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New Book, Anoushka’s Extraordinary Heroes Set to Eliminate Stereotypes and Inspire Change

Author Spotlight: Ebbe Bassey

By Tammy ReesePublished 6 months ago 17 min read
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When it comes to shattering stereotypes, personal stories have an incredible power. Personal stories have the ability to break down barriers and build bridges. They show us that people are so much more than the labels society puts on them. They remind us that we are all complex individuals with our own dreams, aspirations, and challenges.

By sharing personal stories of individuals who defy stereotypes, we can challenge the status quo and inspire change. We can encourage others to question their own biases and embrace diversity. These stories have the power to create a ripple effect, sparking conversations and fostering a more inclusive and understanding society.

So, let's celebrate the power of personal stories. Let's listen, learn, and share. Together, we can eliminate stereotypes and create a world where everyone is seen and valued for who they truly are.

A soon to be released book, titled "Anoushka's Extraordinary Heroes" Written by Ebbe Bassey is set to eliminate stereotypes and inspire change. Please enjoy our interview!

Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming book, "Anoushka's Extraordinary Heroes"?

Ebbe: I am truly excited to present this book to my Lucky Few community members and the world at large. Anoushka's Extraordinary Heroes is an inspirational book about individuals with Down syndrome who live very fulfilling lives with such magnificent strength, bravery, resilience, and determination despite the challenges they face that stem from their condition but above all from society. The intention of this book is to shed light on individuals with Down syndrome who are contributing members of society in major industries such as restaurant management, fashion design, entertainment, visual arts, education, politics, etc. The push behind this book is to DEFY the persistent UNDERestimation of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, dare I say, people with disabilities in general.

Through this book, I seek to encourage individuals with Down syndrome and their families to reject conscious/unconscious biases/limitations placed on them by society. I truly want to encourage those outside of the Lucky Few community, the neurotypical community, to VALUE and RESPECT them as they do others within their own community. I have always said that the solitary thing that I might resent about Down syndrome is the stamp it places on the faces of individuals with the condition because permits people to summarily dismiss them as incapable and it is not fair. In the words of one of my favorite authors, Michael Connelly through the of voice of the beloved character detective Harry Bosch, everyone counts, or no one counts.

How have your personal and professional experiences prepared you for writing such an empowering book?

Ebbe: I didn't study English or creative writing. However, what I am is a creative person who underwent a life changing experience. A woman who has always been able to push challenges situation in life until she met up with an event in her life that could have been crippling but for GRACE and a great support system. What I am is a mom who refuses to let her child be relegated to farthest corner of life - and in the words of Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing - nobody puts baby (Anoushka) in the corner ha-ha.

I had a rough go at trying to conceive. We resorted to IVF. I lost the first pregnancy. The second pregnancy started off well even though I have Lupus nephritis, a type of kidney disease caused by systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), I think my nephrologist lost more hair and sleep than I did ha-ha. Three months in, I was told that there were markers indicating that Anoushka would have Down syndrome. I was advised to consider termination as her birth and rearing might make my life extremely difficult. I was very strong in my faith at the time, so I took this as a personal challenge. I was going to show these doctors that my Jesus was going to heal my child, I just knew he wasn't "going to do me like that" so I took the challenge to the throne of grace and mercy. From Friday, November 17, 2017, when I received the news through Thursday, March 22, 2018, when Anoushka was subsequently born, I ran a prayer marathon. I was casting and binding, rebuking doctors and Down syndrome in one breath, declaring victory over the situation in the next. It was praise and worship in the morning, muttering prayers throughout the day then back to praise and worship before bed…. rinse and repeat. I shook the throne of God with both fists, shouts, wailing and tears. Meanwhile, I continued at my 9–5 and rehearsed an off-Broadway play.

