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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sonya Huber talks health care at True Story

Posted By on Wed, Jan 19, 2011 at 12:57 PM

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The latest installment of the True Story reading series goes down at Kavarna this week, featuring work from Sonya Huber, Jason Mott, and Randy Osborne. The creative non-fiction reading series brings wordsmiths together to dish stories of the factual variety, like a more literary This American Life or Moth. Those readers who caught our annual Fiction Contest issue should recognize True Story co-founder Dionne Irving, who penned the funny and unforgettable "Jesus Stalks."

Sonya Huber's latest book is Cover Me, a memoir recounting the difficulties of navigating and surviving our less-than-ideal health care industry. Huber teaches in the Low-Residency MFA Program at Ashland University as well as in the Department of Writing and Linguistics at Georgia Southern University. We caught up with her earlier this week to ask her a few questions about writing and health care.

What has your experience with getting health care coverage been? What led you to write about it?

I wrote about health insurance because, as a writer, I have had quite a few periods of freelancing where I needed to find and pay for my own healthcare. Although freelancing and contract work are seen as wonderful solutions in corporate America, it's rarely sustainable from the freelancer's side because of the healthcare costs. Once I wanted to have a baby, the problem was infinitely more complicated. I started collecting journal entries of focused rage. I decided to write about it because the combination of money and our bodies is very taboo, and I'm drawn to those off-limits subjects. I just want the system to change so that people don't have to live under this kind of crushing pressure.

What's your background? How'd you get started writing?

I got started writing poems in second or third grade, and in fourth grade I told everyone I wanted to be a reporter, so I’ve idolized and identified with writers from an early age. But in college, I was convinced that I couldn’t be a real writer and gave it up for a few years. I thought I needed to do something practical, so I went into social work. I kept writing on the side and eventually started to get published in magazines and journals. I was just intimidated and thought I didn’t have talent. In the meantime, I worked as a social worker, an organizer for labor and progressive causes, and eventually also a reporter.

Have the recent reforms made a difference for you? Do you think we're on the right track?

My fiance lost his job and managed to get subsidized COBRA through the economic recovery legislation—thank you, President Obama, you saved our butts. The healthcare reform won't start taking effect until 2014, if it survives legislative attacks, and I'm sure it will improve access. But it's still piecemeal. It's a start, but we need something much more coherent. We need a true safety net for people who are working hard and not seeing any safety in return.

Can you tell us a little about what you'll be reading this week at True Story?

I'm going to read a section of Chapter 3 from Cover Me, which is about my anarchist days trying to live off the grid, wondering whether the Do-It-Yourself ethic could also apply to healthcare and what happens when you try to live that way.

The True Story! Reading Series, featuring work from Sonya Huber, Jason Mott, and Randy Osborne, happens on Thurs., Jan. 20 at 8 pm at Kavarna in Decatur.

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