By Lisa Owens, author of “The Silver-Horned Girl”
“When a girl suddenly wakes up with a beeping silver horn growing out of her head, her normal life is changed. She finds herself scared, left out and bullied by her peers.” – The Silver-Horned Girl
This girl was me. No, I didn’t have a beeping silver horn growing out of my head, but I did have a silver metal back brace that I had to wear all through high school.
In 1978, when I was in the eighth grade, I injured my ribs in gym class. While examining my X-rays, a doctor discovered that I had an “S” curve in my spine. I was diagnosed with scoliosis. The term, not to mention the journey ahead, was new to my parents and me. I was referred to a scoliosis specialist in Rochester, NY to be fitted for a Milwaukee Brace. The brace had two steel pieces in the back, one in the front, and a hard, thick plastic shell around my hips. There was an extra metal piece on my right side, a chin rest, and supports on the back of my neck.
Overnight, I went from a carefree kid to someone who couldn’t bend properly or fit into clothes without feeling like a robot. I constantly felt like I was choking. I had sores all over my body. I was told I had to wear the brace 23 hours a day, for my entire four years of high school, at least until I was finished growing.
We lived in Pennsylvania at the time, which I was thankful for because it was much easier to hide my brace in cold weather wearing turtlenecks and long pants. I was also thankful that the brace was correcting my curvatures. But I did not appreciate having to wear the brace to important functions or on the occasional date, and driving with it was hard because I had less mobility and reaction time.
I was bullied by some of my classmates. I had anxiety and struggled with low self-esteem. It was hard to feel normal. Determined to find something to feel good about, I tried out for our school’s tennis team and made it. Originally, I tried to play tennis with my brace on, but it was nearly impossible. I convinced my parents that my hour out of the brace would be used for playing tennis. Of course, one hour often stretched into more, but it was the only time I could divert my attention to something else and feel like me again.
Having to wear a brace at such a formidable time in my life hurt my confidence, something I’ve struggled with ever since. But after years of therapy, meditation, and immersing myself in education, I decided I wanted to make a difference and help others. Three years ago, I decided to write “The Silver-Horned Girl” based on my experience with my back brace.
For me, the “silver horn” represents a brace but for anyone else it can represent any challenges: anxiety, depression, eating disorder, etc. In the story, the protagonist realizes she is much more than just the silver horn on her head. Designed as a conversation starter for facing anxiety, “The Silver-Horned Girl” demonstrates to children ages 10 and up how similarly insecurity affects everyone. Whether a child experiences a visible difference or one less obvious, no one should have to suffer in silence. My hope is that through this story, along with its tools and resources, children, families and schools can create a safe space to have these conversations and set a better foundation for a student’s mental health.
At the end of the book, I’ve included “Talking Points,” a “Mental Health Tool Kit” and other valuable resources for students, parents and teachers. I also included space to journal.
I am very proud and humbled by the outpouring of support for “The Silver-Horned Girl” since it’s release in September 2022. Green Sun Medical, inventors of the Whisper Brace (an amazing back brace for scoliosis that allows a child to bend while wearing it), asked me to be an ambassador for their mission and is providing the book to each of their patients. Scolio-us, a web-based platform intended to empower scoliosis patients, is using the book as a resource for their members. Parents and teachers are bringing “The Silver-Horned Girl” into their classrooms.
Even though it’s written for ages 10 and up, I’ve had a number of families not only share the story with younger children but see themselves in the tale as well. My hope is to offer peace and a much needed message within the pages of “The Silver- Horned Girl” for a child in your life or for yourself. After raising two daughters, who are now 27 and 23 years old, I have realized we are never too old to embrace a children’s book. And, if the format seems a bit different, then that’s exactly the point of this story. We all have differences and that’s what makes us special.
To purchase a copy of “The Silver-Horned Girl”, please visit:
ParkRoadBooks.com (signed copies)
(Dorrance Publishing, 48 pages/Ages 10 & up)
Author Lisa B. Owens
After suffering from anxiety and low self-esteem due to wearing a back brace for scoliosis, Lisa B. Owens decided to use her story through “The Silver-Horned Girl” to help others. Lisa graduated from Penn State University in 1987 with a BA in Journalism. She has been a Special Projects Producer for NBC News Channel, Director of Marketing and Promotions for Our Kids & Teens Magazine (now Charlotte Parent) and a consultant in a variety of areas. She currently lives in the Charlotte area with her husband, Chris, two daughters, Madison and McKenna, and her furry children, Gryff and Fischer.
Additional scoliosis support groups:
Curvy Girls Scoliosis @cgscoliosis
National Scoliosis Center @nationalscoliosiscenter Scolios-us @bracingforscoliosis
Higgy Bears @higgybears
Green Sun Medical www.greensunmedical.com