How bullying and abuse can prevent people from being themselves

I think one of the cruelest sides of bullying and abuse are the way they can prevent a person from simply being her or himself.

Because when you’re suffering one, or both, all you want is to stop it. You can only think of how life would be without it. That’s when some people start blaming themselves for it. It sure must be their fault; there must be something seriously wrong within them…otherwise it wouldn’t happen, right? Nope! But it’s easy to think like that when your surroundings give you that impression. It’s hard to believe it’s okay being who you are when people around you are incessantly picking on you because of that.

Take my example. I’m not a very sociable person, never was. Of course it might have been because of all the abuse I suffered in my own home, but still… I always preferred to read in a good corner than to go to a party, for instance. Actually, I don’t like parties. Never know what to do in one, where to put my hands, what others are finding so funny… It’s more like torture to me. I LOVE to socialize on the internet, but not so much face to face.

Well, it’s okay now. I can say that and, even though most people still don’t understand my preferences, they respect it. But when I was at school, it was reason to mock me. To despise me. To write things about how much of a freak I was on the walls. To whisper, point and laugh when I was sitting on my chair during breaks, reading. In some cases, it was even reason to destroy my books when I wasn’t there and to assault me outside school one day…

It was also reason at home for having to hear things like: “You should go out, you’re young, can’t be reading all the time”, or “You look weird reading so much, go out, make some friends”; “What’s wrong with you, can’t you be like the other girls?”.

If it weren’t once in a while, okay, but it was repeated to me EVERY SINGLE DAY.

So tell me, please, how can a child or a teenager, believes there’s nothing wrong with the way he or she wants to spend their free time (as long as they don’t want to do anything dangerous or illegal, of course), when even your mother keeps screaming at you because of that?

It’s impossible.

That’s when this little person starts thinking people must be right. So, if they change, if they try to act more like others, the incessant ranting, the constant mocking, the hell would stop, right?

I believed that, and tried so hard to be a ‘party-girl’ like everyone told me I should be, that I got into a lot of trouble. The shiny nerd I was soon was dating anyone. Drinking, smoking, coming home just the next day without even calling.

It almost destroyed me. All because I couldn’t be the person I really was. And the saddest part is that it didn’t work. Of course not. Bullies just love to bully, it’s what they do. They will find any reason to pick on you, no matter what you do. So don’t change to please them. I learned it the hard way.

Back then we didn’t call it bullying, nor abuse. At least not here in Brazil. It was just the daily hell, no one talked about it, no one thought about it. Except the ones suffering, of course.

It still happens everyday, but at least we are talking about it now. We are worried about it and trying to find solutions.

But meanwhile, teenagers, and even children, dread so much going to school and facing the bullies that some of them start skipping classes. If they have a not so good environment at home, they may as well just runaway. Or they will try to change their behaviors to better fit. Some can’t cope at all with it and think of harming themselves as an escape.

So please, I beg all parents and caregivers… Pay attention to your children. Talk to them. Be sure they are okay. Be sure to tell them they can be who they are, that they don’t have to change to please anyone. Make them feel safe enough to talk to you if they need help. Listen to them when they talk about bullying.

Oh, and also, pay attention if they are the bullies. Make them understand that it’s never okay, it’s never funny, it’s never the answer.

I firmly believe that we can change the world by better educating our children. Let’s try!

My 4 star Review of ‘The Fragile Lion’, by Mark Darley

**Reviewed by Renata F. Barcelos for Readers Favorite**

The Fragile Lion is a very different, unique story. It has drama, suspense, mystery and literary elements.

It starts with Justine, an apparently simple schoolteacher in another school day. Soon we realize that this is not an ordinary day; she was not supposed to be working. A tragedy had occurred and she should be home, recovering. Justine, however, has no recollection of what happened and has to rely on what people tell her to unfold her misfortune.

Confused and lonely, she thinks a trip might help. Then she meets an interesting pair: a mother and her child, a girl who simply refuses to eat. Trying to help them, another tragic accident changes their lives forever.

