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The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

City College student Aaliyah Hernandez’s journey through love and healing in debut book, ‘Turning Twenty One’
City College student Aaliyah Hernandez has published a book of poetry called “Turning Twenty One.” Photo: Rosaria Natura (Rosaria Natura/[email protected])

Two years ago, Aaliyah Hernandez was devastated when she had her first heartbreak at 19 years old, which lasted for two months.

But Hernandez, now 21 and a student at City College, knew she would have a way to express these painful feelings — through her art.

While a student at Folsom Lake High School in Sacramento, Hernandez became interested in the art of poetry and developed her own style of writing poems. 

She has used different techniques and styles as a way of healing from her heartbreak and other wounds, and as a way to express her feelings and connect with other people. 

“Growing up, I was very, very quiet,” Hernandez says. “Even still, I have a hard time vocalizing my feelings, so what I would do is write [them] down.”

Over the summer, she self-published her debut book of poetry, “Turning Twenty One,” through Barnes & Noble Press. The book is available for sale through Barnes & Noble’s website. 

“I feel very fulfilled; I will say that my sales are not through the roof, but I feel very fulfilled in that I finished it, and I published it myself,” Hernandez says.

 A growing love of poetry

During high school, Hernandez says, she started to appreciate microstyle writing, which became popular with Rupi Kaur’s Instagram poetry and published books. 

She says that Kaur, a 29-year-old Indian-born Canadian poet, could write so much in just four lines, and those four lines were powerful. Hernandez explored the same style in her poetry.

“I really liked the idea that I can put so much meaning into something so small,” she says.

Another poet who inspires Hernandez is Madisen Kuhn, who often writes about identity and sexuality. 

“I’d say Madisen is also fairly micro, but not four-line,” Hernandez says. “She’s a good paragraph; she’s super freestyle and super abstract with the way that she describes things.”

Hernandez bought a custom poem by Kuhn, called “Fated Light.”  “This is so cool,” she says. “No one’s going to have it ever but me.”

Hernandez describes “Fated Light” as being about how the light at the end of a tunnel can find you instead of you finding it yourself.

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What inspired Hernandez to write her own collection of poetry for a book was coming to terms with her breakup, she says. She also remembered how one of her co-workers, who was in their late 20s, said to her, “These are your golden years of your life.”

“I think 21 is such a pivotal age — there’s so much meaning in turning 21, so writing this book felt like I was putting that into words,” Hernandez says, adding, “… being published at 21 — I can’t complain. It feels right.”

Hernandez says there were several people who inspired her throughout the process of writing “Turning Twenty One.” 

Savannah Bridges, 21, who attends Arizona State University, is Hernandez’s best friend and one of her inspirations.

“Our friendship has been going on for 10 years now, which is the longest and closest friendship I’ve had in my life, and I think she knows that if she has something going on, or if she needs a friend to rely on — even though I’m a hundred miles away — she can always reach out to me,” Bridges says.  

Bridges says Hernandez was very quiet and shy in high school.

“She would say that there were people in her class she’d known for years, and they would say they didn’t know her,” Bridges says. “But over the years, especially after graduating [from high school], I would say that she’s grown into someone who makes her stances known. … It’s been wonderful to just see her grow.”

What lies ahead

Hernandez says she plans to pursue a career in creative writing and hopes to transfer to University of California, Santa Cruz in late 2022 or early 2023.

“I’d love to write full time. That’s my ultimate goal. But that’s also very hard to achieve,” she says. “I am going for my bachelor’s in English to be a professor. But, ideally, I’d be writing full time. My next book: I can tell you it will be a novel.”

Hernandez already knows what direction she wants to take her novel.

“With this next one, I’m going to let it write itself,” she says. “I can tell you that genre is actually going to be [a] very crime-related thriller, psychological suspense sort of thing, which is a total 180 from my first book.”

But she doesn’t see herself as stopping poetry or as always publishing. When she’s older, she says, she isn’t quite sure if she would want to share everything with the world.

Hernandez hopes “Turning Twenty One” will have a positive impact on readers.

 “I hope that they just find a sense of relatability in it,” she says, “and a sense that there’s security and knowing that you’re not alone in your experiences.”

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