Q&A with Nicole Lynn Lewis, author of ‘Pregnant Girl’

“I was a person before I was a mother, before I was a teen mother, before I was the pregnant girl.”

Rainesford Stauffer

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The last time I spoke to Nicole Lynn Lewis, founder of Generation Hope, she told me that student parents, especially those who are teenagers, are a “largely invisible population.” Despite being at the epicenter of intersecting issues, including systemic racism, poverty, classism, and basic needs insecurity, young adults who are juggling school, work, parenting, and growing up are frequently left out of discourse on everything from student debt cancellation to societal perception of what young adulthood holds. Around 12 years ago, when Lewis first got the idea to share her story via a memoir, that’s what the mentality was: Lewis was told audiences wouldn’t be interested in the story of teen parents being successful. She knew that mentality part of the problem.

With the release of Lewis’s book, Pregnant Girl: A Story of Teen Motherhood, College, and Creating a Better Future for Young Families (out May 4th from Beacon Press), student parents are at the center. The book isn’t only the story of one young mother, or just a critical call to action that demands better of our politics, policies, and structures of power. Pregnant Girl is also a nuanced portrait of the systemic issues that impact young people, and shape their lives.

Lewis’s memoir is an interrogation of worthiness in a country that still measures it, an examination of the inherent value of young people, and how equitable and effective programs and policies actually impact young parents. It should be required reading for anyone invested in creating a more equitable, just world, a more responsive and accessible “college experience,” and supporting young people.

Lewis spoke with me ahead of the book’s release. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. You can order Pregnant Girl here.

In regard to the initial conception of the project, I was thinking of the so-called “traditional” college student. One of the things that I think the book does so well is point out the nuance in young people’s journeys and how complex they are and how interconnected with different issues they are.

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Rainesford Stauffer

Author of An Ordinary Age, out 5/4/2021. Freelance writer. Kentuckian.