It’s a very different tale. Justine is quite a character; it’s hard to define her in one sentence, since she is not exactly who she seems to be. As her relationship with Sonya, the Sioux child she desperately wants to help, gets stronger, we have the opportunity to learn more about her. Her life has not been easy; she’s almost used to misfortune. As we get to know her past better, it becomes somehow easier to understand her actions.

Her quest to help Sonya is also a quest to help herself. To find purpose to her own life, to find reason to carry on. She thought she had lost everything, but she has a lot to find out; people to reconcile with, guilty to overcome, old debts to pay.

It’s basically a tale of redemption. Justine acts without thinking, without looking back to do what she believes is her obligation, her mission. But meanwhile, she goes learning from point to point.

The dialogue is well written, and a bit enigmatic. The child’s stubbornness is almost annoying and I think I wouldn’t have the patience Justine had. But she’s almost as stubborn as Sonya, which makes them the perfect pair.

I don’t know much about the Sioux Indians, but it seems like Mark Darley did his homework about the Indian culture. The descriptions are very well done, to the point you can easily visualize the scenes.

So much happens in such a short period of time, and still the book flows softly, unrushed.

The ending is very poignant and, even though it lets questions unanswered, it gives the reader reason to hope for a better future.

Overall, a beautiful, touching book that I’d recommend to all drama readers.

My 5 star Review of ‘An Order of Coffee and Tears’, by Brian Spangler

Paperback Edition

Kindle Edition

An order of coffee and tears is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s absolutely glowing in my top ten, and even maybe in my top five. I cried reading the last chapters today on the train, and I can say that not many books made me do that; only three or maybe four so far.

It starts with the covers. Look above; I can’t decide which one is prettier, so I decided to put both.

Brian Spangley brings you a tale so vividly narrated by Gabby, a young waitress, that you feel like watching a beautiful, touching movie inside your head. The story is poignant, but not mushy. It has the exactly right amount of mystery, love, friendship, routine, sadness, redemption and, of course, coffee and tears.

 As each chapter unfolds, we learn more about Gabby and her new family—the other employees and some customers of Angela’s Dinner. It’s an old fashion dinner, where people go not only to eat and drink, but sometimes also to share their problems, to talk, to open their hearts. We have the opportunity to hear many of their stories, through the ears of Gabby. And we can see how she, Ms. Potts, Clark and others (I don’t want to give away too much and spoil your fun, so I won’t name all of them) grow. The whole dinner seems to grow along the story.

The dinner contains a universe so intense, so many lives intersecting inside it, that it’s not difficult to see how Angela’s is a character as important as others.

Many deep and intense themes are presented, in a tender and easy to connect way. You get to know the characters and their secrets, feeling their pain, their fear, their hope. You are, at some level, another customer, sharing your own order of coffee and tears.

 It’s impossible to talk much about the plot without revealing too much and spoiling it, so I’ll refrain from it. But I can tell you this: if you liked Fried Green Tomatoes, the movie, or Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, the novel, by Fannie Flagg, you’ll certainly, utterly love An order of Coffee and Tears. A true masterpiece. Beautifully written, masterfully constructed, amazingly finished.

Spotlight on Yvvette Edwards – Interview with Author of ‘A Cupboard Full of Coats’

I cannot even begin to explain how excited I am with this interview. Today I have the privilege of interviewing a new author, whose debut was one of the best novels I’ve ever read.

As you can read on my 5-star review of her book, I really loved it. Besides being an amazing author, Yvvette is also a great person, who even let me use one of the many beautiful sentences of ‘A Cupboard Full of Coats’ as an epigraph for ‘My Sore Hush-a-Bye’.

That’s why I’m so proud to present you this interview.

So, let’s learn more about her!

Please, tell us a little about yourself.

