Friday, March 13, 2015

Guest Post: Being Forgotten (Shannon Wiersbitzky)

What does it feel like to be forgotten? Forgotten by someone you love. Forgotten forever with no hope of those memories every coming back.

That is what I set out to tackle in What Flowers Remember.

Another author once said that great stories happen at the intersection of joy and sorrow. I think that intersection was where I found myself in writing this novel.

My grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when I was in my early twenties. The disease progressed slowly at first. There were lost words and clothes put on wrong. Then there were neighbors who found him sitting in his car, unsure of how to get home when he was only a few blocks away. And then he started losing people. Bit by bit, his life was being erased.

Not everyone has a close relationship with their grandparents. I was one of the very lucky ones that did. From the age of seven to seventeen, their house was my summer camp. I arrived at the end of the school year and returned home just before the next grade started. My grandparents were second parents and great friends.

I would wait for my grandfather to come home from work, his black metal lunch pail in hand. We tended the garden and I measured myself against the pumpkins that grew to half my size. I sat with my grandparents on the front porch, stringing beans, talking to neighbors, and watching lightning bugs perform in the yard.

One day, years later, as I visited him with my newborn son, I realized that he didn’t know who I was. My face was unrecognizable, but my voice sounded familiar to him. It reminded him of a young girl he used to know. That’s what he told me. The words made me cry. They still do.  

I never set out to write a book about Alzheimer’s. But I needed to write about a girl. A girl who loves someone and is loved back. A girl who is forgotten. Because I’m not the only one it has happened to. I’m not the only one who had to cope with that particular kind of pain. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. One in three. That number is astounding to me.

With What Flowers Remember, I tried to find a way to make sense of something that is completely incomprehensible. A way to share the truth of all my emotions, both the sadness and the joy, in the context of a fictional town, with fictional characters, people who are busy creating new and wonderful memories of their own while someone they love is losing his.

If you know a child (or an adult) that is coping with being forgotten, share this book with them, and let them know they are not alone. 
           

Reviews & Honors:

Lamplighter Award nominee, 6th-8th, 2015-2016
Top Shelf honoree 2014, VOYA Magazine

“Fans of wholesome, uplifting stories similar to Canfield’s Chicken Soup for the Soul collections, will best enjoy this gentle reminder of the goodness of life and people.”
—Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)

“There are echoes of Patricia MacLachlan in the book's period flavor (the story seems to be set thirty years or so in the past), the tenderness, and the deft writing that keeps a heart-tugging plot lovely as well as brimming with sentiment."
—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Recommended

“The ebb and flow of life is shown, grief is addressed, and the power of what one person can do is celebrated. Teachers may wish to consider this book for reading lists in middle school."
—Children's Literature

“[Delia’s] frustration, fear and sense of loss will be readily recognizable to others who have experienced dementia in a loved one, and her story may provide some guidance on how to move down that rocky path toward acceptance and letting go.”   
—Kirkus Reviews

*Note: A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book are donated to the Alzheimer’s Association.

 Visit Shannon:


Shannon Wiersbitzky is a middle-grade author, a hopeless optimist, and a believer that everyone has The Summer of Hammers and Angels, was nominated for the William Allen White award. Born in North Dakota, Shannon has called West Virginia, Florida, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Michigan “home” at some point in her life. She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two sons, and her always entertaining mutt Benson.




Thursday, March 5, 2015

TBR Pile: If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution

Synopsis:


If you were there when they signed the Constitution you would see

--Why the Constitution is called a miracle.
--The first big argument.
--What was missing from the Constitution.



This books takes you behind the locked doors of Philadelphia's State House during the history-making summer of 1787. You will meet the key delegates and find out what is going on.


Details:

Paperback, 80 pages
Published June 1st 1992 by Scholastic Paperbacks

Why I Want to Read This:

This book helps make this time period in history more clear to students. Politics and creating laws, policies, etc. is something that few people today (even adults) understand completely clearly. The idea of having this book available to show some of the thinking that went into the Constitution can help students become informed leaders of the next generation. The people behind the Constitution were far from perfect in their personal lives, but the idealism of the document they were able to create in spite of that is a beacon of hope that we can, really one day be a body of people with different beliefs that are allowed to peacefully coexist.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

TBR Pile: If You Lived With the Sioux Indians by Ann McGovern

Synopsis:

If you lived with the Sioux Indians
--Would you hunt for food?
--What kind of home would you live in?
--What would be the bravest thing you could do?

This book tells you what it was like to live as a Sioux Indian in North and South Dakota during the years 1800 to 1850.




