Abrahamic Program for Young Adults to Join CLSC Young Readers for ‘Brilliant’ Program

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In Roddy Doyle’s book Brilliant, children are faced with the difficulties of life, inspiring conversations about depression and overcoming strife.

The Abrahamic Program for Young Adults coordinators will guide a discussion about that book for the CLSC Young Readers at 4:15 p.m. today at the Smith Memorial Library to explore symbolism and how faith can play a role in overcoming difficult times.

“It’s about children who are taking on what is called ‘the black dog of depression’ in the city of Dublin,” said Emily Peterson, APYA’s Christian coordinator. “We were approached about it because Matt [Ewalt] read it for Young Readers and felt that religious traditions could speak to it in interesting ways.”

Peterson said although the parallels between the the book and religion are not obvious, a spiritual point of view can become relevant with the topic of depression.

“Reading it through that framework, I was able to find some different themes to pick out that were relevant,” Peterson said.

Safia Lakhani, APYA’s female Muslim coordinator, said in order to have meaningful conversation with the kids who participate, all four fellows will share one thing from the book that resonates with their own faiths.

The “black dog” is the overarching symbol throughout the story, but the APYA coordinators will dig a little deeper and get kids thinking about symbols.

“We are probably going to approach it in personal ways, so we can show how it resonated with each of us,” she said.

Yasin Ahmed, APYA’s male Muslim coordinator, said it would be interesting to see how the young readers address conflict.

“I would like to see how they resonate with the main characters in the book to see if they would address these social issues in that way,” Ahmed said.

He said it can be challenging for kids to think on a societal level, so he hopes to see how empathetic they can be in the conversation.

“Hopefully we can show them that faith has a place to play in that area of conflict,” Ahmed said.

David Bloom, APYA’s Jewish coordinator said the program will be largely discussion based, allowing the young readers to steer the conversation.

The APYA coordinators, because of their backgrounds in faith and community, all have solid experiences in engaging youth in deep discussions and lighter topics. Balance, they said, is key.

“We wouldn’t ever do something where it’s all religious talk,” Ahmed said. “And we also would not host something that is all play with no substance.”

Peterson said the group will have to approach the subject matter with a certain degree of sensitivity.

“We don’t know what other people’s experience with depression has been, and it might strike a chord in a difficult way for some,” she said.

She said it will be important for them to make it as positive as possible for the participants.

“I think one thing that the book really offers is empowerment in the face of depression,” Peterson said. “So we aren’t going to just have a really heavy conversation, we will take it in a positive direction, and ask, ‘What is that empowerment for us?”

Readers will be broken off into small groups for the duration of the event, and in the interest of making kids feel comfortable enough to discuss the book’s themes, the fellows will be open about their own experiences to establish a judgment-free zone.

“It’s important to note that the book is called Brilliant; it’s not called Depression,” Bloom said. “So there’s an implicit message by the very title of the book.”

Andrew Manzella

The author Andrew Manzella

Andrew Manzella is a reporter and feature writer from western New York. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in journalism from SUNY Buffalo State.