My family are from Montserrat in the Caribbean.  I was born in England and grew up in Hackney, East London.  My first novel, A Cupboard Full of Coats, was published in April 2011. I started writing A Cupboard Full of Coats during the year that followed my 39th birthday, which was probably the most introspective year of my life.  The idea evolved from a true life scenario and had been knocking around inside my head for a couple of decades before I finally got moving with it. It took about eight months to come up with a first draft, and another year to edit it.  Then about a year to find an agent, and maybe eight months for her to find my publisher, Oneworld Publications.  My novel embraces my cultural background and the lives of people I’ve grown up with. It is steeped in realism, and explores a number of meaty issues, like domestic violence, single parenthood, jealousy and love.  I think I write about things that trouble me, and the writing process is cathartic, so I don’t necessarily understand things more when I’ve finished writing about them, but I feel better, and for me, that’s enough.

How long have you been writing?

I have always loved both reading and writing.  Perhaps because when I was growing up my family didn’t have much money, and certainly not lots of money to spend on toys, I spent my childhood in libraries, and through books I went on adventures, often visiting parts of the world I could not have travelled to otherwise.  Through books I have lived a thousand lives in addition to this current life that now finds me writing myself.  For me, reading and writing are flip sides of the same coin and I have done both as far back as I can remember.

Do you remember the first story you wrote?

I can’t remember the first story I ever wrote, but I do remember that my first ‘major’ work was a biography of the life of Elvis Presley, which I wrote in 1977 in the days following his death.  For large periods of the writing, I could hear my mum and my aunts crying in the background!  I don’t have a copy of it, but I really wish I did.  It was just over 30 pages long and I can vividly remember the feeling of accomplishment I had when it was finished.

Can you tell us two eccentricities about yourself?

I have an obsession with trees.  One of my favourite fantasies is reading a book beneath an Indian bean tree.  I have favourite trees in different places I’ve visited, and books filled with pictures of them.  Weeping willows fill me with sadness.  Laburnum and cherry trees in flower make my heart sing.  The colour of autumn leaves simply takes my breath away.  Because of trees, autumn is my favourite time of the year.  The second (riveting!) eccentricity is that I’m an eavesdropper.  I love listening to fragments of conversations, as I pass people, while on buses or trains, one-sided discussions people have on their mobile phones.  And I am as enthusiastic about listening to what is said as what has not been said, the gaps and holes.  In fact, I think I enjoy the spaces in conversations more than the conversations themselves.  I like to think of it as healthy curiosity, (as opposed to me being nosey!)

What was the best thing you’ve ever heard (or read) from a reader?

I have been asked if my novel is a true story because the characters and events seemed so real.  That is always music to my ears.  It is not a true story, but I feel I have accomplished what I set out to when readers find my work so authentic they believe it must be autobiographical.  I was also deeply moved to have been asked if one of my sentences could be used as an epigraph for another writer’s work.

Do you have a good Indie author to recommend?

I haven’t read many books by independent authors, though I have a few in my ‘to read’ pile, that I’m hoping to get to soon.  However I had the privilege of reading Silver by Scott Cairns a few months ago, and I strongly recommend it.

Who inspired and/or supported you to become a writer?

If it were a single author, it would be the magnificent Toni Morrison, who blew me away when I was about twenty with The Bluest Eye.  Despite my having read thousands of books by that point in my life, I had never read anything like it.  It was so honest, and deep, and eloquently written, (some of her sentences read like poetry, so lyrical), not to mention that it was the first book I’d ever read with a purely black cast and it was written by a black woman.  I think that was the first time I actually truly considered the possibility that I could perhaps one day be a writer myself.

My mum has always supported me in my writing endeavours, as have my husband, and my close friends and family.  I consider it great fortune to have them in my life.

Do you have a WIP (Work in progress)? If so, can you tell us a little about it?

I do.  I have another fabulous female protagonist on the cards, who is trying to find her way through some weighty emotional issues.  I’ve not been able to carve out, (and defend to the death!) my designated writing times over the last couple of months, which means my progress is much slower than I’m happy with, but it’s headed in the right direction, and I’m in love with it.

