Life Living speaker provides unique perspective

NEW ULM — Author and English/humanities teacher from South Central College Kristin Crone-Mills spoke at the Community Center Monday night as part of this year’s Life Living Series.

This year’s series theme is “The Challenge of Children” and Crone-Mills has written three young adult books including “Beautiful Music for Ugly Children,” “The Sky Always Hears Me,” and “Original Fake.” The book “Beautiful Music for Ugly Children” won the American Library Association’s Stonewall Award and the Independent Publishing silver medal for lesbian/gay/bi/trans (LGBT) fiction.

Each of Cronn-Mills’ books focus on outsider characters because she grew up as an outsider.

Growing up she came from a family that struggled with alcoholism, mental illness. Her parents were divorced, which was unusual for the time. Later in life Cronn-Mills was diagnosed with neurodiversity. Neurodiversity is a concept in which neurological differences cause the brain to process information in atypical ways.

This lifelong outsider perspective gave Cronn-Mills a unique perspective about working with and supporting outsider children and students.

“Humans like to belong,” Cronn-Mills said. “This is a human truth, but it also a human truth that we are categorizing animals.” The problem is that humans seeking power have used categories to exclude people. Cronn-Mills has also been curious about the people who are excluded for things that cannot be changed whether it is a neurological difference or because someone is LGBT.

“I can’t change my brain and people who are LGBT can’t change their orientation,” she said. “I always tell my students of all the variations that we are; whether people mark us as outsiders, are just natural human variations.”

Cronn-Mills spoke on methods for supporting outsider youths. She narrowed the method down to two words: “listen” and “believe.”

“You need to listen to that child whether that child is 5 or 15. Believe that that child knows what it has to say,” she said.

Cronn-Mills gave the example of a boy telling their parent that they identify as a girl. This is not a topic that can be ignored and the parent needs to have that conversation. Telling a child they are wrong for feeling they are a different gender than the one they were born to is not constructive and will only lead to pushing the child away. She said it is not a parent’s job to tell a kid who they are, it is a parent’s job to support a child.

“In my opinion it is a crime not to believe your children,” she said. “Who else do your children have. They have you, and if they don’t have you to look to for love and support, what are they going to do?”

Instead, she advises adults to ask outsider children what they need in terms of support and give them a helping hand or the information they need.

All Life Living Series speaker programs will be presented at New Ulm Community Center. The series is sponsored by New Ulm Public Library, United Way of New Ulm, New Ulm Medical Center, New Ulm Area Community Education, and New Ulm Park and Recreation. These programs are made possible in part by a grant by the Traverse des Sioux Library Cooperative with funding from Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

The next speaker in the series is Toni Schutta, a parent coach and licensed psychologist. Schutta will speak at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 22, at New Ulm Community Center.