Wellness and liberation can begin within. New book from Miami alumna guides the way.

Tiffany Williams

By James M. Loy, Miami University

As an educator and a storyteller, Tiffany Williams ‘18, PhD, goes by many names.

In the African tradition, she would be known as a griot, or one who is trained as an orator and historian. She also goes by the name Atunde, which means “we have returned.” But Williams also claims another identity, one earned from the deeply personal and introspective work that has defined much of her life.

“I’m the girl who saved herself," Williams says, and her new book, Pennywise: Intuit, Wisdom, and Spiritual Connection Through the Senses, is meant to inspire others to do the same.

More than a typical self-help book, Pennywise is a guide to help people understand and work through pain and trauma by exploring and connecting different aspects of their social, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual selves.

Tiffany WilliamsThroughout the book, Williams offers insightful passages and personal reflections that are followed by short, practical exercises. Each allows readers to apply these lessons to their own lives. “I tell my story as a way forward for other people,” she says. “So they understand that their story matters as well, and that wellness, healing, and liberation are accessible.”

For Williams, themes of wellness and liberation thread throughout most of her work.

After graduating from Miami University with a doctorate in educational leadership, Williams became a high school teacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she currently teaches African-American studies and U.S. history.

As an educator, she also oversees several school organizations including Women Empowered, which helps students become agents of change. As a storyteller, she also runs the website, Atunde Story, where her real life experiences are used to create additional wellness lessons.

More recently, Williams served as the keynote speaker during the 2021 Currere Exchange.

Hosted by Miami University’s department of educational leadership, the Currere Exchange is an annual retreat for educators, administrators, and community activists seeking to challenge the status quo in schools and across society by exploring new points of view.

Currere is a method of critical self-reflection used for personal development and political action. When employed correctly, it gives meaning and context to one’s own knowledge and cultural experiences, while also helping you to make sense of this knowledge and these experiences in relation to the larger historical, social, and political dynamics in which they exist.

While writing her dissertation, "To be Wild and Well: A Manifesto for the Love of Black Girls,” Williams used this autobiographical methodology to reflect across three distinct periods of her own life. By analyzing her past six-year-old self, her present-day self, and her future 60-year-old self, she embarked on a journey inward that ultimately revealed the best way forward.

“To become who I needed to be, I had to re-examine what I was,” says Williams. “I had to go back to the beginning, to see how I came to believe what I believed, to see how I got there, and to ask if that’s still important? I literally had to crack myself open.”

In short, imagine a kind of spiritual or metaphysical knot -- one you can only untangle after understanding how it became knotted in the first place. But then, once free, you can finally retie it into the beautiful bow it always had the potential to become.

Pennywise wants to help others begin a similar process.

“Wellness and healing is possible,” Williams says. “That is what my work is about. I’m not the blueprint. I’m the guide. You are your own healer. But I help walk in front of you in dark places so you can step out into the unknown, be well, and be liberated.”

Pennywise: Intuit, Wisdom, and Spiritual Connection Through the Senses will be available in the spring of 2022.

Williams can be reached at or on her website, where she provides updates for the book and other projects.