What is your favorite of your books? Why?

This is an easy question to answer as I have only had one book published, it’s A Cupboard Full of Coats!

What is your favorite of your characters? Why?

I love Lemon.  He is my favourite of every character I’ve ever created.  He’s so stylish and flawed and honest and funny and disgraceful.  And I had a lot of fun with his speech, idiosyncratic and humorous and blunt to a fault.  He was a genuine pleasure to craft, so vibrant.  I would love to have met him.

Do you like to interact online? What’s your favorite social media?

I’m a bit of a late-comer to social media, but it is brilliant that through mediums like Facebook and Twitter, I can interact with people who have read my book in parts of the world so far away, that if it wasn’t for these forums, I wouldn’t have the chance to correspond with them at all.  I think I am more of a happy tweeter than a Facebooker – if there is such a word!  Having said that, you can have more of a chat on Facebook.  Plus I’m an over-writer most of the time which means that on Twitter, I often end up spending more time trying to reduce my tweets to less than 140 characters than it takes me to write the tweet in the first place.

How do you feel about marketing your books?

I am very lucky to have had my book published by Oneworld Publications, who have done much of the marketing on my behalf.  I am also lucky that my book is judged on its content and not my marketing skills, which I’m not convinced are particularly good.  I have to do some marketing myself.  It is hard work, and requires me to regularly step outside of my comfort zones.  But I love talking to readers (and writers!) about my book, which is very fortunate.

Please, give us all your links – where can your readers find you and your books?

Twitter – www.twitter.com/YvvetteEdwards

Facebook – www.facebook.com/YvvetteEdwards

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/A-Cupboard-Full-Coats-ebook/dp/B005F37X7K

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/A-Cupboard-Full-Coats-ebook/dp/B005F37X7K

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Yvvette! I know how busy you are, so I really appreciate that. Now please, don’t let me interrupt you anymore. Go back to your WIP, because I can’t wait to read your next masterpiece!! 🙂

And readers, don’t go anywhere! Stay tuned for the next interview.

  • If you’re an author and want to be in my spotlight, contact me!

My 5 star Review of ‘Fallen Men’, by Brian O’Hare

I love reading, and love even more to find a good story and help spreading the word about it. That’s why I review books here, on Amazon and on Goodreads. I’m truly glad that Amazon is [apparently] not going to forbid me of doing that… (read more here)

(*I’ve just joined Readers Favorite’s Review team, so in the future my reviews may also been there too)

I  finished “Fallen Men”, by Brian O’Hare yesterday, and really liked it.

Even though it talks about three Catholic Priests, I don’t believe it can be simply defined as “religious fiction”. It’s way more than that.

It’s more a study of how faith can both save or destroy you. Of how morality and honesty are relative concepts depending on one’s point of view or interests at the moment. It’s also a study of how depression can lead to unthinkable decisions.

Brian O’Hare has talent to describe people and situations without boring the reader. He can also make you enter the characters’ thoughts so you are deeply into the situation with them. And he creates real people, defected, sometimes weak, sometimes strong people. Priests, lay people… they are all real in a way you can relate to them here. And about Father McGennity… Boy, I know a Father really similar to him. Well, the truth is, Fathers are men, and men come in all sizes and kinds; O’Hare presented it greatly in this story.

I thought the way the forbidden relationship was presented was both tender and disturbing, which was perfect  for the story. The gray areas that can surround even a Father’s life were very well described, even with Father Dan, and his black or white view of the world.

As a Catholic myself, I must say that I can relate much more to Father Dan than to Father Ray. What Ray did was inexcusable to me and even though the surroundings (internal and external) might help explain in some level his actions, I still believe his mission as a priest was exactly to avoid temptations at all costs. In my Parish we have amazing examples of Fathers so I may be too biased in my opinion… But I still believe he should have been better. I would prefer at all choices to be publicly accused as Father Dan, of following the Church’s Laws to the end than as Ray.

