When Oakland resident Eddie Velasquez was growing up, he was frequently taunted by his peers for being gay. They called him derogatory slurs and told him to be a “real man.” He was raised in a traditional Latino household, and his cultural identity made little room for homosexuality. To stop the bullying, Velasquez even dated…

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Sophie Elkin reads her poetry at the Oakland Public Library. Photo by Chloe Shi.

17-year-old Sophie Elkin, named Oakland’s 3rd Youth Poet Laureate in August, writes about what she knows: the grit and grandeur of Oakland’s people and places and the less tangible but no less real world of adolescence. After a childhood struggling to come out to herself and her parents, Sophie hopes her poetry will help other women to find their voices the way she has.

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