At 30 weeks, this child interrupted my consumption of a well-made bacon/egg on a croissant while I was on the A train heading to the doctor to check on her wellbeing. The pain was so discombobulating that I got off the train and started heading in the wrong direction on another train. When I finally changed direction, I walked with labor pains for eight New York city blocks to the doctor's office where upon examining my southern hemisphere, they found that miss lady was trying to walk out. She remains impatient still like the typical Aries that she is *insert eyeroll, please* ha-ha.

Finally, the baby is here. The doctor confirms to me with the dourest affectation she could summon that Anoushka had Down syndrome - so there I sat with a child that was premature and born with a condition that already has the world setup against her on day one. I took myself to the shower stall and proceeded to sob like I had lost my entire being in one fell swoop. I knew about raising an average child, not only did I feel utterly out of my depth, but the faith I held so preciously shattered.

When I got home without her [a very strange feeling] on Saturday, on Tuesday I sat on my recliner pumping while delivering a webinar for work. I proceeded to pump every three hours, work and gradually slip into grieve then a deep depression. I was not sleeping. I ate and drank the bare minimum amount of food and water. The curtains were constantly drawn, the pleasure I took in all things dissipated. I woke up, pumped, took milk to the ICU, came home…again, rinse and repeat. Before long, I began to spout literal nonsense. As in, I would be speaking perfectly clearly then I would slip into gibberish. My family had never seen me this way….me, Ms. Atlas who would carry the world and a boulder up Mt. Everest and not break a sweat?! Meanwhile, I was on google looking up how far up I had to be to jump off and not end up alive and broken up. I went up the stairway in my apartment building but the door to the roof was locked. I would walk to the end of the subway platform away from people, so they didn't prevent me from jumping and I'd gauge how quickly I'd have to jump. I thought about Sylvia Plath and how she gassed herself. I looked like an idiot trying to figure how to do the same thing on gas stove. I put a bag over my head, but I didn't like the feeling of suffocating [well, duh ma'am]. The tub didn't work, too small for me to slide down into the water. I broke a belt trying to hang myself. I slashed my neck instead of my wrists.

I don't know if I really want to die as much as I desperately needed the pain to seep out.

One day, I was speaking to a friend whom I consider a big sister and all my attempts slipped out into our talk. Thankfully she is a doctor which makes her a mandatory reporter, she told my husband who was already deeply troubled by my physical, emotional, and mental deterioration. Somehow, he spoke with another doctor friend who recommended a center that specifically treats women with postpartum depression. I fought tooth and nail about going, what do you mean I'm not well…y'all must be talking about someone else because listen I GOT THIS!

I made it to the amazing Motherhood Center with clenched teeth and a packed bag of resentment. They proceeded to bind and mend me then put me on my way to becoming the mother I knew I could be. This was by no means an easy road because from finding the mom within me, I also had to make my way back to being a wife, partner, and friend to my husband, Mark.

Now, while I was in my depressed state thinking there will never be a light at the end of the tunnel, I found myself in, I fell down a rabbit hole of research then joined every possible Facebook group for special needs and Down syndrome. I was gobbling up all the information I didn't ingest while praying for a miracle. One day, I don't know if I was told or if I stumbled across it, but I began to watch a show called Born This Way on A&E. The premise of the show was to detail the lives of eight young adults with Down syndrome. Mind blowing! Eye opening! This show blew away all the negative information/energy that I was receiving regarding my daughter and the life we could have as a family. Suddenly, THERE WAS LIGHT.

What sets "Anoushka's Extraordinary Heroes" apart from other children's picture books on the market?

Ebbe: It's quite simple, this book presents individuals with Down syndrome, individuals with developmental disabilities as heroes, as exceptional people. People who can also be looked up to and emulated. This is not an acceptable narrative in this society, in any society. Listen, I was raised in Nigeria, West Africa where a man might not be chosen as a spouse because he has knocked knees or a girl for relationship because she has crossed eyes. We like "normal", "average", "perfect" and no boats rocked in the extension of the family tree. We do not like hiccups and explanations. Society is used to ostracizing (otherizing) people who do not present as average, who do not conform to the norm, who are not the sizable morsel they can digest with ease.

Parents want their children to look up to heroes that look/sound/act in (at minimum) an "acceptable" manner or (at maximum) in a way that sets them apart from mere mortals. The competition on the playground is stiff. Anoushka's Extraordinary Heroes says, heroes ought to come in all shapes, sizes, and varied abilities. It says the level of challenges that these individuals have overcome to achieve the success they have is worthy of acknowledgement and any child should look up to them as role models! The actor, late Christopher Reeves once said, "a hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles." You will be hard pressed to find individuals who embody this statement like those depicted in this book.

Thankfully, things are changing and there are books such as A Friend like Anian, This is Ella, The Adventures of Farad J: Farad Mills, etc., and now, Anoushka's Extraordinary Heroes.

You didn't ask me this, but I think it is imperative to also speak on how the idea came about to develop this book - I had two confirmations and two affirmations.

Confirmation 1

When I was down my information seeking rabbit hole, I remember reading a young lady's story on one of the forums I belonged to on Facebook. She had received an in-utero diagnosis as I did, and her family were apparently hounding her every day to decide to terminate the pregnancy. The supporting argument from them was that she would never be able to maintain a job, find childcare, travel, or have a life in general. She asked if anyone had a book that depicted individuals with Down syndrome as successful and accomplished that she could give to them as a counter point.

Hold onto this thought for a moment.

Confirmation 2

When I was a child in the 70s/80s, growing up in West Africa, I had to play with blonde haired, blued eyes dolls. Other than the stories passed down by oral tradition through song and dance, possibly a few written ones, we were inundated with Cinderella, Princess and the Pea, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White. Honestly, what in the hell did I have in common with these characters besides being female? When did Disney finally develop a character of color (Prince Jasmine, 1992) or a Black/African character (Prince Tatiana, 2009)? We [Black/African/Brown people) have never considered a factor…story for another day.

Despite the narrative out there that children with Down syndrome will have difficulty reading and retaining information or not being able to read at all, I read to Anoushka as often as possible. We counter negativity with actions that garner the result we seek in my household *insert praise hands and eyeroll, please*. Amongst the many books I read to Anoushka were Little Leaders: Bold Women in History and A is for Awesome (23 Iconic Women Who Changed the World).

It was great that Anoushka had representation in these books as a Black child but not as an exceptional child.

ONE DAY, I'm the shower (isn't the bathroom often where most A-HA moments seem to happen? Ha-ha) and BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBOOOOM CONFIRMATION 1 AND CONFIRMATION 2 COLLIDED IN MY HEAD! And EUREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEKA or in the words of Lady Oprah - A-HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaa.

Stay with me….

Affirmation 1

One day, I was sitting at a family member's house. This young lady [related by marriage] has a child a year and a half younger than my Anoushka. And while the children were playing together, she inquired about Anoushka's progress. I boasted proudly about all that Anoushka had accomplished in school like any other mother. I joked that she was super sassy [earned honestly] and all that sass needed to pay off so she could get a job and her own apartment. One hand up to the good lord and the other on my heart, she said to me…yeah, she could bag groceries. She said it so…earnestly. She said this in the presence of others. Nobody spoke up in defense of Anoushka - maybe out of shock or discomfort, maybe because it is to them it is norm to say outlandish things to parents with exceptional children because God forbid, we should have feelings or high expectations for our kids or maybe it's an unfortunate combination of all of it.

