Every month we'll highlight a reader in the Great Lakes Bay region and learn more about them, their work, and their reading life. We'll also discuss books and share a conversation about something close to their heart.
A breath of fresh air. That's how I'd describe Brightyn Henika. We met recently for coffee at Live Oak Coffee Roasters in Uptown Bay City and had a lively conversation, connecting on books, theatre, the arts, and more. Brightyn is smart, witty, multi-talented, and a ray of light as their name suggests. And, they teach elementary and middle school kids. I wish I'd had such a groovy teacher.
Read on to learn more and check Brightyn out at their upcoming events!
What do you enjoy most about your job at the Alice & Jack Wirt Public Library?
I really enjoy helping people find and discover books they'll love, and as a teen and adult fiction desk clerical, it's something I get to do a lot! It's really cool because not only am I showing them great things that they would enjoy reading, but I also learn just as much from them and am always finding great books I love from their recommendations as well! It's such an amazing exchange of energy, and all for the love of both reading and learning!
What is one tip about or hidden gem at the library that people might not know?
It's so hard to just pick one, and even after having worked at the library for nearly two years, I am learning about more cool features all the time! One thing I think people should know is that there are so many ways that books, movies, music, and other resources can be accessed. Aside from checking out physical materials, people can do a lot through apps the library is connected with too on a mobile device, such as hoopla and Kanopy. It's like having a whole library at your fingertips too!
Since June is Pride Month, can you recommend a couple great LGBTQ+ books for different ages/genres?
Absolutely! Some of my favorites I've read recently are:
- My Shadow is Pink by Scott Stuart
- Hopepunk by Preston Norton
- Can't Take That Away by Steven Salvatore
- Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
- Music From Another World by Robin Talley
- The Love Study by Kris Ripper
- Delilah Greene Doesn't Care by Ashley Herring Blake
What suggestions do you have for parents who want to be supportive of their LGBTQ+ kids?
The most important thing is to listen. Listen to what your children have to say and create a safe and loving space for them to express themselves.
Is there anything you'd like readers to know about being non-binary?
The biggest thing I would like readers to know is that there is no right or wrong way to be nonbinary, nor does it have a particular set of standards to follow. Nonbinary looks and feels different for every individual, and how one expresses that is all unique to them!
Stories can transport us and often help us understand others and ourselves better. You mentioned reading a book by Wendy Moss that shed light on how you experience things. How did that realization change you?
Upon reading A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Mass, I realized that my synesthesia and everything it makes me see, feel, etc. is not something common for every person. That book changed me because not only did it open my eyes to how the world can look and feel to people who don't have it, but it also helped me understand and be able to make more sense of any disconnects that happened with some people over the years because of it.
An example of that I'll always think of is when I got into an argument with a teacher in middle school because they tried to tell me that sounds did not have visible color attached to them. That book also introduced me to some of the different types of synesthesia outside of my own palette too, and it pushed me to look more into its various realms. Since then, I've now met and connected with other synnies and it's cool to be able to share and learn about our own unique experiences!
When we met for coffee, you mentioned a show that you were just cast in at the Vanishing Elephant Players. Tell us a bit about the role and show.
Absolutely! I've been cast as the role of Chuck in Vanishing Elephant's production of Qui Nguyen's 'She Kills Monsters.' The show is about a woman named Agnes Evans who is trying to connect with her younger sister Tilly one last time after Tilly and both of their parents died in a car crash. When she finds her sister's D&D module, she sets out to learn more about her through the game.
Chuck is a member of Tilly's friend group who works at a game store, and he is enlisted as the dungeon master for Agnes's campaign. He's a nerdy, overconfident, music-loving kind of guy, and I'm so excited to bring this character to life! The show will take place July 22-24 at the Historic Masonic Temple in Bay City.
Brightyn reading Hopepunk about forgiveness, redemption, and hope.
What do you like most about living in Essexville/Bay City?
I really like that it is becoming such a great place for all kinds of art forms to grow and thrive! Between music, theatre, dance, and all the wide varieties of visual arts, there's something for all kinds of artists and aspiring artists to be involved in.
You'll be performing at a music festival in Mio. What is the event and when is it?
The event is called Nor-East'r Music and Arts Festival, and it takes place the weekend of June 10-12. I'll be performing the songs from my album, 'Synesthesia,' as well as many of the new ones I've written. There is going to be an incredible lineup this year too, and I'm looking forward to performing among such incredible artists as well as enjoying everything that the festival has to offer!
What is your favorite graphic novel? Why?
My all-time favorite graphic novel, hands-down, is Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe. I love it because the author's transparency is delineated so well in both eir words and drawings. Eir story is also something that so many, myself included, can relate to on a lot of levels.
What author, musician, actor would you like to join you for a trip to Bay City? What would you do when they visited?
I think it would be so much fun to have Danny DeVito! He is my all-time favorite actor. It would be really cool to bring him to a show, whether it be an open rehearsal or performance!
Also! Here's the link to my album: