MU professor and her daughter write book about youth development program in Lincoln County

LindaSpatig_LayneAmerikanerDr. Linda Spatig, a professor of educational foundations in the College of Education and Professional Development, has co-written a book with her daughter, Layne Amerikaner, about a former youth development program made up of adolescent girls in Lincoln County.

The book is titled Thinking Outside the Girl Box: Teaming Up With Resilient Youth in Appalachia. Spatig spent more than 12 years studying a girls’ resiliency program in Lincoln County. She said she began writing the book in 2006-2007, when she was given extra time and assistance through her selection as a Drinko Fellow.

“Having the extra time and the assistance gave me the idea to put all that work together in the form of a book to tell the story of that program,” Spatig said.

In the Lincoln County program, the primary focus was on girls in adolescence. The adults used a variety of approaches, hoping to develop leadership in the girls to help them recognize, and build on, their own strengths.

One way to do that was to provide challenging activities for the girls. For example, Spatig said, they did a lot with the arts. They worked with Colleen Anderson, a well-known poet from West Virginia, and published a book of poetry. They also worked with Ron Sowell of Mountain Stage, writing several songs and publishing two CDs.

The book was published by Ohio University Press and already has been released. Spatig said she is “thrilled” with the publication, particularly since her daughter co-wrote it with her.

“Even though it was based on research, we wrote the book as a love story,” she said. “We tell the story through key relationships with key individuals.”

One chapter is about Shelley Gaines, who started the program. Four chapters feature individual girls while still another chapter features two graduate students who worked with Spatig on the project.

“The last chapter features Layne and me,” Spatig said. “It tells about the research methods we used.”

Amerikaner is a communications specialist at People for the American Way in Washington, DC.

A reception/book signing is being planned for 1:30 p.m. Sunday, March 30, at Empire Books in downtown Huntington. Both authors will attend, along with some of the girls featured in the book.

According to a review by Bibliovault, the book was written “in an accessible, engaging style and, drawing on collaborative ethnographic research that the girls themselves helped conduct, the book tells the story of an innovative program determined to challenge the small, disempowering ‘boxes’ girls and women are so often expected to live in.” Spatig said the program was discontinued a few years ago and its demise is part of the story told in the book.


Photo: Dr. Linda Spatig, left, and her daughter, Layne Amerikaner, in the photo from the jacket of their new book, Thinking Outside the Girl Box: Teaming Up With Resilient Youth in Appalachia.  Photo by Martin Amerikaner.