If you are wondering, no I didn't slap the taste out of her mouth nor did I cuss her out as she so deserved. I stood on all the good manners and social graces I was taught and let her keep her edges. I told her that my daughter's purpose on earth was not to bag groceries for a living. If someone is happy doing that for a living, good on them but no one births a child thinking…. ah my dearest son, dearest daughter, thine great purpose on earth will be bagger of groceries. People fall into such jobs by virtue of various circumstances, but nobody aims for a job packing groceries. It is an honest living but nobody growing up declares that as a career choice on career day at school. NOBODY. If asked, she would likely say her daughter can be a CEO, however, she believes mine can only aim to bag groceries. The temerity….my teeth is set on edge thinking on it now. It seems acceptable to lay low expectations at the feet of parents with exceptional children, while I can bet my bottom dollar that she would NOT have dared to spout such drivel at a parent with a neurotypical child. She tried it!

I heard her say those words to me every single time something fell through with this book. I let it fuel me. To think, she shares BLOOD with my daughter, and she thinks this low of her…. Can you just imagine what runs through people's minds? Her blood link to my child was tempered with absolutely NO grace. Those words fell from her mouth with the ease of a veil!

Affirmation 2

I was catching up with someone I hadn't spoken to in ages. She shared her good news of having birth twins. I reminded her that the last time she had seen me, I had been pregnant with Anoushka. Again, I bragged on my daughter, and I mentioned also that she had Down syndrome. She immediately said, "I'm so sorry." In turn, I asked her if someone died. I didn't say my daughter had a terminal disease. She has Down syndrome and I informed her that it wasn't terminal…might she have been confused *insert shrug and sarcasm please* I had to tell her, congratulations are due to ANY parent sharing the news of the birth of their child…don't qualify anything, just a simple congratulations, the end. To think that needed to be explained. We don't need your pity, condolences, or little surreptitious glances. We see you doing it, and it is rude. It is one thing to ask questions to educate yourself but it's another to act like I bore a Martian. Again, every time I was tempted to throw my hands up; I heard her say to me…OH I'm SO SORRY. Sorry about what exactly? Girl Bye!

THIS IS WHY THIS BOOK IS NECESSARY! I NEED parents to familiarize themselves with OTHER TYPES OF PEOPLE WHO ARE AMAZING AND EXPOSE THEM TO THEIR CHILDREN SO WE BREAK THIS CYCLE OF PITY AND HAND WRINGING when people meet families like mine. All caps for emphasis not yelling.

And I'm off my soap box.

Can you share any unique or interactive elements in your book that will engage readers?

Ebbe: The book starts with a wonderful quote by the featured individual and each individual story ends with 3 fantastic attributes that ANY child should emulate - determination, resiliency, empathy, kindness, optimism, imagination etc. Also, kids learn about various industries because everyone in the book is accomplished in more than one area of expertise…for instance, Sujeet Desai plays seven instruments very well with piano being his primary instrument, but he also has a Black belt in Tae Kwon Do, teaches basic computers skills, and has several Special Olympic medals in various sports.

Please tell us about your collaboration with the illustrator.

Ebbe: My illustrator Oliver Kryzz Bundoc was simply put, a godsend! I cannot say enough about this young man - lawwwwwwwwwwd, I know I'm getting seasoned (never old) when a twenty something is now a "young man" to me LLLLLLLLLLLLLOL. I was having such hard luck with illustrators - ghosted by two and rejected by a few. I came across Oliver's information through the Self-Publishing School through whom I am publishing AEH. He was so excited to do this book because of the subject matter, not because he had any personal experience with it but because he thought these stories were important to tell since in his country, people do not place value on the lives of people with Down syndrome or any disability akin to my country, Nigeria. Of course, we didn't know each other at all, but we got to where in shorthand, he would take an idea I had and make it spectacular. I am not a visual artist; I can barely draw a cup; however, I would sometimes draw the most rudimentary thing and he would take it and make it the Mona Lisa. He was the DeNiro to my Scorsese ha-ha. We had a couple of setbacks with the weather in the Philippines where he resides then his health took a bit of a hit, it pushed back the project, and even when I wouldn't hear from him for a while, for some reason, I never had the fear that he'd absconded with half my money and my work which happened to me previously. He exuded trust worthiness, and we rode together until the end. He is so respectful, humble, and sweet. He is a good human.

