Throughout her work as a writer, editor and author Ashley Simpo tells authentic, thought-provoking stories. Her recent book, ‘A Kids Book About Divorce’, immediately caught our attention. After reading it and diving into the articles on her site blackashley.com we knew Ashley's written voice was nothing short of celebration-worthy, centered, wise and honest.
In her own words, "As a writer, I’m fixated on telling my story, and the story of Black women and mothers. I’ve written op-eds, essays, and reported narratives to stir conversations that matter to us.”
In this interview, we talk about relationships, empowerment, and the importance of normalizing difficult conversations. Get to know Ashley Simpo with us.
Let's start out with a lady brag! Tell us the 3 things you love to brag about the most?
- 1. My son. It’s so hard not to!
- 2. The accomplishments of my friends (they’re all so amazing and talented)
- 3. A new snack food I discovered. Most recently - watermelon jerky, wow.
Tell us about you and why you do what you do.
I’m a writer, editor and author of ‘A Kids Book About Divorce’. I’m also a mother of one, and I spend a lot of time thinking about and talking about millennial motherhood. I also identify as a survivor of sexual assault and I spent a lot of time growing up feeling like my story didn’t matter - so I never told it. I think one of the reasons I became a writer is because I understand how impactful it is to feel seen, and to know that you aren’t the only person who is experiencing something hard. Whether it’s divorce or assault or just the ups and downs of parenthood - feeling seen makes a world of difference.
We love that you wrote “A Kids Book About Divorce”. Why were you drawn to the topic and what was your biggest discovery while writing it?
I felt drawn to this topic because I realized there wasn’t a lot of conversation happening in plain sight. Divorce is this hush-hush topic, and everyone gets super awkward when it comes up. I can’t tell you how many times I heard “Oh, I’m so sorry” when I shared my divorce with people. Meanwhile, it was liberating and freeing and it was a good and healthy choice - but no one celebrates that part. So I want to normalize it. And I think most importantly that starts in the home, with our kids. Whether you’re divorced or not - our communities are made up of this family dynamic.
We LOVE the richness and authenticity of your written voice. What makes you so passionate about sharing your story and the stories of Black women and mothers?
I grew up during a time when there were only a handful of narratives about Black women, and most of them were harmful. We were taught to be strong, but not talk about our mental health. To be a good partner, but not taught how to be a whole person. To be mothers, but not taught how to heal our trauma. I think the more we talk about our stories the more narratives we create for the girls coming up behind us. So they know they can really do anything they dare to imagine.
What do you think of as a defining experience that helped shape who you are today + the type of writing that you do?
I grew up in a household where there was verbal and physical abuse. So I spent a lot of time trying to escape that and my imagination was my tool of choice. I would write little stories and poetry and just make up other worlds in which I was the main character. I was also given a journal at the age of 6, and so I learned very early to nurture and accept my own voice, my own story and my own perspective. I have been writing my entire life.
You said that you are “healing outloud”. What keeps you inspired to be so open?
I want to dispel the notion that healing or wellness is linear. That we work towards it, accomplish it and then become “well” for life. I think we exist in a world dominated by images of perfection that can trick us into thinking we’re doing life wrong because we don’t feel like pictures look. So I take every opportunity to disrupt that. To say for example, that I am both a good mother and a mother who fails. I want to remind people that they’re ok, even when they’re not.
What do you feel is the biggest relationship challenge our society faces?
I think the idea that we need relationships in order to be whole, instead of the idea that we need to be whole in order to have relationships. The need to be “completed” by another person because we all grew up watching Disney fairytales or listening to heartthrob music. There’s a huge unlearning needed there, and I admittedly and still unlearning a lot of things that don’t serve me in relationships still. With all of the constructs being broken open and examined these days, we have to reexamine how we view love, marriage and commitment - because so much of it is based on old versions of society.
What advice would you give to women looking to feel more empowered and build a deeper relationship with themselves?
My favorite piece of advice was something I tweeted a while back challenging people to love themselves in their own love language. I literally started there when I was dealing with some deep dark stuff - abandonment and depression and loneliness. My first love language is physical touch. So guess what I did? I stood in the mirror and hugged myself. Like really hugged me. And do you know it felt amazing? It felt like what I would have wanted a partner to do - except it was me. Start by giving yourself the things you want in other people. Whatever it is.
What’s next for you? What spaces will we see you in next?
So much cool stuff to come! Without being too specific, something for new parents is on the horizon. I also have a bi-weekly e-letter called Dear Mom and Dad. I talk about things like healing in plain sight, how to “plan” for kids and what really happens after divorce. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram too, there are so many good conversations happening in the comments and I always learn so much.