When times get tough, do you tend to hold it all inside?
If you do, you’re not alone. Pittsburgh native Maisha Howze has been working in the social services field for more than 20 years, and she knows that most people, especially in the African American community, do not want to show vulnerability or admit that they aren’t feeling right.
That’s why she’s written a self-help book designed to give people the strength to outwardly express their problems and then, begin the self-healing process.
The book is entitled, “W.A.S.H. (Withstand All Strife to Heal), Time To Do YOUR Laundry.” The official book release signing and party was held at Arnold’s Tea on the North Side, Oct. 26.
“Whenever you show that you’re vulnerable, people think that you’re weak, and no one wants to be looked at that way,” Howze told the New Pittsburgh Courier in an exclusive interview. “A lot of things that happen to people that impacts them, they hold it in and they try to be strong,” such as physical abuse via a family member or significant other, or drug and alcohol abuse. “There are things that happen in our community every day that we’re taught to be strong about and not talk about, but it’s time to move to a place of healing,” Howze said.
Howze, now 46 years old with two children, said she wasn’t immune to certain issues, which she openly discusses in the book. She talks about her thoughts of suicide, adverse experiences at the job and with co-workers, and the ups and downs of relationships with men.
The aptly titled book makes clever references to, say, the “dirty clothes” in one’s “hamper” (the mind, body and spirit); then sorting that dirty laundry (current trauma, mental health issues, drug/alcohol issues, familial discord, disappointments, grief, etc.); and onto the preparation stage (loading the washing machine, selecting the temperature and cycle); and ultimately, in chapter seven, the “spin cycle” (removing the trauma and problems from your mind, body and spirit to create a better, more complete person).
Howze, who grew up in the Hill District and graduated from Perry High School in 1991, told the Courier there are so many of her peers who, through no fault of their own, are going through certain issues and trauma. Just living in Pittsburgh, for example, brings what Howze calls “Community Trauma” (poverty, inequality, racism, discrimination). Howze said many African American women and men are also going through situations with their children, and it may be bringing the parent (or parents) down.
Erika Littlejohn, who’s known Howze for nearly 20 years, purchased a copy of the book and said that Howze was the perfect person to pen a self-help book for African Americans in Pittsburgh. “She’s been through some things, and she can give some good advice. It’s a good book to pick up, so that you can get through some obstacles that you might be going through.”
Littlejohn calls Black women in Pittsburgh “the odd woman out,” because they’re dealing with so much. “Relationships, the work world,” she said, and just living in a city such as Pittsburgh, where Black women face higher rates of maternal mortality and poverty along with lower rates of employment and college readiness, according to a recent gender equity report released by the city which was led by University of Pittsburgh researchers.
Howze, who earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Pitt and a master’s in counseling psychology from Carlow University, said she always thought about writing a book, going back to the early 2000s. But it wasn’t until February 2019 that she became serious about it.
“This is it, this is when it’s going to get done,” she said.
So during the day, Howze was busy as administrator for the Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services at the Allegheny County Department of Human Services. At night (besides being a mother, grandmother, friend and support to others), she was busy writing her first book, knowing that her experiences were similar to others in Pittsburgh—but she had found the recipe for dealing with those negative experiences and becoming the best version of Maisha Howze that she could.
“I’ve always wanted to see people grow and be better,” Howze told the Courier. “I’ve never wanted to be a writer, I’ve always just wanted to be able to tell a story that would hopefully help someone else. That’s my desire, to help people become whole.”
MAISHA HOWZE, a 1991 Perry High School graduate, with her new book, “W.A.S.H., Time To Do YOUR Laundry.” (Photo by Rob Taylor Jr.) (Featured Image)
by Rob Taylor Jr., Courier Staff Writer
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