Blog Tour Interview: Deep Dark Blue by Polo Tate
Deep Dark Blue: A Memoir of Survival by Polo Tate is her story of surviving sexual abuse while in the Air Force Academy. With the immense outpouring of stories recently tied to the #MeToo movement, I am so proud of everyone finding courage to speak up, while some of us are still struggling to find our voice. I know this book may have some tough topics to address, but survivors and everyone else definitely need stories like Polo’s and I applaud her for putting her story out there and fighting for it to be told. Check out my interview with Polo Tate below.
Category: Young Adult, Memoir
Publication: May 1st, 2018; Feiwel & Friends
A YA memoir of surviving sexual abuse in the Air Force academy. This is a story that needs to be told and refuses to go away.
I want to be in the Air Force someday.
These are the words Polo Tate engraves on her junior dog tags at age eleven. An unpopular dream for most young girls, but her hard work pays off and at age eighteen, Polo finds herself in Basic Training at the United States Air Force Academy.
She does everything right, except fly under the radar. No one prepares her for what comes next. Physical, sexual, and emotional abuse at the hands of her superior. Betrayal at the highest levels of authority. Harassment from her peers, who refuse to believe her story.
Deep Dark Blue by Polo Tate is more than a memoir about sexual assault. It’s about breaking boundaries but also setting them. It’s about learning to trust your instincts. It’s a story of survival, resilience, and finally, finding your joy.
Interview: Polo Tate
They say telling your story is cathartic, was that the case for you?
That is a great question, especially when looking at it from this side of publication. But, the truth of the matter is, I wrote the book as a catharsis in order to deal with, and heal from, my experience at the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA). I tended, first, to analyze, figure out, cope with things inside my head, my heart, before opening my mouth to talk to someone, or share what was going on inside of me. Especially when it felt so shameful, so personal, and so isolating. After writing Deep Dark Blue, I realized that for those very reasons, it was essential that I try to publish this book. Because I could not be the only one who had felt that solitary confinement of isolation from being sexually assaulted, abused, or harassed. And, if others who felt that weren’t ready to speak to another soul about it, perhaps they would find comfort in reading about someone who had gone through something similar, who had felt something similar, who understood how lonely and difficult it can be.
Can you share some of the hurdles in the publishing process for Deep Dark Blue?
Absolutely. I think whenever you mix creativity and art with commerce, there is potential for frustration. Especially as the artist, when you have an emotionally raw and powerful work that you would like to bring to the world. And in the beginning of my process to find an agent and a publisher, there were times when it felt like it was taking forever. However—and I cannot emphasize this enough—IT IS ALWAYS PERFECT TIMING. Whenever it happens, whenever things fall into place, and start to unfold beautifully, it is always the perfect time.
In the time it took me to find an agent, I learned how to draft a query letter, learned a bit more about the business side of this particular creative endeavor, and was able to get a bit more distance from the emotional vulnerability of actually writing my memoir. In the time it took for my incredible agent and I to find a publisher, I was able to feel for the first time, what it felt like to have someone in the industry, whom I had the utmost respect and reverence for, on my side, in my corner, and working hard on behalf of my words. I learned how to be a better writer, with her insisting on some editing of the manuscript. And when we finally were offered a book deal from Feiwel & Friends, an imprint at the inimitable Macmillan, I cried with the knowledge that all of the healing, the hard work, the learning and growing that I had done since I started, was all going to pay off.
What I did not know was just how much love, support, and knowledge I would both receive and reciprocate in this beautiful and life-changing process. I am both honored and so appreciative of my agent, Jill Grinberg, publisher, Liz Szabla, and all of the incredible, passionate people that I have come to find out are involved in bringing books—and my book—into the world.
Would you tackle this memoir all over again if you had the chance?
I think writers write. If that is one of the means by which you best process the world around you, and your place in it, then you must do it. I must write. It is akin to breathing for me, in so many ways. So, yes. I would write this story again, and I will write more stories to come.
What advice would you give to young women looking into a career in the military?
Aww, thank you for asking this. I would not dissuade someone, regardless of gender, orientation, race, creed, etc, from serving in our nation’s military. We need people who are passionate to serve. And honestly, if we do not have those people, then how can we expect any change within the current system? I would only encourage young women to truly take the opportunity to learn more of who they are, how to love themselves enough to not just believe, but to know that how they feel is valid. How they feel is everything. And if something does not feel good, or right, to listen to that voice that we all have inside ourselves.
The military believes that in order to lead, one must know how to follow. And I would just add that good leaders allow their conscience to march right alongside of them, up front, in every situation, so that all those who follow can more than just feel its presence, but they can see it in the actions their leaders take, sense it in the moral fiber their leaders embody. You can find amazing people anywhere, just as you can find the opposite. And if you know yourself, if you know how you feel in each given moment, and you trust that what you feel matters, then you have every bit of guidance that you need to go into any situation, and follow what feels best in order to have a positive experience.
I know that for some, it might be triggering to read stories of assault, but it may also be therapeutic, do you have any non-YA reading material you recommend?
I just read Speak, the graphic novel by Laurie Halse Anderson. It was powerful, and amazing to see this subject matter in the form of a graphic novel. I am so moved by all those who write from their heart. Who have the courage to live heart first, it is to what I aspire each day 🙂
And, yes, I totally understand that it may be triggering to hear, see and read stories that touch on any sort of abuse and assault. I have experienced the darkness of mere nightfall, combining with the darkness inside of my own memory, and it overwhelming me to the point of a full-blown shaking, disassociating, PTSD episode. I understand triggers. And I would strongly encourage anyone feeling alone in a room full of people, alone in their shame or fear or pain, to please check out the resources that are listed in the back of my book, Deep Dark Blue. They are here to help. Life is about connection, about sharing love. And we are all in this together.
Author Bio: Polo Tate
Polo Tate was born in Lansing, Michigan, where her family has deep ties to the community. Her Great Great Grandfather was Ransom Eli Olds (R.E. Olds), a pioneer and prolific inventor most notably responsible for inventing the first American internal combustion automobile—the Oldsmobile.
Growing up, Tate used her athletic prowess and academic aptitude to earn appointments to both The United States Military Academy at West Point (USMA), and the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs (USAFA). She decided to accept the challenge to attend USAFA out of high school, where she played varsity volleyball in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). Tate left during her second year, and her harrowing journey at one of our nation’s most challenging institutions, can now be found in her gritty, honest and dynamic debut memoir, Deep Dark Blue.
After leaving USAFA, Tate restarted her college career at the University of Notre Dame. She played Volleyball for the Irish in the Big East Conference and eventually graduated with a B.A. degree in Film, Television and Theatre.
She is now an actor, writer, artist and comedian, performing at companies such as the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, Broadway Comedy Club, Reckless, and the PIT. She lives in New York City.
Polo Tate is a modern-day renaissance woman. Her talent is enormous; her energy, boundless. She loves people, lives every moment to the fullest, lets no one take her joy, and avidly practices the belief that you can do anything upon which you set your mind, heart and spirit.