Loving Our True Colors, with Author Cassie Brooks

My True Colors author Cassie Brooks is using her story to inspire others

This story can be found in our May/June PRIDE print issue, also available for free online.

With her third children’s book titled My True Colors scheduled to come out this June, accounting-analyst-by-day Cassie Brooks is all about making space—for her children’s books, her LGBTQIA+ advocacy, and finally for herself. 

My True Colors tells the story of an 8-years-old trans girl named Molly, based on an actual young person Brooks met as the children’s group director at a local Unitarian Universalist church. Brooks got permission to use Molly’s story, and felt motivated to share it as it’s an important narrative rarely told.

Cassie Brooks with kids, reading a book
Cassie Brooks reads her book to children, face painted

In the story and in real life, Molly knew she was a girl since she was four years old. Molly’s real-life parents recently agreed to let her change her name and socially transition. In the story, she is bullied by some kids at school, and her parents question whether they are doing the right thing by supporting her. Eventually, Molly’s parents within the story decide to stand by their child, and she even makes a friend who tries to understand her pronouns. 

Toward the end of the story, it’s superhero day at school, and Molly is going to be her own favorite superhero. She has a cake with the pride flag, and she’s showing up in her true colors. The story describes some of the struggles that Molly and her family have, but their ultimate support is something that Brooks feels strongly needs to be represented. 

Brooks says, “Children need to see themselves represented in stories in a positive way. They need to find out who they are and find that there are people that love them, just as they are, for who they are. There’s a high suicide rate for the ones that aren’t supported or that don’t see themselves. It’s just so important for them to see themselves as they are.” 

Brooks plans to release My True Colors with the support of OUTMemphis and several members and organizations in the local trans community, who also helped her finance the book. Local artist Katie Jones, who is a parent of two trans kids, illustrated the book. Brooks says that she hopes to continue to build the support around the book into a community project. 

Cassie Brooks' books, We Remember and My True Colors
Cassie Brooks’ books, We Remember and My True Colors

She says, “My hope for doing this is to create a resource, to create that space in a children’s book that can show where support is happening. A lot of children are accepting of it, but they might not understand it. It’s the adults who are not ok and don’t understand, and the older they are, the more those biases are passed down to their kids. I am just hoping that by having a resource and some of this support, it will be a tool to help with understanding.”

Brooks also thinks that it would be wonderful for the story to make a “banned book” list. She said, “A lot of people gravitate towards [banned books] whether it’s out of curiosity or because they realize, hey, there’s something in there that the government or certain associations are trying to control, and they want to just kind of look at it or support it.” 

“Children need to see themselves represented in stories in a positive way.”

The idea for writing children’s books came initially from her son Elijah amid conversations about not fitting in at school. Elijah was 6-½  at the time (now, 9). He is of mixed descent, Black and white, tall for his age, and Brooks says he does not know a stranger. 

In her 2021 book, Sticks and Stones, Elijah expresses his worry: “They say I’m weird. I’m too big and I’m too loud. But I’m not, am I mom?” The mom responds by showing Elijah some of the crystals and the wand she uses in practicing her religion, paganism. Like Brooks, the mom is pagan and uses this idea to let Elijah know that she knows who she is, and she is ok if people think that’s weird because other people don’t decide who she is, or what she does. 

Cassie Brooks with son, Elijah.
Cassie Brooks with son, Elijah.

Her 2022 book, I See the Moon and the Moon Sees Me, which has won two awards including a Richard Wright Literary Award from the Memphis Public Library, continues with this theme of support, this time finding comfort in nature. 

Another part of her journey of the past few years has been Brooks’ own coming out story. She grew up in a very traditional church, and continued attending into adulthood. She says that she probably would not have processed her own thoughts about her sexuality if she did not step away from religion and the church. Brooks shared that her involvement with the Unitarian Universalist Church and paganism has allowed her more freedom, less rules and less structure.

She had been married to her husband for 16 years, but an experience she had with her best friend that gave her that “butterfly” feeling—something she described as an “electric shock, that was even hard to explain”—opened her mind and her eyes. At 38-years-old, Brooks came out to her husband as bisexual. Though her husband gave her the liberty to explore her feelings, after reading Perfectly Clear by Michelle Le Clair, which is about coming out of the closet in your 40s, Brooks subsequently decided that she did want a divorce.

Brooks and her friend remained best friends and never pursued a romantic relationship. After thinking about her experience she finds that “most of us, if we are on that precipice of coming out… it’s really about changing your life, turning your life upside down. There are a lot of unknowns.” 

She is grateful to be living her truth in a way that feels right for her. Brooks’ decision also lets her be an inspiration for others. Brooks said, “My temperament allows me to be comfortable enough to put myself out there, so maybe somebody else will be comfortable enough to do the same.”  

Brooks says that when we’re seen, we become a safe place for others and may even allow them to see themselves as who they are. Brooks is working to create those safe spaces for children and adults and hopes that more people will be willing to come along with her on the journey.

All images provided, courtesy Cassie Brooks.

Follow Cassie Brooks at @cassieweaverbrooks for updates on My True Colors and any future projects.

We have chosen to use a different name for the main character of My True Colors as to protect the minor mentioned in this article.

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