Sheltering Stories: Teen Talk about Covid-19

Study Guide by Lisa Shaub

Why was this project created?

My family spent the Covid-19 lock-down time of 2020 sheltering in place - my 14 year old daughter, my husband and myself all in our New York City apartment. We did not leave the city in the four month period that the lock-down was in place. During this time I saw my daughter and her friends really suffering, missing each other and their previous experiences. I had been teaching a creative writing class during that time to my daughter and her friend.

In March and April 2020 I had a number of conversations with Jennifer Berman (co-editor) and we decided that we wanted to create this book. It would be a platform for New York City teens to tell their story. By sharing their thoughts and feelings through art and words our teens are able to communicate their experience in a unique way. These kids are super smart, emotionally intelligent, and have important things to say that we need to hear.

What kind of work did you receive?

Poetry, stories, drawings and photography.

What else is in the book that might be interesting and thought provoking?

I asked each of our teen artist and writers to provide us with an "Artist Statement." They could use that to speak about the specific piece that they created or use as a place to share their thoughts about the world, the earth, the virus, or anything else that was on their minds.

What was the age range of the work received?

Teenagers aged 13-17 years of age contributed to this book.

Where did the teens who submitted attend school?

We accepted work from teens who attended the following schools in New York City, Brooklyn and Newark NJ: The Beacon School, Fort Hamilton High School, High School of Art and Design, Hunter High School, Professional Children's School, Great Oaks Charter High School ( Newark, NJ), Tompkins Square Middle School, Trevor Day School, and Trinity School.

Did you meet all of the teens featured in this book?

I know my daughter's friends. The others I have not met or spoken with in person. I have only corresponded with them through email.

From what neighborhoods in New York City are the teens who contributed to this book?

The teenagers live in neighborhoods on the Upper East and West Side, and the East Village of Manhattan. They come from the following neighborhoods in Brooklyn: Park Slope, Sunset Park, Bay Ridge and other parts of Brooklyn, NY. There is also a group of contributors who live in Newark, NJ.

Why did you include teens from Newark NJ?

Their teacher was in touch with us and asked if we would include her students in the book. We strongly felt that as they lived in the vicinity of New York City that they had an important story to tell.

How can this book help teens in NYC?

Every single teen in the New York City area has their own Covid-19 story, whether they stayed in the city or left. They had to deal with many different kinds of stresses: too many people at home, not enough people at home, not enough food, or wireless, parents who would not let them leave the apartment, and losing touch with the outside world. The art and writing created by the teens in this book tells us something about what all of the teens experienced. We can see their pain, and sadness, but also their joy and insights. I hope that other teens will see this work and feel inspired. It would be amazing for them to use their voice to tell us about their experience. I know that is not such an easy or safe thing, but it is a brave thing.

How can this book help teens in the USA?

In the Spring and early Summer of 2020 New York City was the world-wide epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a scary, uncertain, and traumatic time. Most of us in New York City live in small apartments, and sacrifice living space and back yard gardens to have access to fabulous culture, proximity to amazing artist, musicians, and food from all over the world. During Covid-19 lock-down, many of these cultural items were taken away from us. The book's cover shows this: a totally empty Avenue A in the middle of the East Village on a Saturday night at 7 P.M. - a time when this street is usually bustling with life.

We had to develop coping strategies to try to make the best of the situation. In my family we were thrown together and had to get along and thrive with a lot of things taken away that usually help with that job. I always like to see what creative choices are made to make the situation better, and many people created and found those things. It is great to hear about and share those coping mechanisms with one another. I hope that teens that don't live nearby will be able to learn and grow from what we are sharing with them.

How can this book help teens in other countries?

It is great to have a platform to speak your piece. It is important to find ways to be positive, and to use art to make something new in the world. Teens in every country can do this, even if it is a tiny way. It all matters, and if it makes you feel connected with others that is the most important part, more important than judging yourself over if your work is good enough to share.

What should I do?

Grab a pen and write or draw something. Share it with a friend. Join our social media and post it if you want to and your parents are OK with that. I can't wait to see what you come up with!

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