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Windsor author helps communities wade through trauma of natural disasters

A new book from a Windsor children’s author and psychologist looks at trauma of natural disasters and how young people cope with them, giving individuals from Sonoma County and beyond a new tool for dealing with fires, flood and everything in between.

Carrie Lara’s “Out of the Fires” is a “journal of resilience and recovery after disaster,” written from the perspective of a young boy whose classes were canceled after fires erupted in his home county.

If the story sounds familiar, it should. The book is heavily influence by Lara’s experience with her family during the Tubbs and Kincade fires.

Lara, who notes that her house was saved by “two blocks and a chicken farm,” during the Kincade Fire, said she combined the experience of evacuating during that 2019 fire with the experience of friends and family members.

“The little boy’s story is bits and pieces from the community,” Lara said.

Lara began the story in 2018 and worked on it for four years. Her first draft, she said, was too graphic for her East Coast publisher. They found her descriptions of the evacuating with her family too jarring and believed it to be too triggering for readers.

“Their conception of our fires was all through the media,” Lara said. “But this is what we went through.”

She went back to the drawing board -- literally.

“We took out the evacuation process and added pictures,” Lara said. “As a writer, I had a hard time with that, but as a therapist, I thought it was perfect. When we experience trauma, we often lose our words, so we draw.”

The book, in its published form, is presented as a journal and includes writing, illustrations and newspaper clippings to paint a full picture of the trauma of natural disasters and struggle to work through it. The book also includes coping strategies and resources to help those reading it cope with the aftermath of natural disasters.

“My hope is that readers use it as a tool to understand the process and trauma of a natural disaster,” Lara said. “The hope is that by traveling through the story with this little kid, it normalizes these experiences. You see that he’s still here and he’s resilient, which means we’re still here and we’re resilient.”

While the book is heavily influenced by the California wildfires, Lara believes it can be utilized by children, classrooms and parents worldwide.

“There are fires in Canada and Australia and tsunamis in the Pacific where entire communities are washed away,” she said. “Those with similar experiences will be able to gain good coping skills.”

“Out of the Fires” can be found at your local bookstore, including Copperfield’s or purchased directly from the publisher at imagination.com.

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