Putting herself in the story

Aimee Nezhukumatahil’s journey to where she is today.

Kat Mccullum

More stories from Kat McCullum


Kat McCullum

Author and Professor Aimee Nezhukumatathil reading from one of her essays.

Aimee Nezhukumatathil was the first female football mascot of Beaver Creek High School in Ohio. Several years later, when she told her parents she was going to switch her college major from pre-med to English, she would hear them talk at night about how allowing her to be mascot was one of the reasons she diverged from the path many of her ancestors had followed.

“I felt I was letting the whole 400 years of Nezhukumatathils who were in the sciences down,” Nezhukumatathil said.

She remembers her parents reaction at the news.

My stoic Indian father wept…My mother didn’t speak to me for a week….I laugh about it now but it was tumultuous moment in my family,” Nezhukumatathil said.

Despite this turmoil, Nezhukumatathil knew she had to be a poet. Nezhukumatathil had watched for years as who she was continued to be absent from the artistic world around her.

I never saw anyone who looked like me so I just assumed this was not a path for Asian Americans… We didn’t belong in poetry, we didn’t belong in nature writing or environmentalism,” Nezhukumatathil said.

It was this very fact that convinced Nezhukumatathil she had to choose poetry because there was so much for her to say and change in the field.

“My father told me ‘Look Aimee, I don’t know what you’re doing with your life…but if you can promise us that you will always still feel like a student on this planet than you have our blessing with whatever you want to be,’” Nezhukumatathil’s father said to her.

Nezhukumatathil holds true to that and, through her work as a nature poet and environmentalist, finds ways to teach herself every day.

Nezhukumatathil has been interested in nature from a young age.

“We didn’t own books…what we had at home was medical and science journals. Natural history guides, field notes; I’m such a nerd but, to this day, it’s my favorite thing to curl up by the fire with a natural history guide,” Nezhukumatathil said.

It is because of this innate love for the world around her that Nezhukumatathil feels so inspired to write about what she sees: both the beauty and darkness of it.

“I needed to write because the animals I was writing about were disappearing… It is not enough; nothing we’re doing is enough. Documentation has to be followed up with action,” Nezhukumatathil said.

While Nezhukumatathil does what she can, she knows it is not enough. However, she takes solace in the fact that the volunteering she does is action, and it stills allows her to be an attentive mother, professor, spouse and friend.

Through all her experiences, Nezhukumatathil holds in highest regard one thing to be true.

“A poet’s job is to take note of the things that do not stand out… What you can do as a writer is push back against the fast-paced world we live in and take the time to slow down, get lost on the page and travel the world from the couch,” Nezhukumatathil said.