Brooke Axtell – Beautiful Justice on ATX UnBound Podcast

Brooke Axtell – Beautiful Justice

“We’re the storyteller. We’re not the story of the trauma. We’re the one who gets to tell the story.”

Brooke Axtell

I’ve known of Brooke Axtell for years, and I am super excited to have her here on ATX UnBound. Brooke and I share a philosophy that you are the storyteller of your own life. More importantly, Brooke is a striking example of the power of creativity to help heal trauma.

Brooke is a survivor of sexual trafficking, and the way she talks about choosing how to define your own life is empowering and beautiful. Her story of using recovering from trauma reminded me of many of the amazing people I met in Rwanda, Kenya and Kashmir when I was working on my Enemies Project. (You can here some of that story on this episode about my work.)

Brooke has a book coming out this week called Beautiful Justice – a memoir about her experiences being trafficked for sex, her struggles to come to grip with the experience, how she moved beyond the trauma with her poetry, how she is working to help others. It is a beautiful and compelling story about creativity and how it can help people heal from trauma in their lives.

In her book and in the podcast, Brooke talks about what justice means for victims, and how we need to redefine our idea of justice.

“We see this emphasis on justice solely being what perpetrators deserve, instead of acknowledging that our vision of justice has to include what survivors deserve.”

Brooke Axtell

If you can, you should go to Brooke’s book release at Book People this weekend, Saturday, April 6 at 5:00pm.

Brooke is also a moving and inspiring poet. Her works touch on not only her own experiences, but also those of the many women and girls she has helped through her advocacy and nonprofit work.

Brooke reads one of her moving poems in the podcast, and I’ll end this post with a video of her speech at the Grammy’s and another poem of hers about the children on the border.



border girls 

for the women of juarez

foreplay in the desert 
(purpling with her molasses)  
the murdered body swells. she devours herself  
from the inside out, pink snake feeding  
on its own tail.  
all war is waged to kill a story

the fingernails remember.  
the remembering: black. border girl.  
scavengers leave gnawed leg. a shoulder missing.  
exposed the bones. screech of teeth. growl & grovel. 
maria vanished. after scratching ’round scabbed  
mountain sides, cops find wrists tied with shoelaces, dark flare of hair. 
brown border girl, strange girl, silenced in sand, shrubs & trash.  
i hear him whistling  
sharp on the bottle. taunting red  
gaze, the crazed slits. the howling show  
for the streetcorner shackling.  
i am in love with blood i have never seen.

her body bloats in white sand.


If this episode inspires you, another amazing interview you definitely should listen to is my conversation with Sally Jacques, the founder and creative director of Blue Lapis Light. Her life story is amazing, and her decision to turn difficulty into beauty through her art is equally beautiful and inspiring.

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