Students facing trauma inspires famed author, Khan, to pen book to help transform ‘adversity into opportunity’
By: Kassidy Pack, OCCC Pioneer Student Writer
Dr. Nyla Khan, an adjunct English professor for Oklahoma City Community College, has just released her sixth book, and she said she feels that this book will give students access to a better education that is more knowledgeable of the trauma they might have faced in their lives.
The book, “Educational Strategies for Youth Empowerment in Conflict Zones: Transforming, Not Transmitting, Trauma”, focuses on her home of Kashmir, which has been a conflict zone since 1989, and it centers on the trauma of the youth that occurs in these high conflict areas.
Professor Steve Morrow, another professor at OCCC, has read Khan’s book and given her high ratings online.
“Her spirit is the educator, the historian, and the Kashmir patriot, who loves family, country, and the hurting.The combination of these gives Khan a special perspective from which to bring her pedagogy to force our own self-evaluation and to understand our connection or disconnection to the suffering worlds of our youth,” he wrote.
Khan said her focus on Kashmir, a territory of India, came from a feeling of being disconnected, and she said she felt she needed to reestablish the bonds to home through writing about her homeland.
When writing this book she focused on the trauma of students who faced challenging situations and felt there was no hope for their circumstances, she said.
Khan was inspired to write the book while she was teaching at Rose State college and OCCC and meeting students who had lived through trauma, she said.
“They had been exposed to ugly realities, their stories were painful and could bring a tear to the eye of even the most hardened person,” she said
Because of these stories from her students, she thought about how important education is in healing trauma that students faced. She said that having knowledge of trauma, and how to take care of those with it, among educators was the best way to bring young people to the table and make changes.
“Education gives the skills to transform adversity into opportunity. Education also gives students the ability to see themselves as agents of change and capable of making strategic life decisions,” Khan said.
“It is important that young people feel purposeful, committed to a cause, and have the tools to chart their own trajectories.”
Khan visits Kashmir every year and speaks at colleges and universities, she said.
On these visits to Kashmir and mainland India, she observed there was a lot of bandwagoning and sloganeering on whatever was politically popular at the time. However, there was very little conflict mitigation.
“I observed that several people were adept at raising slogans and rabble rousing, but no one seemed to give enough thought to the plight of young people who were disillusioned and demoralized and depressed,” she said
This is where Khan thinks changes are needed.
“The young people I came in contact with were angry, bitter, and did not feel powerful enough to bring about change,” she said.
“That was when I realized that unless we actively worked to bring young people to the table, help them recognize the strength of their voices, and also helped them recognize that the future belonged to them, all that sloganeering was pointless.”
Khan said she believes that the same can be said for those with mental health issues. They are worthy of being cared for with the trauma informed responses and reintegrated into society.
This will take active participation from every member of society, and every member of the world population.
Khan also said that she sees how mental health is still stigmatized in many places.
She believes that educated people need to remove that stigma and humanize those suffering from mental health disorders, she said. Societies need to cultivate empathy, and need to be able to listen with tolerance, patience, and respect.
“Instead of stereotyping and even demonizing those issues we need to give them platforms for them to speak from without fear of reprisals of being ostracized,” she said.
‘“As an educator my goal through this book is to encourage young people to reframe their traumas in order to place them within a political and social context. Their traumatic experiences can then become stories of strength, and they can commit themselves to building a new society based on transformative justice,” Khan said.
“It is then that a trauma survivor can transition from being a wounded person to a constructive citizen.”
Once trauma victims see themselves as a survivor, it makes their story more powerful for that realization. That the stories of the most everyday people can be the story that puts someone else’s trauma into a healthy context, Khan said.
“As we learn to understand more and more about trauma and resilience, we grow by working through the challenges and we give one another the gift of seeing the strength of one another’s narrative.”
Such understanding is only capable through the right kind of education and that having informed responses may be a key to this kind of education, she said.
“As an educator and an activist I consider it my responsibility to focus on what it would take for us to get our younger generations to channelize their anger and take the political process forward without playing into anyone’s hands,” Khan said
“We would do ourselves as well as the communities that we live and work in a great justice by exploring our positive memories and legacies.”
Khan’s book is available through Barnes and Noble and Full Circle, as well as as an ebook online.