Think you were pumped about that new Harry Potter book? We've got an even better page-turner for you to look forward to--and it's coming to you from 20-year-old Jessie Morrison. This budding author plans to make some major strides in the LGBTQ+ community, featuring heros in her writing of all genders and races, so that young readers have access to a more diverse range of fictional role models in the world. Jessie's LGBTQ+ advocacy is not limited to her literary pursuits; she is really "walking the walk" to make some prominent progress on her college campus. In the battle for gender equality, we want Jessie leading our troops!
Name: Jessie Morrison
College: Eastern Michigan University
Minor: Creative Writing, English Linguistics
Graduation Year: 2018
Her Campus: What inspired you to write your novel?
Jessie Morrison: The lack of diversity in mainstream young adult fiction is a big part of why I want to write my story. So many kids and teens grow up only seeing heroes who are white, heterosexual/cisgender and very typically male. And when the main character is someone who deviates from that, it is heavily based on the fact that they are not [all of those things]. A book about a black girl is strictly about her struggles as a black girl, and somehow still is pandering to a white audience, because the media is infatuated with this idea of tragedy of those who are different than themselves. For example, up until recently for the past few decades, most movies featuring a gay character were completely about the stereotypes, and the death and tragedy of the individual. Dead lesbians were the Trojan horse of getting movies made about queer people. When a child grows up seeing these images as a reflection of who they are, it really tears them up. If all the movies about trans people are movies about how the world treats them terribly, no child who is trans will feel comfortable in the world, comfortable in their skin. My novel will feature characters across the spectrum of humanity, making sure every young one who reads it will see themselves as a hero, as a person that matters in the world, and that someone saw it enough to write about it. Media is the biggest thing a child or adolescent sees to interpret culture and societal views, so giving them a healthy view of how we want the world to be is the way to get there.
HC: What are you working on right now?
JM: Right now my biggest priority is my student organization. I am the President of the Queer Unity for Eastern Students (QUEST), which is our queer group on campus here at Eastern Michigan University. I feel that we had an identity crisis and a lot of miscommunication about what our organization is and what we do. We had people come to tell us it felt exclusive to certain individuals. Our goal is to make our organization a place where you can be your authentic self, along with giving individuals the chance to be activists for equality for all, and give our allies a chance to learn more about advocacy and what we really need them to help us with. We promote activism and community outreach, such as doing a clothing drive for a local LGBT youth shelter and fighting for gender neutral bathrooms across campus. This work is so important to me, and reminds me of my most prominent goal for myself: to be compassionate to everyone I meet. I hope that I can give every person who walks into our office or our meeting room as much empathy as I can, and give them some semblance of peace in a world that demands our lives to be pretty chaotic. My other priorities include my writing and my research, as I’m hoping to start an undergraduate research project on how parents’s word choice and linguistic styles affects their children’s mental health and self-interpretation. This can include how some parents will call their kid “goofball” versus calling them “monkey,” or how they change their vocabulary around their child. With my writing I’m hoping to catch up on my preferred timeline of my first novel, and to find what I want to pursue after it or alongside it.
HC: What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?
JM: I’d say my greatest achievement to date would be, as cliché and simple as it is, figuring out who I am and what I want in life. I started college in 2014 expecting to be a doctor, was on the pre-med path with the intent to be a child/adolescent psychiatrist. Then it changed to trauma surgery. Then I panicked and had a full breakdown at the end of freshman year, watching my GPA drop so low I nearly lost my full tuition academic scholarship, watching myself get my first C/D/F of my life. I felt absolutely awful all the way until I realized something: I’m not on the right path for myself, and I’m not doing anything that will make me happy, I’m not participating in what I want to do. I had to take a required composition class that year, and when I did get all those low grades in science classes, I got a real A+ in the English class. I remembered back in high school how I took every possible English class taught by my favorite teacher, T. Watson, and how I loved art and writing. For some reason all that escapes your mind when you put other people’s expectations of you before your own expectations of yourself and your own happiness. I switched to a literature major, and declared a double minor in creative writing and English linguistics. As an individual who spent the majority of her childhood hoping to never ever disappoint anybody I was close to, the pressure was real, whether or not they’d admit it. I had to be a doctor, I had to succeed in any field I chose, and that one was the best and the most prestigious. So, when I finally settled down and realized that I couldn’t keep doing it, it was like climbing Mount Everest. I did what I had to do for me, for the life I need to live, and I have never been happier and more proud of myself. And that’s what achievements are for, to be proud of it. And I am proud that I matured enough to understand that I am my first priority, my life is my biggest accomplishment.
HC: Who inspires you?
JM: My mother and sister. My mother worked three jobs and went to school full-time. She hopped from multiple bad and/or abusive relationships, and constantly put her daughters first, every step of the way. She constantly is ready to help whoever she can, and will always try her best to right a situation. Mom always worked her butt off, especially in her field, where she was promoted till she was surrounded by men, and could barely catch a break beyond acknowledging that she was incredible at what she does. My sister is only 14-years-old, but was recently diagnosed with a blood condition called POTS, she basically gets very tired, and her blood volume doesn’t adjust itself when she changes from laying down, sitting and standing, so she gets very faint and dizzy. She’s a cheerleader and loves it so much, and may have to quit due to the dizzy spells. She has gone through tons of medical tests and has been to the hospital for hours on end, and yet she still strives to be funny, to bring laughter to a room, to be friendly to everyone she meets, to love, to be strong, to take constructive criticism, but not to accept others's judgments.
HC: What advice do you have for collegiettes who are working hard to achieve their dreams?
JM: Everyone says work hard, but I say play hard. I took a class on play, including the text, Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, written by Stuart Brown, M.D. and it changed my entire perspective on life. It’s really eye-opening, and not that long of a read. My favorite quotes from the book are “The opposite of play is not work, the opposite of play is depression” and “When you stop playing, you start dying.” The more you do something you love, the more likely you will be successful. And this should be different than the kind of love you do for school and degrees, this should be “what makes me smile, laugh till my belly hurts, and feel like each day is worth it?” I run for fun without timing or destination, I play a lot of card games, I invite my friends to play hide and seek with me late on a Saturday night. Find your play, and do it.
Catherine is an ambitious twenty-something woman living in Rock Hill, South Carolina where she attends Winthrop University as a mass communication major. She is the President and Campus Correspondent for Her Campus at Winthrop, which she co-founded in November 2014. She has also been a member of the Winthrop chapter of the Association for Women in Communications, and is currently the President of the Society of Professional Journalists chapter at Winthrop. Since being involved with Her Campus, Catherine received an internship at Her Campus Media in Boston, MA. She also currently works as a Chapter Advisor for the company and writes about Grey's Anatomy each week for the site. Because of Her Campus, she has also received writing positions at many publications throughout her 3 years at Winthrop. Outside of her busy lifestyle, Catherine enjoys relaxing with her friends on the weekends and having Sex and the City marathons. She can't live without her dog, family, Cosmopolitan, friends, Starbucks, Instagram, The Bachelor, Grey's Anatomy and of course Chick-fil-A. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter: @cathclowe!