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With ‘The Forerunner,’ Cori Bush shows trauma ‘does not define who you will be’

U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, D-St. Louis County, celebrates victory during her Election Night watch party at House of Soul on August 2, 2022 in St. Louis.
Michael B. Thomas
Special to St. Louis Public Radio
Congresswoman Cori Bush’s new memoir is “The Forerunner: A Story of Pain and Perseverance in America.”

Congresswoman Cori Bush showcases immense vulnerability in her new memoir, “The Forerunner: A Story of Pain and Perseverance in America.” In it, she recalls early life lessons about segregation and discrimination in St. Louis and her experience as a survivor of domestic and sexual assault.

“I didn't realize [writing the book] would be as difficult as it was,” she told St. Louis on the Air. “I remember crying, just crying and crying, or just getting up and needing to step away.”

Despite wanting to give up at times, she persevered. It’s important to her that people going through similar situations feel heard, she said, and to understand that what you go through “does not define who you will be — and how beautiful your life can be.”

"Don't let whatever your story is — whatever the trials and tribulations, whatever those are or have been — don't let that hold you back or stop you,” Bush said. “The sky is not your limit because there is much beyond the sky, so go for it all and get the help that you need.”

The memoir is also a call to action: for those in power to better understand how their decision making affects the everyday person.

Cori Bush joins St. Louis on the Air

“I wanted people that have never experienced sexual assault or domestic violence, that talk down on those or don't believe those that have, to be able to go inside one of those moments — to help them to see what that is really like,” she said.

In “The Forerunner,” Bush also urges those in positions of authority to consider her experience as a new parent forced to live out of her car — and how the wage she earned working in leadership at a preschool wasn’t enough to pay the bills.

She guides readers through her childhood in north St. Louis County, her career as a nurse, a pastor, a community organizer during the Ferguson protests of 2014, to the night of her primary victory in 2020.

The book also details her observations about the U.S. health care system from the times she sought abortion and pregnancy care.

“I still don't understand why Black women's pain, Black women's voices are not respected, why we're not heard in health care, especially as it relates to reproductive health,” she said.

“We have so much work that needs to be done. But it only happens if we continue to push.”

In 2020, Bush made history by being elected as Missouri’s first Black congresswoman. She is up for reelection this November.

Hear more reflections from Bush by listening to this St. Louis on the Air episode on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast or Stitcher.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.