PORTRAITS BY CHUN-LI 'KEN' HUANG
Writing was a talent that Akosua Atuah purely stumbled upon.
After her mother passed away when she was 13-years-old, Akosua realized the importance of having open dialogue regarding loss to begin coping. Her love for the written word developed as she utilized writing as an outlet to grieve and ultimately, heal.
Consequently, Akosua sought out to use her voice and experiences to benefit others. In 2016, her book, Outburst: The Things We Don’t Say, was published about the process of healing, and realizing that individuals experiencing similar situations are not alone.
Barnes & Noble provides the description of her novel, stating that “it allows readers to discover that though life becomes difficult and lonely at times, there are many people that go through similar situations.” It goes on to say, “This book is the author's love letter to people, like her, who feel lonely when they lose a parent.”
‘BEST FOOT FORWARD’—Akosua admits that writing wasn’t a passion that she realized she had prior to delving into this mission, and that it wasn’t an industry she aspired to work in with her plans in higher education. “I kept writing, and I started a Tumblr, and it kept going on and on, and I thought, ‘Why not just share it?’—and that’s where it began,” she said.
Since then, Akosua has embraced the lifestyle of a writer. She explained how she has begun to look at the world around her with a writer’s perspective, and kept close notes of what inspired her. “Sometimes inspiration can hit me at 3 a.m.—when I’m sleepy and I have to write otherwise I’ll forget it. Sometimes when I want to sit down to write, because I have time to write…I don’t have anything for write. This writing thing has a mind of its own!” she laughed.
Akosua’s steadfast belief in the power of the written word has led her to launch her own publishing company in Ghana. According to Akosua, the creation of this platform is to provide young African individuals a place to share their art, specifically through the means of poetry, novels and e-books.
Akosu Atuah's Childhood Image
“The book is me getting up and saying, 'I see other people that are struggling with the same things I have struggled with, so what can I do to make it better?'”
Akosua plans on collaborating with charities that work with mental illness in the future. “This platform will get that conversation on mental illness going.”
The senior criminal justice major has cited her older brother and dad as significant sources of inspiration. Originally from Accra, Ghana, Akosua recalls having a happy childhood and spending a lot of time with her mom. “Everything she did, we did together,” Akosua said. According to Akosua, the topic of mental health still is highly stigmatized in Ghana. She is, however, hopeful that her generation will be the one to change this. She believes Americans are more willing to talk about the topic of mental health, whereas in Ghana, this topic is still “swept under the rug.”
“I think Ghana is more closed, but it is slowly changing. I think my generation is doing a better job of voicing how we feel, we’re trying to get the older generation on track to understand what we are trying to do,” she said. Akosua cites her upbringing in Ghana as reason for one of her most significant beliefs—that dedicated, hard work results in success. “That’s one thing that I learned from my culture, that hard work pays off,” she said. “If you do put your mind to something no matter where you are, or what situation you are in, you are going to get there as long as you put your best foot forward.”
In 2016, Akosua Atuah published a novel entitled "Outburst: The Things We Don’t Say." The Marist College senior, who plans on attending law school in the future, wrote this book in response to her mother's death when she was 13-years-old. In the book, Akosua grapples with an array of issues such as mental health awareness, dealing with loss, and healing.
‘LITERATURE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD’—Akosua aspires to attend law school in London following her graduation in May. She believes that literature can be utilized as a tool to get the important conversation on mental health started—as she wrote her book as a way to let other individuals struggling with the same issues as herself “realize that they are not alone.”
“I think, in deciding to write the book, I was thinking that I am seeing so many of my friends going through so many things, and they don’t really know who to go to or who to talk to,” she said. "The book is me getting up and saying, I see other people that are struggling with the same things I have struggled with, what can I do to make it better?” According Sena Adablah, a good friend of Akosua’s from school at home in Ghana, Akosua’s sense of compassion for others is an integral aspect of her personality. “She pushes all her friends and loved ones to be a better version of themselves and she has an undying compassion and love that does not wither,” Sena said.
Another cornerstone of Akosua’s personality is her belief that it is essential to remain true to oneself. “Don’t forget where you come from, or what you stand for,” she said. “So, I believe that, through literature, you can change the world. Don’t let somebody else’s opinion change what you believe in.”
Whether she be a lawyer, a writer, or otherwise, Akosua plans on dedicating her life to helping others. A humanitarian at heart, she has stated that she would someday like to start a foundation to educate people about mental health awareness and how to deal with loss. “As I go on, I’ll figure it out,” she smiled.