Blog Archive

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Special Guest Saturday: Meet Jami!

View her Bookstagram
My name is Jami Engel (@mysharedstacks) and I am a middle school librarian in Virginia. I read all types of genres and I love to chat about everything literary! Mental health is a huge element of my life--I believe in the power of advocacy and community to help normalize mental health disorders and treatment.

Q: When did you create your bookstagram? A: I created my page back in October 2019 with a totally different, monochromatic theme. I quickly changed it because I realized it just wasn’t me. Here I am in May, thrilled with and grateful for the connections I have made and the books I have discovered!

Q: Where did you come up with your username for the account?
A: I wanted my page to reflect the sharing of my reading life. Before even starting bookstagram, I loved following other pages that were actively authentic (updated their audiences with current reads and ratings/reviews, took pictures of reading in action, etc.) and I tried my best to emulate that feeling. My Shared Stacks represents the sharing of my shelves and reads--it also is an alliteration which makes me very happy!

Q: You have previously shared that your parents are deaf; how common is that particular situation?
A: To me, It doesn’t feel all that uncommon because we are immersed in the deaf community. Many of my parents’ friends are deaf (they both went to an exclusively deaf college), so it is hard for me to reflect on commonality. However, based on my own personal adult life and experiences, I would say it is pretty rare to have a mother and father who are both deaf!

Q: Did this effect your communication with them in a positive or negative way?
A: When I was younger, negatively. Older, positively. As a child and teen it was extremely hard to communicate with my parents. They rely on facial and nonverbal expression so much more than the spoken word; as a 16 year old, that is trouble! It took my family a long time to develop a communicative system that worked for us. Now, however, I most cherish my ability to communicate with almost anyone and I think this helped mold and shape my empathetic personality and drive my desire to become an educator. 

Q: You’ve also advocated for mental health; what practices do you use to combat your own struggles?
A: Reading, reading, reading! Loving on my family and friends and focusing on one task at a time. It sounds cliche, but exercising has saved me. Working out and my mood are one in the same. I also try to allow myself to feel. Old Jami would have tried to skirt around anxious feelings; new Jami allows herself to breathe and process those feelings so she can act in the way her mind and body need. Getting professional help (this is an act of bravery, not cowardice) and permitting myself to submit fully to the knowledge and advice of my therapist.

Q: Have you ever read a book that features a character struggling with same conditions as you?
A: All the time. BUT, I am loud and proud about my practice of putting these books down and getting to them “another time”, specifically if they are causing my own anxiety to creep up. I am very sensitive to movies, music, and books who feature characters/people with anxiety that manifests itself just like my own. I put these books down because that is what feels right! 

Q: For those struggling with their own mental health, what advice would you give them?
A: Someone recently asked me “what is one thing you will never do again?”. I will never deprive myself of mental health care, whether that is professional help, medication, or “me time”, or convince myself to just get over it. I will never trick myself into thinking I am weak because I can’t “self-cure”. My advice would be to unapologetically take care of YOU. Mentally, physically, whatever! Make time to check in with yourself. If you are at a loss, contact someone who may be able to help. Return back to little tried and true practices that make you happy. It is NOT selfish to focus on you--to give your mental health the care it deserves...just like we would with our physical bodies.


  1. Did your family use sign language? I'm just curious because my son is studying to be an ASL interpreter. Did your parents attend Gallaudet? So great learning about you!

  2. I love how you said you will never deprive yourself of mental health care. I thought I just needed to get over it or that I could manage it myself too.
    Thank you for sharing, I enjoyed these series so much!

  3. I so agree with Jami on letting yourself feel all the emotions. Avoiding them only adds to one’s troubles.


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