Acclaimed best-selling author Morgan Harper Nichols has a new book centered around championing individual journeys. After her “plan A” as a college admissions counselor fizzled out, Morgan was propelled into the music industry alongside her sister and she quickly tapped into her innate passion for creativity. With that, the Morgan Harper Nichols we know as a musician, poet, and mixed media artist whose tome “How Far You Have Come: Musings on Beauty and Courage” is available now, was born.
Not only does Morgan have a new book, but she also has a fierce following from the likes of Jennifer Garner and Reese Witherspoon who’ve applauded her bravery after she revealed in a heartfelt post that she was diagnosed with Autism at age 31. The author’s journey to discovering her diagnosis points out racial disparities in the medical field as doctors gave her misinformation about testing and brushed her off as “just fine” for years.
BOSSIP recently chatted with the impresario about her mission to help silence shame surrounding adult autism diagnoses, her book, and her lofty writing goal.
You’re on a mission to write 1 million poems during your lifetime, which is a WHOLE lot. How far along are you and what is the significance of 1 million?
Based on my estimations I should be somewhere around 5,000 [poems]. That’s very far away from 1 million. However for me, it was important to have a number like that because I did the math and I was like, ‘You know what, what’s a number that would take me a lifetime to get to?’ And 1 million was the one I landed on. The significance of that was coming from the music industry where everything is so rushed, I was like, I need something in my life that I’m not even going to get here until I’m 80 years old, something in my life that I can’t rush through. It’s going to take me time to figure that out. So that’s why I still have that [goal] it keeps me focused on myself and not trying to rush anything.
Let’s talk about your latest book “How Far You Have Come: Musings on Beauty and Courage.” This is not only poetry but essays, what can people expect from it?
So I really do believe that there is so much that we can learn just by looking back and seeing how far we’ve come. So I took that literally, I literally started thinking about literal journeys that I’ve taken. As a kid, my family was big on road trips so the book actually starts in Atlanta, Georgia, where I grew up and I stopped at every state all the way to Los Angeles, California, where that road trip ended and I was actually born in L.A. I have different stories and experiences in all these different states and what I hope that other people get from this, is the inspiration to look at the trips and the journey that you’ve taken in your own body and what you’ve learned from that.
Maybe you’ve lived in a different state or even just lived in a different house. What does that state teach you? What does that landscape teach you? What did you learn or experience being amongst those trees or being in that particular city and that particular season? There’s so much that is literally happening on the earth that we have all walked through an experience that could help serve as like a way to get deeper into this is a richness and beauty of our stories. I just hope that it’s a way to help other people really celebrate and honor their journey.
Now, speaking of journeys, you were very public about your journey to be diagnosed officially with autism. We as Black people don’t like discussing our medical history, what made you want to come forward?
It was very hard to even think about sharing this really intimate, huge part of my life but one thing that really kept me focused on writing the blog post and not backspacing and deleting the whole thing was, I have this sort of vision of a Black woman years from now on Google looking for experiences of Black women who are diagnosed as autistic. I was like, ‘I’m putting this up there for her.’ And that’s why I chose put it on my blog first and it’s not Instagram because blogs are just more searchable. I said, ‘I’m going to just kind of dump everything that I have to give in this moment for someone who’s just Googling and they’re searching and maybe they’ve been told by doctors that nothing’s wrong with them.’ Or maybe they just need to hear it from someone else. That’s what gave me the courage to press publish.”
I want to talk about how you got to that point. I read that you kept going to the doctor and they consistently told you that “You were fine” and brushed you off but you later saw a TikTok video that changed everything…
“Yes, that is the story. I had been told by doctors that there’s “nothing wrong with me” and I was “perfectly fine.” It was during the pandemic and I was just scrolling through TikTok and I ended up seeing different videos of women who have been diagnosed as adults. And I was like, ‘Wow, they’re literally describing my whole life.’ Quite a few of them were actually a few years younger than me, but it was still just enough to be like, ‘Okay, there is something here.’ That’s what gave me the courage to hop on Google and try to find a specialist in my area that specialized in seeing adults. Even then it was like, ‘Do you really believe me?’ It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but I’m so glad I did it. It’s just made such a huge difference in my life now because I know how more in detail what I struggle with and how to ask for help. And then two, the idea that maybe I can help someone else.”
What do you hope people learn from your latest book?
I think the biggest thing that I hope people learn is actually a very small thing. The stories in the book are in the larger picture of my life, actually very small stories. I just hope that people can learn that looking at your story doesn’t always mean you immediately jump into the biggest things that have ever happened. I think we’re doing a great job in culture right now with getting help in therapy for different experiences whether they’re traumatic or just really serious and that’s really important.
At the same time, is there is some beautiful moment in your childhood where you were watching a butterfly or fireflies in the backyard. There’s some beauty there too and you’re worthy of spending time nurturing that part of your story as much as you want. I get chills when I talk about that because I feel like I’ve been given the gift of remembering these little things in my life and they give me a sense of joy especially when times get hard. I want everybody else to have that experince. I just hope it gives peoples permission to look at all the small things in their lives that are beautiful, good, and nurturing in some way, they just hold on to them.