I may sound too harsh, but the priesthood path is not for the faint of heart. It means an entire life of dedication to others and the Church. The Parish is your family, and God must be in your thoughts at all moments. Sure Priests sin too, but to an extent… Mortal sins in a Father shake the Church’s core. I can understand some falls, but Ray fell too much for me.

You see, O’Hare’s great skills as a writer are still making me think so passionately about Ray’s story… All the moral dilemmas stay with you long after finishing the reading. And that’s what makes me say this book is a must read. It doesn’t matter your religion or even if you believe in anything… Fallen Men is an excellent, well-written story that raises great questions and gives a lot of food for thought.

Find out more about Brian on his blog: http://brianohareprofessor.blogspot.co.uk

 

A NEW [and better] official response from Amazon regarding its Review Policy for Authors!

It seems to be every author’s biggest concern lately that Amazon has been removing reviews according to their new guideline. Said guidelines, according to some emails received and shared by authors, indicate that Amazon considers authors to be direct competitors of other authors, and therefore, not allowed to review their books.

It was really heartbreaking to imagine that my opinion wasn’t wished by the big retailer now that I’m an author. I mean…I’ve been writing reviews on Amazon for a while, and have lots of helpful votes. Does Amazon really wanted me to give up reading since I started writing? It really didn’t seem right…

Well, instead of keep thinking and moaning about it, I decided to ask them directly. I emailed them today, and received a different answer, that I’ll share with you. This answer seems logical and straightforward enough to calm me down. I’ll even post a review on Amazon later today of a book I finished yesterday.

If some of you continue to receive the other formal response (the one that states they are not even going to explain their policies and that you should not go further into the matter or your account will be removed!!), as Robert Chazz Chute [hilariously] wrote on his great blog post, we’ll have to assume that Todd is still on the loose! 😀

But seriously, since what I was told today makes sense, I prefer to think that Amazon has rethought and that this is the [New] official response about our right to review other authors! Let’s see…

So, here are the emails:

Me:

—————
11/13/12 09:47:06
Your Name: Renata F . Barcelos
Comments:I’ve been reading authors talking about Amazon new Review Policy, and that some of their reviews are being removed… I don’t want to believe that Amazon would take arbitrary actions like forbidden authors of writing reviews just for being authors themselves.

However, I’m afraid of posting reviews on Amazon now, and unwillingly cross some sort of new line here… So, I want to know for sure if I can review books on Amazon, whatever category they are in or if I should refrain from posting reviews on Amazon altogether and posting just on Goodreads and my blog.
—————

Amazon:

From: Amazon.com Customer Service
Subject: Your Amazon.com Inquiry

Hello Renata,

Thank you for your inquiry regarding what is acceptable for reviews.

We try to encourage our customers to give their honest opinions on our products while staying within our guidelines. As a retailer we are interested in cultivating a diversity of opinion on our products. Part of that is allowing our customers to air their honest thoughts on items they have received. Here’s a link to our guidelines for reference:

http://www.amazon.com/review-guidelines/

I hope this helps. We hope to see you again soon.

Thank you for your inquiry.
Best Regards,

Amazon.com
Your feedback is helping us build Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company.

Since this was such a generic answer, I wasn’t at all satisfied… so I asked again:

—————
Hi,

Thanks for answering so quickly, but I’m afraid my doubt persists…

As an author published through KDP, I’m still not sure if I fit in this part:

“Sentiments by or on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product (including reviews by publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product”

So, just to clarify it completely: even being an author and having books published on Amazon, can I still review other books, no matter in which category they are?

Sincerely,
Renata
—————

Their final [and most important] answer:

Hello Renata,

You can review other books as long as you do not review your own book, or promote your book within your review.

I hope this helps clarify and relieve your doubts. Have a great day.

Thank you for your inquiry.
Best Regards,

Amazon.com
Your feedback is helping us build Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company.

Now I guess I can click the ‘Yes’ answer to their question: ‘Did I solve your problem?’

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