Alex Poppe is the author of Girl, World, a collection of socially-relevant short stories published by Laughing Fire Press.
People often ask how I went from actor to teacher/writer. In 2004, I was working with the director Larysa Kondracki (writer/director, The Whistleblower) on a short film. At that time, she was writing The Whistleblower and asked me to read parts of her script. I became intrigued by the story of Kathryn Bolkovac, portrayed by Rachel Weisz in Larysa’s film and starting reading Larysa’s source material including The Natashas by Victor Malarek. It was my activist awakening.
Going from actor to aid worker proved challenging as I had no transferable skill set. Therefore, I certified to teach ESL (English as a Second Language) to gain international experience and found I really liked teaching. It plays to my strengths as an actor while providing social value. By choosing employment opportunities in conflict or post-conflict regions such as northern Iraq or the occupied West Bank, I am able to volunteer with different NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and be of use.
The people and the places where I live and work inspire my writing. I worked in Kiev for two years and was surprised at the endemic commodification of women. I started writing shortly after I left Kiev, enrolling in The Writers Studio, NY and continuing with their on-line classes after I move to Erbil, Kurdistan to teach. When I studied Julie Otsuka’s narrative technique for Buddha in the Attic, I immediately knew I had found the narrator to tell the story of trafficked girls from Slavic countries. My short story ,“My Mother’s Daughter,” was born. The sing-song musicality of the narrative tone undercuts the story’s brutality, buoying the narrative for the reader.
Trafficking is a $32 billion dollar a year industry with as many as 2.5 million people being trafficked at any given time. Drivers of today’s refugee crisis such as war, climate destabilization, and growing economic disparity exacerbate the problem. I wrote the story to spotlight government complicity in trafficking with the hope that people will become outraged and demand change. Everything in “My Mother’s Daughter” came from research, which I then fictionalized. Unfortunately, human rights issues such as trafficking become political footballs or drop to the bottom of policy agenda in today’s political theatre. When the president of one of the most influential countries in world brags about grabbing women by their pussies, he validates the predatory sexist nature of the American subconscious and signals impunity for perpetrators. It is urgent now, more than ever, to use creative disciplines to spark debate and inspire change.