Author Alex Elle visits Cal State LA for ‘Well-Being Week’


Alyssah Hall

“Author Walk & Talk” attendees gathering in the PASRC post walk for reflection, pictures with the author and refreshments. Photo by Alyssah Hall.

“Everyone is not going to accept the change and healing that you’re doing, and still, you must choose yourself. You must choose your healing. You must choose this path,” Alexandra Elle told the University Times. “Also, remembering that the healing in us can recognize the unhealed parts of other people and to just greet that with compassion and love.”

Cal State LA’s Well-Being Week brought author Alex Elle to campus. Hosted by the Office of the Dean of Students and the Cross Cultural Centers (CCC) on April 18, this day consisted of an “Author Walk & Talk” and a “How We Heal book talk” with Elle.

Elle is a New York Times Bestselling Author and a restorative writing teacher, according to Elle’s website. Journaling was integral to Elle’s journey of self-discovery, so she shared this and other tools in “How We Heal” to help readers reclaim their peace.

Elle and Lorena Marquez, the director of the CCC, greeted about 20 people who showed up for the Walk & Talk. They were asked to follow Elle and Marquez to gather in a circle outside the University Student Union.

To Marquez, wellness is centered on healing and Elle has been one of the driving forces for her in her healing journey.

“I do feel like our campus has a lot of healing and pain to address and so Alex can just be the beginning of cultivation of what that can look like at Cal State LA,” Marquez said.

After Elle introduced herself in the circle in front of the U-SU building, she asked the group to remember or jot down in their phone or notebooks, “What do I need right now?”

The group then walked to the outside area of the Luckman Fine Arts Complex, where they were told to break off into partners and participate in a healing exercise led by Elle. Members were asked to stare into their partner’s eyes while one partner listened without response and the other told their partner what they needed. This process went on for a few minutes, then Elle had the partners switch roles. After the exercise, Elle asked everyone what’s hard about identifying their wants and needs.

“My therapist said that [the event] would be good for grieving, so I’m kind of open to that and how to heal,” said Darlene Hernandez, a criminal justice major.

Hernandez said she didn’t really know much about Alex Elle before the event, and wanted to come in open-minded to see what kind of techniques Elle had.

For the second exercise, the group followed Elle and Marquez to the King Hall courtyard. Elle had people break off into pairs again, but this time with different partners. Then she asked them to stand back-to-back as she recited “I am” statements aloud. The rules were for them to lean back gently onto their partner when they felt that the statement applied to them. This way, when the weight would shift back and forth between the pairs, they knew they could count on their partner to support them.  After this, the group went around in a circle and declared what they were worthy of.

Chris Battle, the fraternity and sorority coordinator within the Center for Student Involvement, attended the event.

“I wanted to support the [CCC] and their event, but I also love Alex Elle’s work,” Battle said. “I’ve been following her on Instagram for a little bit and so I was very interested when I found out that she’d be coming on campus.”

After the walk and talk, the group went inside the Pan African Student Resource Center to reflect on the walk, take pictures with the author, and grab a tea or hot chocolate at the hot water station.

The book talk was held later in the day and had free “How We Heal” books for attendees that signed in with the QR code, as well as free snacks.

Lidia Mercedes has a master’s in social work and is a part of the Cal State LA Downtown L.A. advanced standing program.

“The Advanced Standing Program facilitates completion of the MSW degree requirements for students with a bachelor’s degree in social work from an accredited school of social work and allows them to complete their master’s degree in one year,” according to Cal State LA’s website.

Mercedes felt that Cal State LA holding space for a Black author that she admired was a sign that she had to come to the event.

“I really enjoy the author. I was telling my friend how just looking at her podcasts, looking at her interviews, she’s very well-spoken,” Mercedes said.


The book talk Q&A with Elle was hosted by marketing major J.T. Chestnut on the stage of the U-SU theatre. The crowd was filled with about 40 people, to which Elle said she loved intimate groups. Below are just a few of the many questions asked by Chestnut and answered by Elle at the event.

J.T. Chestnut interviewing Alex Elle on stage at the U-SU theatre for the “How We Heal Book Talk.” Photo by Alyssah Hall.
J.T. Chestnut interviewing Alex Elle on stage at the U-SU theatre for the “How We Heal Book Talk.” Photo by Alyssah Hall.

Q: Cal State LA’s average age group when it comes to the undergraduates and the graduate is 24. I’m curious to know, who were you as a 20-something, 30-something-year-old and what would you say to yourself now?

A: Oh lord, who was I as a 20-something? I was really lost. But I chose to start my healing journey, intentionally chose this path when I was 22. I will be 34 this year. Something that’s really magnificent is that deciding to choose myself and to choose my healing, and to choose to do things differently from what my parents did. Gave me a lot of fear. But also a lot of liberation. Because I didn’t want to continue with the cycles that were keeping so many of my family members stuck and silenced. As a 34-year-old woman today, I would tell my 24-year-old self to keep pressing forward and to keep choosing herself.

Q: One thing that glows about you is the motherly love that you have for your three young queens and I’m curious to know how do you connect your mothering with healing?

A: Wow. So as I mother my daughters, I mother myself. I have a 15-year-old, a five-year-old and a three-year-old and I truly believe that God,  universe, higher power, whatever you want to call the divine, has blessed me with daughters. Because I have so much more healing to do. I have so much more mothering of myself to do and so I have learned how to soften in motherhood.

I had my first child when I was 18. I had no idea what I was doing, where I was going, but I knew that I wanted to be different. I had made a choice to bring a child into the world under less-than-ideal circumstances and I knew that I was not going to be the mother that I had. And I didn’t want to be a woman who was living in survival mode, trying to figure out how to love someone else. When I look at my girls, I see healing embodied.