Ridgefield High student's book 'Step Bravely' inspires confidence

Ridgefield High School junior Justine Corsilia has self-published a book. The work, "Step Bravely: A teen girl's guide to gaining confidence in her actions, appearance, and life," is now for sale at Barnes and Noble.

Ridgefield High School junior Justine Corsilia has self-published a book. The work, “Step Bravely: A teen girl's guide to gaining confidence in her actions, appearance, and life,” is now for sale at Barnes and Noble.

Justine Corsilia / Contributed photo

RIDGEFIELD — A local high school student’s quarantine project is now available for purchase on Barnes & Noble’s website.

When schools closed last year amid the coronavirus pandemic, 16-year-old Justine Corsilia used the additional free time to write a book that would help readers, specifically young girls, build confidence in themselves and their actions.

In “Step Bravely: A Teen Girl's Guide to Gaining Confidence in Her Actions, Appearance, and Life,” Corsilia discusses society’s unrealistic beauty standards and offers ideas on how to be comfortable in one’s skin. By sharing her own struggles with body image issues and the pressures of social media, Corsilia’s work encourages readers to become more confident and self-assured.

The book was part of the Ridgefield High School student’s bid for the Girl Scouts Gold Award, which includes a “Take Action” project that addresses the root cause of an issue affecting a community, town, state or country. As the perpetuation of “the perfect body” on Instagram negatively affected her, Corsilia set out to develop a resource to help those who were having the same experience.

“I interviewed other girls and included their stories to make it more relatable,” she said, “and to help girls understand that they’re not alone.”

Corsilia began writing “Step Bravely” about a year ago. It includes sections on body image, social media, nutrition, eating disorders and gaining confidence, for which she said she spent “hours” researching. It also features interactive activities like writing prompts on self-reflection, comparison and situational occurrences. Corsilia illustrated the book, as well.

The young author worked with several partners to bring her book to fruition, including her teacher, Judy Silver, who teaches reading electives at the high school. Last spring, she taught a course called “Teen Voices in a Changing Society” — Corsilia was one of her students.

In addition to writing and conducting research for the book, Corsilia drew the illustrations, as well.

In addition to writing and conducting research for the book, Corsilia drew the illustrations, as well.

Justine Corsilia / Contributed photo

“The course was about finding your own voice and to make your voice heard, and for her to write a book for girls who may be struggling with body issues and developing confidence, this was the ultimate reward,” Silver said. “She began to understand the power of her voice in helping others.”

Silver edited rough drafts of the book and assisted Corsilia with its citations. “Once I edited it about one million times, it was ready to be published,” Corsilia said.

While the work was being printed, Corsilia asked Silver if she would advise a “Step Bravely” book club. Roughly 10 students logged on to Zoom to join the intimate conversations that the book produced, and Corsilia received feedback on her writing — some readers even said the work changed their perspectives.

“One girl said she loved (it) and to write more,” Corsilia said. “It’s amazing to realize that my book will make a difference as it gets into more people’s hands.”

While the book is recommended for readers ages 11-15, Silver said she found value in it, as well. “One of the prompts asks us to think about examples of how we compare ourselves to others, which is something I still struggle with as an adult,” she said.

Now that the book is available to the public, Corsilia said her writing days are far from over. She hopes to host more book clubs and continue spreading her message.

“I don’t want to stop here,” she said.

“Step Bravely” is available for purchase on the Barnes and Noble website. All proceeds will be donated to the National Eating Disorders Association.

alyssa.seidman@hearstmediact.com