Details:

Paperback, 80 pages
Published September 1st 1992 by Scholastic Paperbacks

Why I Want to Read This:

The story of Native Americans and their fight to hold onto their own land and traditions is definitely one that saddens my heart, even as I am glad of my own culture and its accomplishments. I believe this book could be a jumping off point for some serious discussion about what it means to seek peace and harmony. My own concept of this time period is largely constructed from the plot lines of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and Young Riders. Younger students may benefit from some of that as well (I have not watched either as an adult and am thus unsure exactly what angle those shows take). A more recent novel that has shaped my opinion is One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus, which I believes shows a bit more depth and complexity toward such a sensitive topic.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Review: Between These Walls by John Herrick

Synopsis:

Hunter is a Christian. Hunter is the man next door.

Hunter Carlisle is gay.

At 26 years old, Hunter Carlisle has a successful sales career, a devoted girlfriend, and rock-solid faith. He also guards a secret torment: an attraction to other men. When a career plunge causes muscle tension, Hunter seeks relief through Gabe Hellman, a handsome massage therapist. What begins as friendship takes a sudden turn and forces the two friends to reconsider the boundaries of attraction. Along the road to self-discovery, Hunter’s secret is exposed to the community. Now Hunter must face the demons of his past and confront his long-held fears about reputation, sexual identity, and matters of soul.

A story of faith, fire and restoration, Between These Walls braves the crossroads of love and religion to question who we are and who we will become.

Publisher's full disclosure to readers: This novel of faith occurs within a true-to-life context of redemption, and contains adult language and content. 


Details:

Published February 2015 by Segue Blue

Available: Amazon | The Book Depository (affiliate links)

My Review:


John Herrick, himself a Christian, bravely addresses taboo subject matter in this heartfelt, authentic novel. His main character, Hunter, is an extremely committed Christian with a vital relationship with God who also has always struggled with same-sex attraction, keeping it a secret under the surface, always afraid of being found out.

Having girlfriend after girlfriend, Hunter cannot find that sense of emotional closeness and genuine attract with any of them. He truly feels something for each girl, but those relationships don't exactly reach his heart. He's surprised to find that his new massage therapist is easy to talk to as well as attractive to him on many levels. Gabe is also a committed Christian who shares Hunter's struggles.

As the two of them try to decide what their relationship should look like (or if it should even exist) in light of their faith, they wrestle with their past, with family issues, and, of course, what having a "public" relationship might mean. For both men, the idea of violating their faith and a reluctance to displease God are major issues.

This is a much needed book because there are many Christians who deal with the complexity that comes from being attracted to the same sex and who want to stay true to their faith. I have not seen another LGBQT book that deals with this subject matter in a way that gets straight to the heart of this matter.

I also like the way the book addresses the issue of homosexuality in a biblical manner. It does not condone the practice, but it also does not judge those who deal with this struggle. God's grace is the central focus on how the characters deal with this issue. Hunter's pastor gives him wise counsel and assures him that God knew that the struggle would be there and wants to bring beauty from it. In addressing a very close-minded pastor up front, Hunter stresses that it's the kindness of God that leads men to repentance (Romans 2:4), poking holes in the man's reactionary, hate-filled mentality.

I believe this is an issue that churches need to address in a more vital fashion. Yes, the issue is complicated, but it's unfair, cruel, and unbiblical for pastors and teachers within churches to continue acting like those who struggle with same-sex attraction are hideous creatures from another planet and to make scathing, callous jokes. None of that is necessary to exposit what the Bible teaches about homosexuality. That attitude is not the kind of love that Jesus demonstrated when he came to earth. 

I have always hoped to have some sort of easy answer on this issue, but I don't. I just can't imagine Jesus dying on the cross for everyone "except" any group. Those who argue that people within the LGBQT community can't be saved before renouncing their lifestyle is not supported under the idea that "For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Romans 10:13).

Source: Thanks for the author for providing a copy of this title in exchange for a fair review.

Monday, March 2, 2015

TBR Pile: If You Lived in Colonial Times by Ann McGovern; illustrated by Brinton Turkle and June Otani

Synopsis:


If you lived in colonial times
--What kind of clothes would you wear?
--Would you go to school?
--What would happen if you didn't behave?

This book tells you what it was like to live in the New England colonies during the years 1565 to 1776.




Details:

Paperback, 80 pages
Published May 1st 1992 by Scholastic Paperbacks

Why I Want to Read This:

I was fascinated by colonial times as a child and wanted to wear the full dresses and bonnets and be all proper like those brave individuals were. My how things have changed. Anyway, I can't separate my concept of this time in history from that of war and struggle. The Patriot is a movie that we watch at my house on almost every patriotic holiday available. I think of the Declaration of Independence, of Paul Revere and his courage and much more. There are so many poems, primary sources, and other works of fiction that can help teachers and parents communicate these truths to their children. The interested reader will find that this time period is a hard one to look away from.