Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

On Keeping Secrets and the Power of Stories: a guest post by Michele Bacon

woman covers her face with her hands

At 17, I was madly in love with a clever, playful, adorable boy. I loved him fiercely. And—to my utter surprise—he loved me. Together, Michael and I did theater, marching band, and speech team. Over three (mostly) blissful years, we shared everything: our most cherished dreams, our ugliest failures, our triumphs, and our personal insecurities.

I say this not to induce envy (or eye rolling), but to emphasize how serious our relationship was.

About six months after we broke up—when I was 21—I confided in him: I had grown up in an abusive household. Michael was stunned that I’d never told him.

I had never told anyone.

During my parents’ messy divorce, I spoke with the judge, lawyers, and a therapist I adored. My father didn’t like that therapist’s analysis, so we saw another therapist. We were dug into our church at the time, so I spoke with my minister, too.

Those adults were keen to help me, but I never divulged what my father had done to me and to my family. The horrors I experienced, heard, and saw were too embarrassing and shameful. I was broken, and I thought sharing my abuse would taint people’s opinion of me. And, in a way that is now difficult to understand, I was terrified that telling would get me in trouble.

Until a few weeks ago, I had told only three or four friends. But now I’m saying it (to the Internet, no less): I grew up in an abusive household.

Being hurt—physically, psychologically, or emotionally—changes a person.

It made me feel that I was less something than everyone else. I started believing emotionally or physically abusive relationships were okay. That heavy, awful feeling, defined how I viewed my place in the world.

It still does.

Now, let’s be honest, we all have at least one ugly secret that devours us from the inside as we try desperately to conceal it. Perhaps you pretend to not be dyslexic. You don’t talk about your twin who died at birth. You conceal your gender or sexuality. You are poor. You are passing. You’re losing your hearing. You’ve left your religion.

book cover: Life Before. Dirty red sneakers sit in front of a backpackIt doesn’t matter what it is; everyone has something. And we all have the right to keep parts of ourselves private. And I have, for a long time.

Last month, I admitted to a room full of people that I had grown up in abuse, and that my greatest childhood fear was that my father would murder my mother. After I spoke, several women told me, privately, that they had the same secret. Or the same childhood. Or the same fear. Me too echoed around me, and several people said they’d never told a soul.

That is the power of stories: Me too.

Imagine how my life would be different if I’d had that moment at 13. Or 17. Or 19. During my teen years—that amazing intersection of opportunity, energy, and idealism—Me too could have changed my life.

In the last month, I’ve shed the fear that everyone would reject me if I revealed my ugly secret, and I’ve realized that hiding what I perceive as shameful parts of myself doesn’t make them any less a part of me. In the last few weeks, stories have poured from the hearts of readers. They’ve said me too. This shouldn’t have happened to any of us, but it did. For the first time in my life, I am not ashamed. I am done keeping secrets. And I am sharing my story, and the ugly parts of me.

Stories are powerful, and sharing stories makes us stronger. These days, I walk into author talks at schools and libraries knowing someone might ask personal questions. I feel vulnerable, but I’m doing it, and I am encouraging other people to tell the stories they can bear to share. Your story might come at just the right time. Someone who is hiding in the dark shadows of shame may hear “Me too” and step into the light.

 

author photoAbout Michele Bacon 

Michele writes fiction for adults and young adults. She lives in Seattle with her family. Her first novel, Life Before, publishes June 7th, 2016. She loves hearing from readers, fellow writers, and anyone who would like to say #metoo.
You can find her:
Via email at writer(at)michelebacon(dot)com
On Twitter @michelebacon,
On Instagram as WriterMicheleBacon
On Tumblr as michelebacon

 

About Life Before

book cover: Life Before. Dirty red sneakers sit in front of a backpackFor seventeen years, Xander Fife has been keeping secrets. (Almost) no one knows about his abusive father. If he can get through this summer, he’s off to college, where real life finally begins.

What’s more, the summer before college will be amazing: lots of pick-up soccer, long days hanging out with friends, and an epic road trip. Xander also is banking on some long overdue nights with his ideal girlfriend, the amazing Gretchen Taylor.

Instead of kicking off what had promised to be an amazing summer, however, graduation day brings terror. When Xander’s mother is murdered, his family’s secrets are thrust out into the open, and Xander must confront his greatest fear.

Armed with a fake ID, cash, and a knife, Xander skips town and assumes a new identity. Hundreds of miles from home and in danger, one thing is clear: Xander’s real life is already in progress and just getting through it isn’t enough.

 

Viva Las Vegas: Christie’s Author Crawl ALA Vegas

Now, while I do go to conferences for sessions and learning, and comradere and advanced reading copies, I also go to further my collection habit. Not funko pop figures (although that’s getting pretty bad) but signed books. And conferences are one of the best places as librarians understand my addiction! While I think that the Texas Library Association has the best way of queuing author lines (they have a whole section of the exhibit floor sectioned off just for author signing sessions, and set schedules so that the exhibit floor doesn’t get crowded up and backlogged), you will still find me going around with copies of my favorite books. In fact, I have been working since 2010 to get my copy of Zombies vs Unicorns completely signed, and I will one day get it finished.

I’ve put my list of authors I’m hoping to see/hear/get signatures from below the break.

Note: the books/series listed after the authors are the ones that I like/know them for, not the ones that they are signing for; check the ALA Scheduler to see titles or their publisher’s website. 

Also, these are my crush authors- there are more out there attending ALA Annual that I would love to get signatures for to give to my “kids” and my heart family, but I have to be choosy; there’s only myself and That Guy, so we can only be in two lines, and we’re flying to Vegas- mailing back tons of books or trying to fly with bags of books does not do my budget any good.

I’ve shown you mine- who are you looking forward to seeing? Share in the comments!

FRIDAY (TRAVEL DAY)

Scott Westerfeld, Uglies series, Midnighters series, and a Zombie vs Unicorn author
(Simon & Schuster Author Event)


SATURDAY (FUN DAY)

Neal Shusterman, Unwind Trilogy
 (Simon & Schuster Meet the Author event) 
Tim Federle 5,6,7, Nate!  and Hickory Daquiri Dock
 (speaking at the Rainbow List/Amelia Bloomer Panel & Simon & Schuster Author Event)
Sara Farizan If You Could Be Mine and Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel
 (speaking at the Rainbow List/Amelia Bloomer Panel & Workman/Algonquin Author Event)
Stan Lee 
(does anyone even know if you can get anything signed when he speaks?!??!!)
Jonathan Maberry Rot and Ruin Series
  (Simon & Schuster Author Event)
Alaya Dawn Johnson, The Summer Prince, Love Is The Drug, and Z vs U author (Scholastic Author Event)
Markus Zusak, The Book Thief and I am the Messenger (Scholastic Author Event) 

Ellen Hopkins, Tricks and Rumble
(Simon & Schuster Author Event)

Matt de la Pena, The Living and Mexican Whiteboy
(Random House Children’s Author Event)


SUNDAY (WORK RELATED DAY)

Mo Willems, Don’t Let the Pigeon series (Disney-Hyperion Author Event)

Avi, Nothing But The Truth and Sophia’s War (Simon & Schuster Author Event)
Kirstin Cronn-Mills, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children (Lerner Publishing and I believe also the Stonewall Awards Brunch)

Lauren Myracle, ttfn and yolo
(Abrams Books Author Event)

Marie Lu, Legend Series and The Young Elites
(Penguin Young Readers Author Event)

Ally Condie, Matched Trilogy and Atlantia

Maggie Stiefvater, The Raven Cycle Series and Wolves of Mercy series (Scholastic Author Event)
Cassandra Clare & Holly Black, The Iron Trials and U vs Z author/editors (Scholastic Author Event)
Coe Booth, Bronxwood, Tyrell and Kendra (Scholastic Author Event)

Jay Asher, Th1rteen R3asons Why and The Future of Us
(Penguin Young Readers Author Event)

Judy Blume (really- do you not know who she is?!??!!)
(Simon & Schuster Author Event)

Leigh Bardugo, Grisha Trilogy (Macmillan Children’s Author Event)
Raina Telgemeier, Drama and Smile (Scholatic Author Event)

MONDAY (EVERYTHING DAY)
Stonewall Awards Brunch
 
Kevin Henkes, The Year of Billy Miller and Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse
(HarperCollins Children’s Books Author Event)

Her Pen is Her Superpower: Meet A. S. King, my hero

Her pen is her superpower, A. S. King

I told you yesterday, this week is heroes and villains week.  So let me introduce you to one of my heroes: author A. S. King.  King is a phenomenal writer.  And she wrote a book that changed me; made me really exam what I thought about an issue and changed the way I choose to love.  That story is here.  Today she is talking to us about her new book, Reality Boy.

Reality Boy is the story of an angry teen, Gerald.  The anger started when he was 5 and his family starred on a reality TV show, a type of Supernanny.  It is years later, and people are still judging him by the lies that were told and the way his family was edited to appear on the show.  Reality Boy is a book about looking underneath the surface to see the truth.  It is a book about families and the lies we tell each other.  And it is the story about Gerald’s attempts to go beyond his anger and find himself.  It is, in a word, amazing.  

So let’s talk to one of my heroes, shall we.  

Karen: How do you feel about reality TV and how did it influence Reality Boy?

King: I do not watch TV. Not reality TV. Not the news…though I will turn on the weather if a snowstorm is due. And lately, I’ve been watching a few baseball games. I don’t have a real opinion of reality TV, but I do know it’s not real. Even the show my husband worked on in the early 90s—a furniture restoration show—would make it look like the two stars of the show did the restoring, but my husband really did that part, step-by-step, behind the scenes.

REALITY BOY was more influenced by the statistic that one in four children are suffering abuse of some sort or have suffered some sort of trauma. I’m not sure why I was thinking of reality TV at that point, but I may have seen something on Twitter about a kid on reality TV and I wondered how many of these kids we watch for entertainment are dealing with other things behind the scenes.


I know that’s probably not the answer most people expect, but it’s the truth, so it’s all I got!

Karen: If you were going to cast yourself in a reality show – and it can be real or one you make up – what show would it be and why?


King: Oh. Wow. I’d be in a show called Where’s Amy? and it would be about how no one can find me anywhere and it would star someone else because there is no way I would be on reality TV. I used to say I’d do Survivor, because my husband and I would kick ass as a team considering we met teaching survival skills and spent 10 years self sufficient, but yeah…no. I wouldn’t.

Karen: Many writers refer to you as their inspiration, who are some of your writing inspirations?

King: I just got to see one of my writing inspirations live at Philly Free Library last week. Salman Rushdie—Hoo boy, do his books inspire me. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Hemingway. Sylvia Plath. Marge Piercy. Tom Robbins. Steinbeck, Rumi, Walt Whitman. Good gods, Karen. I could go on for days.

Karen: When they are writing your obituary, how do you hope you will be remembered?

King: BONUS POINTS for the most morbid question I’ve ever been asked.

I guess I’d want to be remembered as someone who was nice and who tried to help other people be nice, too.

I know that’s short and sweet, but really, once you’re dead, I think that’s probably the nicest thing that can be said about a person.
Some final thoughts from Karen:  A. S. King is one of the kindest people I have ever met, and she truly does write in part because she wants to help give voice to those that need it.  She writes about truth, all the glorious, messy, uncomfortable truth of our lives. Gah, I was going to try and write this post without being supergushy.  But I love her; her skill and what she brings to the literature.  Go people, read her.  Read all the books. 
P.S., Every time I pass a yellow flower, I still think of her.
Reality Boy by A. S. King comes out tomorrow, October 22nd, from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
This is what people are saying about it:

“Heart-pounding and heartbreaking…This is no fairy-tale romance, but a compulsively readable portrait of two imperfect teens learning to trust each other.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“This is a story about healing, and although Gerald stumbles as he takes his first steps, his candor invites sympathy from the first page.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred)

“King’s trademarks–attuned first-person narrative, convincing dialogue, realistic language, and fitting quirkiness–connect effectively in this disturbing, yet hopeful novel.”—SLJ (starred)

“We all know at least one teen who needs a book like this; I didn’t know I needed it until I turned the last page.”
—SLJTeen

“The TMZ-level draw of the premise will definitely pull readers in, but they’ll find a surprising amount to relate to in this smart and sympathetic story about breaking free from the world’s expectations.” —The Bulletin

“Reality Boy showcases King’s talent, telling a story that is as much about parental depression and denial as it is about teen rage. It’s also about first love, celebrity, therapy and finding your own narrative despite the story your family–and sometimes the world–tells about you.”—Shelf Awareness

“A.S. King at her best, and maybe then some. This book is tough and funny and smart as hell.”
—Chris Crutcher, author of Period 8 and Whale Talk

“Fearless and brilliant, a seething pressure cooker of a masterpiece.”
—Andrew Smith, author of Winger and The Marbury Lens

“REALITY BOY is a powerhouse of insight and empathy toward the people who cruise the fringes of acceptable behavior. A.S. King takes all kinds of risks and every single one pays off. Highly recommended.”
—Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of ROT & RUIN and FIRE & ASH

“Reality Boy is A.S. King’s best work to date. Touching and teeth-clenchingly emotional, this story is an important reminder that behind every reality show…may be a totally different reality.”
—Jennifer Brown, author of Hate List and Thousand Words

 
(I totally copied and pasted all these gushing reviews from the book page, because they are right and say exactly the things I want to say about the book.)

More: Behind the Scenes of Reality TV