By Iva deMartelly
When New School alumni Alyson Gerber walked back into to her old classroom on West 12th street holding up her new book, Braced, she was standing tall.
Ten years before, as a 22-year-old student in Susan Shapiro’s “Writing for NYC Newspapers & Magazines,” she was assigned a “humiliation essay” on her most embarrassing experience. Gerber chronicled having to wear a back brace to treat a severe case of scoliosis from ages 10 to 13. Her piece “I Have Severe Scoliosis, Just Like My Mom” was published in a website called Thefrisky.com and then reprinted in the anthology Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Magic of Mothers & Daughters.
Dealing with her disability as an athlete at such a formative age gave Gerber sympathy and sensitivity to working with children with specific needs. She became a teacher. Yet a few years into to her teaching job, Gerber realized writing was really her dream. She returned as a New School MFA graduate student in their Writing for Children program. There she began to explore her experience wearing the brace. It was then she fully realized the level of impact her childhood had on her life –and incorporated the trauma into her art.
This led her to Braced, Gerber’s poignant and passionate debut fiction about a young middle school soccer player whose life changes suddenly after discovering that she needs to wear back brace for 23 hours every day. It was recently published by Scholastic, where both her agent and book editor Cheryl Klein also had to wear back braces. The book scored starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist. At her recent standing room only launch party at McNally Jackson Booksellers, she was interviewed by award-winning author and New School teacher David Levithan. She’s thrilled that he will be editing her next Scholastic novel Focus, about overcoming her A.D.D., coming out in 2018.
Now 32, married and living in Brooklyn, Gerber offered advice and inspiration to fellow New School students, proving that writing can be a way to transform your worst experiences into the most beautiful.
Iva deMartelly is a writer, activist, and actress in her sophomore year at Eugene Lang. She is majoring in Global Studies, and aspires to one day use acting as a platform to spread awareness for issues that run dear to her heart, specifically women's rights and health. She has written for Elephant Journal and Galore magazine, as well as regularly updating her personal blog.