After more than two years of a deadly pandemic, a racial reckoning laying bare gross inequities, historic environmental catastrophes, and record-breaking gun violence and mental health challenges, could the first known national study of “What Happened to You?,” by Bruce D. Perry and Oprah Winfrey, help us heal our collective trauma, one relationship and community at a time?
That’s the question Carey Sipp, PACEs Connection director of strategic partnerships, hopes will be answered with a resounding “yes” in the months and years following the July 13 launch of our Connecting Communities One Book at a Time reading initiative.
“I believe ‘What Happened to You?,’ a New York Times bestseller, is one of the most important works ever written on our collective public health crisis of trauma,” Sipp said. “This book is a readable and relatable way to learn about trauma, its enormous impact in human suffering, loss of life and promise, economic costs and more. Whether you read it or listen to Perry and Oprah have the conversations, which I recommend, this book makes the science easy to understand. It is full of stunning insights, remarkable stories, and applicable solutions.
“Our hope is that asking ‘What happened?’ in community will lead to truth, empathy, compassion, connection. We hope that reading and studying the book together can help people process current and generational experiences, and learn about the science of PACEs – positive and adverse childhood experiences – and that this will lead to family and community efforts to prevent future trauma, and heal from past trauma,” she said.
PACEs Connection has partnered with the Children’s Trust Fund Alliance (CTF Alliance) and Georgia Essentials for Childhood, which is coordinated by Prevent Child Abuse Georgia and the Georgia Children's Trust Fund, to organize six events (detailed below) related to the book study of “What Happened to You?” These events will be centered on helping people explore and share the book’s lessons on relational healing, intergenerational trauma, and community. The program will begin with a conversation between Perry, PACEs Connection CEO Ingrid Cockhren, and Mathew Portell, director of communities, on June 28 that will focus on historical trauma.
Georgia Reads was the inspiration
Sipp said the PACEs Connection initiative was inspired by the Georgia Reads "What Happened to You?” program, in which over 40 community book clubs, including the Georgia Parent Advisory Council group, met to discuss the book in 2021.
“I learned about the success of the Georgia program, started by Deborah Chosewood and Jennifer Lee Stein, in a LinkedIn post from Deborah, who is also a community manager for Georgia PACEs Connection. She explained that the PAC book club used a multi-session guide for parents developed by the Children's Trust Fund Alliance and now promoted by Perry, while the Georgia Reads book clubs used a one- or two-session discussion guide developed by Georgia Essentials for Childhood. Both guides will be highlighted and shared – at no cost – in our July 13 webinar, when we officially launch the book study and begin registering book study leaders,” Sipp said.
As a part of her work at PACEs Connection, Sipp leads the launch of the Connecting Communities One Book at a Time initiative with me, Natalie Audage, the PACEs Connection family and community resources lead. Our partners for this project include Teresa Rafael, Chloe Corrion, Kara Georgi, and Maureen Hollacker of the Children’s Trust Fund Alliance, and Deborah Chosewood and Jennifer Lee Stein of Georgia Essentials for Childhood.
“Our partners have been incredible in offering their time, the guides they created, and their experience to help lay out a series of events, including two support sessions for book study leaders and a follow-up session on protective factors, that we believe will help make this entire effort have a lasting impact in communities,” Sipp said. “We are hoping new PACEs Connection communities will form as the result of the study, and study leaders and participants will connect and become involved with some of our more than 400 geographic and 40 interest-based communities."
Perry’s reflections on the national book study
Perry said he finds the national book study a very exciting opportunity. “I don’t think that there has been anything like the scale and scope of what you have planned,” he said.
“Certainly, the impact of stress, distress and trauma has been all over the news recently, and, over the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, people have experienced the dysregulating impact of unpredictability, relational disconnection, chronic vigilance, decision fatigue and, for some, serious traumatic loss,” Perry said. “So in some ways, the time is right to better understand and address these issues.
“In reality, however, all of human history has been characterized – and shaped – by traumatic events of all sorts, natural disasters, war, misogyny, racism, and so much more. But, as Maya Angelou said, ’I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.’ So let’s help people know better so we can all do better.”
He added that he hopes the book study ”helps stimulate a bit more curiosity and kindness, which will lead to more conversation and connection.”
Our partners hope their groups will join in
Chloe Corrion came up with the idea of creating a detailed chapter-by-chapter study guide of the book. “As Dr. Perry, says, ‘Healing happens in community’,” she said. “I’m so excited for this work to continue spreading so that more individuals and communities can begin or continue their healing journeys.”
“This book club is about building relationships while learning, growing and healing with others as we celebrate the effect protective factors can have on our lives,” said Kara Georgi, Corrion’s partner on the guide and co-facilitator of the Georgia Parent Advisory Committee book study. “It's not about a single journey or solution. It is about us all being able to approach a great piece of science and personal narrative where we are at. We can then decide what intention we will take as we move forward in our lives and communities in strength-based ways.”
Register now to attend the upcoming “What Happened to You?” events. Please see the attached flier for more information about each event.
- Meet the Author: a discussion of historical trauma in America with Bruce Perry, PACEs Connection CEO Ingrid Cockhren, and director of communities Mathew Portell on Tuesday, June 28, 1:30-3 p.m. ET
- Lead Your Own What Happened to You? Book Study on Wednesday, July 13, 2:30-4 p.m. ET
- Book Study Leader Training by Children’s Trust Fund Alliance on Wednesday, July 27, 3-5 p.m. ET
- Book Study Leader Check-In with Children’s Trust Fund Alliance on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 3-4:30 p.m. ET
- Moving Families from Surviving to Thriving: Strengthening Families Protective Factors Framework Overview by Children’s Trust Fund Alliance on Tuesday, Aug. 30, noon-1:30 p.m. ET
- Book Study Leader Check-In with Children’s Trust Fund Alliance on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 7-8:30 p.m. ET
We hope you will join us on this journey, and we look forward to seeing you at the upcoming events!
In the meantime, stay tuned for future blog posts from PACEs Connection about our Historical Trauma in America series, and from our partners about the impact of Georgia Reads, the compelling story behind the Children’s Trust Fund Alliance guide, and more.
Here are additional resources: