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Toronto book club empowers teen girls to find their voice through reading

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WATCH ABOVE: The library is a place of peace and serenity. A learning environment for many, but for Tanya Marie Lee, it became her lifeline on her road to recovery. Susan Hay has the story – Nov 26, 2019

For many, the library is a place of peace and serenity, and a learning environment, but for Tanya Marie Lee, the library is so much more.

“The library is a lifeline it always has been and it always will be for me,” said Lee, founder of A Room of Your Own. “It’s a sanctuary and it was my road to recovery.”

It became an escape from a life that was filled with conflict, trauma and abuse.

READ MORE: Toronto teen girls’ book club members to have meet-and-greet with Michelle Obama

“I escaped being bullied at school, I escaped the trauma in my home life. I wasn’t a victim at the library, I was me, you know,” recalled Lee.

“Just this little kid who just wanted to be at peace.”

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In books, Lee found everything she needed to move forward and thrive in life. She remembers the one book that got her through the tough times.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl,” said Lee. “His book is about how he survived the Holocaust, how he survived the concentration camp and then he talked about the therapy that he did for other patients.

“So that was my bible. If he could do it and he went through so much trauma, I could do this.”

Three years ago Lee started a book club called A Room of Your Own, in the Lillian H. Smith Public Library. It is an interactive book club for teen girls from all walks of life in high priority Toronto neighbourhoods.

“I wanted girls to have a vice in society and I figured what better way than to read a book and come together and talk about it,” said Lee.

READ MORE: Kenyan-born woman uses Canadian education to build school for students in her home country

The club discusses all subject matters that deal with being young and maturing into adulthood. The books are provided by the publishers and the girls get the chance to meet the authors.

“What I love about the book club is how uplifting it is,” said book club member Jewels Tran.

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“In the last three years it has given me more confidence in myself and more self-esteem.”

Last May a dream came true for Lee and 15 members of the club when they got the attention of former first lady Michelle Obama.

READ MORE: Former first lady Michelle Obama plans speaking engagement in Hamilton on Oct. 11

“I sent out a tweet. I sent it out to the Twitter universe to see what would happen,” recalled Lee. “Low and behold Michelle Obama’s assistant came looking for me through the library.”

Long story short, a group of girls got the chance to meet Obama in a private meeting before her sold out speaking engagement at the Scotiabank Arena.

“They all got their time with her and she said, “You’re all beautiful and smart so keep on doing what you are doing,” Lee said.

Lee continues to encourage teen girls to express their hopes and dreams as well as their concerns and frustration in a place that she calls her home-away-from-home.