I overhear the girls discussing something and I can tell it's a secret. I lean in to eavesdrop and they stop. "Who are you talking about? Who do you call Tiger Heart" "You!" they say in unison. "You are the Tiger Heart." Manoj continued, "You are fierce and will pounce but you are also protective and you have yellow hair."
The beauty of a book like Tiger Heart is that it’s not just one woman’s story – a story that starts in the southern part of the United States and reaches across the world to Darjeeling, India, and becomes the prologue to hundreds of life stories that are changed forever because of a simple “Yes”. That’s why Tiger Heart is not just a memoir but an epic tale – the young heroine leaving the comforts of home, going out to change the world and herself and then returning home to influence the people she’s always known to do the same thing.
On reading the book myself, I was hooked by Page 11. In that first chapter, Katrell recalls her experience with the boys club, the establishment that has intimidated many, yet going on to having an unlikely meeting with a powerful man who helped her establish connections in India. In the retelling, you can almost see Katrell ignoring her fears, realizing she has to overcome what she knows of herself to become more and to do more. And she does. What unfolds over the next hundred pages or so is as unlikely as anyone could probably imagine. As she says on p. 83. “You are only as capable as you think you are,” further validated by a quote I love from Yoda, “Do. or do not. There is no try.”
In Katrell’s travels, she survives mugging, con-men, dishonesty, illness, near drowning, has to abandon some of her projects because she’s a woman and she can’t sign a lease in the male-dominated society. But she also finds love and sacrifice where a family saves up to donate to her girls, she finds honest people whose greatest joy is to help someone else. And by page 99, Katrell has become Tiger Heart!
At page 107, I closed the book, laid it carefully and reverently on my knee, and allowed myself to weep. Katrell had gotten to the place where I think every person who pledges themselves to service wants to be – that place where it feels like everything is falling into place, the place where you’ve hit your head so many times against the brick wall that the bricks are giving out, clearing the way ahead. It’s the place where no mountain seems so high because you’ve already climbed the tallest ones. It’s the sentiment expressed by Glinda the Good Witch in the Wizard of Oz: “You’ve always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it yourself.”
One of the girls that Katrell has rescued and is educating, receives an epiphany that she shares on page 112: “Zero on its own has no worth but put it next to another number, and it makes that number important. The more zeros you add, the bigger the number gets. So know that if you are feeling like a zero, you do have great worth with teamwork.”
And that sums up the power of The Learning Tea, the name she gives to the project in India – no matter Katrell’s passion, her accomplishments are magnified the more people get involved and help. A lot of people giving change at her shop in Atlanta help pay for scholarships for girls in India. A lot of people at home buying a few packs of tea online go to support a program in Kolkata to rescue unwanted girls and transform them into productive women.
I am honored to have received the opportunity to read Katrell’s story and to share it with you here. But I know there are some people probably reading Katrell’s story and feeling a little like a zero in their own life too. So here’s how you can put yourself next to someone else and become even more important:
Visit Katrell’s website: The Learning Tea
Follow Tiger Heart’s virtual tour
The good folks at TLC have also sponsored a giveaway so a reader can win their own copy of Tiger Heart at each stop on the book tour. Just leave a comment below today to enter for your own chance to win.