Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement
An Interview with TPC members: Rosie, Lizzie, Haley
TPC: Why did you want to be an author?
Nadya Okamoto: I didn’t want to be an author; I never thought about writing a book. I wrote this book called Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement, and it comes out in like ten days, which is really freaky. I’m really terrified for it, actually. It’s my first book. I wrote it in like three weeks earlier this year. I wasn’t really motivated to be an author, it was more that I wanted there to be a book out there for teens to know how to talk about periods in a not shameful way. Also I’m really passionate about addressing period poverty, so I run a nonprofit called PERIOD (period.org), and I started it when I was 16. The whole movement and organization is about fighting for equitable access to period products, so I just doing a lot of activism around that and then was asked to write a book, so I did.
TPC: What was your most embarrassing moment in high school?
NO: Honestly, I think that it’s when I started this organization. I had to do a lot of pitches, and the first pitch I did was in front of my whole high school. I had to talk about periods, and it why I wanted to do it, but it was so long ago that people would just laugh the whole time.
TPC: Since you didn’t want to be an author, what did you want to be?
NO: I think I’m still figuring it out. I thought I might want to do politics, and I ran for office last year. I ran for Cambridge City Council, so a local government position. I’m supposed to be a junior at Harvard right now, but I dropped out for a year, and I’m doing this and doing book tour, and running my nonprofit. I’m Chief Brand Officer at a Gen Z marketing agency. I’ll go back to Harvard probably next year.
TPC: Any college app advice?
NO: My first piece of advice would be if you know where you want to go, apply Early Decision. The acceptance rate Early is twice as much as it is normally. Harvard is usually four or five percent, early decision is like 14.
TPC: What is the process of college essay writing compared to writing a book?
NO: Writing an essay took like maybe 10 times as long as my book because I was so nervous about it. I think really colleges want to see that you’re passionate about something. Test scores don’t matter, I didn’t have a 4.0 or perfect test scores.
TPC: If you were a flavor of ice cream, what flavor would you be?
NO: I would say Rocky Road because I’m sort of a mess, but sometimes it all comes together.
TPC: What was your favorite place to write your book at?
NO: I had three weeks, and so I wrote most of my book at the Tokyo airport. I was in Singapore for a speaking gig, and on my way back there was the biggest snowstorm in years in Tokyo, so I got snowed into the airport for 30 hours, and I just sat down and wrote the book. I was still behind my deadline, I still procrastinated, I really wrote it in the last few weeks. It’s really just my story, like I started my organization because my family experienced legal homelessness when I was a freshman and sophomore in high school, and so I just wrote about that and why I care about periods and it sort of all came together.
TPC: What are you studying in college?
NO: I’m studying social studies, which is like political science, anthropology all mixed into one.
TPC: What was it like to run for office?
NO: It was exhausting. I was working six jobs when I was a freshman just to try to make ends meet and everything, so there was that, and then I decided to run for office. I would do homework, work my jobs, and then would canvas for six hours a day, so I would go out into the community and literally knock on doors and give people information, try to talk to people. Because I was 19, all the newspapers there and nationally were labeling my campaign as a student running, so I would knock on doors and a lot of time people knew about me because they read about me in the paper and would laugh or slam the door in my face or get mad that I was running. It was exhausting, but also we were getting death threats regularly because I was an Asian young woman. At the end of the day, we had this national support of young girls from all around the country who were so excited that a young person was running. We didn’t win, but we made history with student turnout in the area.
TPC: What are the three books you think every teen should read?
NO: So the secret is that I don’t really read, but I wrote a book that I think everyone should read. My favorite book of all times is A Hundred Days of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Roots by Alex Haley, and I love the book The Help by Kathryn Stockett.
TPC: Do you have any plans to write future books?
NO: Yes. Honestly, this is my first book event ever. I literally saw the first ever final copies of my book this morning here, and I didn’t know there was a signing and now I have to go to the signing. I am slowly starting to brainstorm, and I would love to write another book.
TPC: Would you ever consider writing a fiction book?
NO: Yes, although it seems a lot harder. Writing nonfiction, the reason I could do it so quickly, was because I just wrote what I know, like here’s what I’m passionate about. If you literally wanted to just shut me up and just get me to talk and distract myself, I could talk about periods forever because I’m so passionate about it, and so I think I just word-vomited it onto the sheet and I was just like this is what I care about, this is what I think, this is what everyone should think about.
TPC: If you could choose one song to sum your book up, what would it be?
NO: Quiet, by Milck. All her songs are feminist anthems. When I’m sad, I just listen to that song and I just feel really good.
TPC: Where has been your favorite place you traveled?
NO: I was in the Dominican Republic yesterday for work and it was really fun.
TPC: Do you travel a lot?
NO: Usually everyday or every other day.
TPC: What life advice do you have for teens?
NO: I would say just go for whatever you want to do. I think that especially teen girls look at opportunities and think of all the reasons why they can’t do something or all the things that make them unqualified, so you’re too busy or you’re too scared or you don’t know enough people or you don’t have enough money or you don’t have the connections, and I would just say forget about all of that and if you want to do something, just go for it. It seems really simple, but I think that’s my biggest piece of advice.
Period Power releases October 16, 2018.