Do you have any plans for promotional activities or events surrounding the launch of "Anoushka's Extraordinary Heroes"?

Ebbe: I have been teasing the book via social media for a while now. My first promotional activity outside of the socials has been speaking with you and I hope other interviews will follow that will draw attention not only to the book but also to Down syndrome. You shall be my good luck charm.

If my coins line up right, I would like to have a launch party to officially introduce the book to family, friends, and members of my Lucky Few community…we are many in Fairfield country, CT…. stand up, Fairfield…*in my Jamaican accent* BIG UP, BIG UP! I have two librarians that have expressed interest in obtaining the book for their libraries and hopefully I will be able to work out a reading at each. I plan on being present at every possible book festival within drivable distances.

The big dream is that this book lands in the lap of the likes of Tamron Hall, Sherry Shepherd, one or all the ladies on the View, Jennifer Hudson, Good Morning America (Anoushka appeared on the show to introduce the new Barbie with DS earlier this year), the Today Show, etc. It would be a magnificent to sit in tandem with the legendary Dame Stephanie Mill whose son Farad also has DS to speak on the joys and challenges of parenting exceptional children or with fellow actress, Caterina Scorsone and speak on raising her daughter, Pippa. I believe the many years I spent being an MC/host/presenter at award shows, beauty contests, weddings etc., has prepared me for such a time as this so I can articulate on this matter, and my passion for my daughter is my fuel. I'm ready whenever they are ready to have me.

I had a seed that was this book, I planted it, crossed my fingers and it germinated into the living breathing thing. I will dream of a seat down with Tamron…and I will wait and see what happens. I believe in aiming for heaven, at best I could land on a cloud, right?

What else would you like to share with our readers at this time?

Ebbe: As simple as it sounds, please be kind. Please do not stare. Please come up and say hello, we don't bite. Please ask questions if you are curious just don't be weird. When you act uncomfortable around my child and others like her or with any disability, you send a statement and/or signal to your child that there is a problem with mine. We will never get to a world of true, full inclusion, diversity, and equality with fear at the helm. And yes, my inner hustler is screaming - please buy the book and REVIEWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW it gently on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

What do you want your legacy to look like in the literary world?

Ebbe: Good lord, girl…I am no Toni Morrison. I don't know about a legacy in the literary world. The literary world has the likes of Zadie Smith, Colson Whitehead, Ta-Nehisi Coates, what am I compared to them, oy vey. I just wanted to leave something for my daughter and contribute to my community where so much love and positivity thrives despite the barrage of negativity often aimed at us. I am leaving this for Anoushka, to thank her for making the world brighter and for not only choosing me as the vessel to carry her into the world, but for making me a better person. I leave this book for that mother with an in-utero diagnosis or postnatal diagnosis as a north star of sorts…don't let anyone tell you that your child can't be a rock this world on its axis. I leave this book for the soldiers in the community who keep building up and educating those in our community about their rights. I leave it for ALL parents, to say parenting is hard enough without the division. I ain't here to shake no trees or make no waves in the literary world.

Keep up to date online:

Connect online:

Instagram:

Ebbe: @ebbebasseyacts

Anoushka: @life_with_anoushka

Facebook:

Anoushka's Extraordinary Heroes

Ebbe Bassey-Manczuk

X[Twitter]:

ThisIsEbbe

Author
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About the Creator

Tammy Reese

Tammy is best known for her legendary interviews with Sharon Stone, Angela Bassett, Sigourney Weaver, Geena Davis, Morris Chestnut, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Laurence Fishburne, Omar Epps, Joseph Sikora, and more.

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  • Jackson Gitau6 months ago

    tammy, anoushka is alifestyle of a well choreograhed legacy..writting is loveable, good work

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