Introspective, unapologetic, and brave, Natasha’s Not My Name is rooted in a desire to share in heartache and success with other girls on a journey of self-discovery. It is inspirational reading for all women. The author Isabella Grosso talks to Book Glow about her memoir.
Describe the memoir in one sentence.
Natasha is about saving ourselves from the cages we’ve built so we can find freedom.
What led you to write it?
Back in 2012, I started taking a writing class called Writing Through Your Life, which was very therapeutic. As a part of the exercises, I had to write about specific events in my life and share my writing with the group. At first, it was really difficult to even find the right words, but once I found them and shared them out loud, I was surprised how cathartic it was. I was even more surprised that people were interested in my story and told me they could relate. It was very healing to know that I wasn’t alone in my experiences. Natasha was born out of the feeling I had when I was in that group, writing from a place of darkness trying to find the light.
How long did it take to write?
Oh geez, this will age me. I’ve been writing Natasha off and on for eight years. I had to go to therapy while I was writing because once the words fell onto paper it made everything more real. I never wanted Natasha to be just a pile of memories, I wanted to find the meaning in those stories, so that required a bit more time to process things.
Tell us about the process of working with ML Bordner to write your memoir.
Initially what was so great about working with M is that she is a part of the She Is… documentary team, so she knew my story before we started writing together. By the time she signed on to co-write, I had been writing off and on for a while. She worked from those drafts to help build Natasha into what it is today. We shared a very personal and vulnerable ten months where she would interview me, and work to pull memories out of their hiding spots. We joke that I taught her how to read my mind, but it actually feels like she can at this point. I grew up reading poetry with my dad and I fell in love with it, so she brought that poetic style that I really wanted. The story wouldn’t be what it is if it weren’t for her writing and dedication to this book.
Was it difficult to share your story?
It took me until my late twenties to share my story. It was very difficult then, and even today it can still be hard. What helps me is my team from She-Is and the girls we teach. It gives me so much strength and courage to share when I see the power that can come from helping someone else see that they’re not alone.
What led you to create your non-profit, She-Is?
After stripping, I didn’t have a group of friends that I could connect with on an empowering level. So, I found an organization called Women Empowered and decided to volunteer at one of their events. I became a board member for them and started mentoring young girls after school, where I would teach dance to those rescued from sexual abuse and sex trafficking. I fell in love with it and decided to start my own nonprofit, focused solely on teaching dance to survivors.
Can you tell us more about it?
We started teaching in 2014 in LA, San Francisco, San Diego, Palm Springs, and New York. We have expanded to teach in Cambodia and Thailand, where we take mission trips once a year and teach dance to survivors of sex trafficking. To date, we have taught around 500 survivors. The work we do is all based around the mind-body connection and helping to build body ownership. As a survivor, I know how important it is to reconnect with your body. We want to help girls rediscover that their body is their own, and that no one should ever try to take it away from them.
What book most influenced your life?
The most influential book in my life was actually a book of poems by Robert Frost. I was surrounded by art and poetry as a child, so I read it when I was growing up. My dad would have my brother and me memorize poems and recite them to him, and then we would talk about them. The one that always stuck with me was “The Road Not Taken.” My dad talked a lot about what it means to forge your own way, so I’ve gone back to that a lot over the years.
Any advice for young people that wish to pursue a profession in the arts, be it writing, dancing, painting, or something else creative?
Whatever your passion is, never give up on it. There have been so many times when I’ve felt so lost and defeated. Sometimes I’ve craved giving up, but that spark inside me wouldn’t let me. Listen to that little spark inside you. Keep going.
We are in the home stretch of finishing our She Is… documentary, which is really exciting. I’m also in the middle of working with my team to expand She-Is, and I just started working on my second book.