively unknown. “We talk about MS [multiple sclerosis] so much and we talk about lupus. I’m like, wait a minute … there are so many other things out there. I’d love to touch base with all of them. But I know this one – myasthenia gravis – very well because this is what I deal with every day. I have my good days and I have my bad days.”
Myasthenia gravis (pronounced My-as-theen-ee-a grav-us) comes from the Greek and Latin words meaning “grave muscular weakness.” The most common form of MG is a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disorder that is characterized by fluctuating weakness of the voluntary muscle groups. The prevalence of MG in the United States is estimated to be about 20/100,000 population. However, MG is probably under diagnosed and the prevalence may be higher.
“It’s a neurological disorder that affects the muscles. Your body becomes weak. Especially when you over-exert yourself. If I’m doing too much, I’m weak,” Clark says. “I may not be able to move my limbs or chew food … especially hot food. I can’t stay in the sun too long. I have to pace myself. There’s no pain involved, I just can’t move or move as fast as other people.”
Clark is hoping the community will come out in force to the book signing and will purchase the book here. Clark is no stranger to community collaborations having created the “Beautiful Ones Project,” a collaboration of stories from the LGBTQ community to raise awareness, acceptance, and offer support to those who may be struggling with their identity.
“I’m hoping that my book will help people to feel comfortable to tell their stories to bring awareness and to empower somebody else,” Clark says. “I want people to know, beyond this book, that I am here for them. I’m always extending a hand because I’m grateful for people who have loved me and embraced me and have extended a hand to me.”
The official book launch for the “Forgive Yourself, Felicia” will take place Saturday, Oct. 28, at Hotel Red. The event is free and opened to the public.