Book Title: Bullied
Genre: Young Adult - LGBT
Publisher: Deamspinner Press
Links to purchase:
Blurb: Every day, all over the country, teenagers struggle with the realities of bullying. Tormented, ridiculed, and beaten—simply for being who they are—these teens face alienation, humiliation, and even the explicit assertion that they have somehow brought this upon themselves, that they should just blend in. Bullied is a series of short stories exploring the world of these teens from several different viewpoints: the victim, the bully, the gay bystander, the straight friend, the concerned parent.
Closeted Bryan wonders why Christian Michaelson doesn't just try to blend in if he hates being bullied so much. Star athlete David isn't a homophobe—after all, he's not afraid of anything. Jonathan, a Christian fundamentalist, must weigh the Bible against peer pressure and what he knows is right when he discovers his childhood friend is gay. Bully victim Chase Devereaux finds an unexpected ally in a brave fellow student. A single mom struggles to accept the reality that her only son is gay. Two tough gay teens are forced to confront their own inner demons when tragedy befalls a classmate they failed to help. And overweight Kirby finds the strength of character to make a friend, which leads to a lifestyle change and a chance at love. Each character grows as an individual as he or she comes to terms with what it means to be a gay teenager in America.
Anyone who knows me, knows I have an utter disdain for young adult books. It’s a sad fact, but it’s true. Even more so, I have an absolute intolerance bullying. So this book would’ve never caught my eye and screamed for me to read. But then I met Jeff Erno at the 2011 GRL.
Jeff put a copy of “Bullied” in my hand and he was such a joy at the convention, after things wound down I pulled out my copy out and cracked it open, figuring what the hell, I’ll give it a shot. Of all the books I’ve ever read, this one was the most rewarding, most heart-warming and most eye-opening read.
My favorite story in the book was about Jonathon, who was raised in a Christian household, who had always learned it was wrong to be gay. Then his best friend comes out of the closet to him and Jonathon turns his back to his friend. He struggled with that and the struggle felt as genuine as it comes. I won’t give away the ending of that particular story, but I was more than pleased.
Honestly, this should be more like a self-help book for parents of gay kids and gay kids who are being bullied. The stories all offer hope for the kids and maybe parents can take away a little better understanding of the things their "out" kids have to go through day in and day out.
Besides that, the stories are all beautifully told and I loved every character, even some of the bullies. I could see those same stories happening in my own high school so many years ago. Jeff, if I could give the book 10 stars, I think I would. I've never had so many "awww" moments in one read. BRAVO!!!
- Tell us a little bit about how Bullied came to life. What inspired the story?
During the early months of 2011, there was a lot of media coverage about gay teen suicides that had resulted from bullying. I think we all know now that this is an epidemic that sadly has continued, even to this day. In spite of increased media attention, LGBT students continue to be at high risk for verbal, physical, and psychological assault. Several anti-bullying organizations emerged and efforts throughout the country were made to educate students, parents, and communities about the danger of bullying. Several big-name celebrities leant their voices to the cause.
Unfortunately, in spite of the effort to address this tragedy, the voices of reason were matched by those who wanted to blame the victims. Many were quick to rationalize the behavior of the bullies, saying that it was a part of growing up. Some even went so far as to suggest that the issue itself was merely an attempt of the LGBT community to find new recruits.
I wanted to do something, to respond in some way. I’m not a public speaker. I’m not involved with any school system, and I’ve never been an educator or counselor or parent. But I have been the victim of bullying, and I know exactly how it feels. So I decided to write about it. Bullied is a collection of seven stories, highlighting seven different victims of high school bullying. Two of the stories are told from the perspective of the victim, one is in the voice of the victim’s friend, one is told from a bystander’s point of view, one through the eyes of a parent, and one in the words of the bully. There is also one story that is told in third person from multiple points of view.
Bullied was my attempt to do something.
- Who is your favorite character and what makes them so memorable to you?
I’m not sure that I could choose a favorite character, simply because this book is a compilation of seven different stories with seven different protagonists. I love all of the protags, and I relate to each of them on some level.
The last story in the book is titled “Kirby” and it is about a chubby teenage boy who has a crush on his best friend. Kirby is bullied more because he is overweight than due to his sexual orientation. I love Kirby for so many reasons. He is loyal. He is sincere and has such a pure heart. He’s very trusting, but in the end he demonstrates another characteristic which makes him extra special to me. He takes responsibility for himself and decides at last that he’s just not going to take it anymore. Not all victims are in a position to do this, but I loved presenting a story in which this sort of triumph was possible. In many ways, Kirby is a hero to me.
- Tell us a little bit about yourself and what made you decide to write.
When I was in grade school, I was writing stories. I always loved English grammar and literature classes, and I excelled in them. By the time I was in high school, I was writing more poetry than prose, and I still have a journal where all of my poems are stored.
My life took a different direction, and I never pursued my passion for writing. Instead I got my degree in business management and was a store manager for a retail operation. In the late 1990s I finally decided to write a novel. It was at a period of my life where I had undergone tremendous change. Several people that I loved had passed away within a short period of time. The writing was cathartic for me. I never really imagined at the time that any of my work would ever be published.
- Any advice for aspiring authors?
Wow. Maybe the best piece of advice I could offer is not to listen to any advice from me. I guess I’d have to say, follow your passion. Don’t wait and allow yourself to be defined by the necessities of life. I did things that I thought I had to do, things that were expected of me. As a result, I remained for twenty years in a profession that I detested.
And another thing I’d like to add is that no matter how many people love your work, there will be a percentage of readers who absolutely hate it. You might get feedback from hundreds of readers who shower you with praise and admiration, yet when your book becomes available on Amazon, there will be at least a couple of people who will feel the need to declare you are the worst writer on the planet.
You have to believe in your own ability, and write because you love writing. If you are good at it, there will be an enormous number of readers who will appreciate it. Those are the voices that matter, not the mean people who enjoy tearing others down.
- Where is the best place to follow your work?
All of my titles are listed on Amazon and on Good Reads. I also maintain a website and blog at http://www.jefferno.com and I have a Facebook and Twitter account.
- Any additional comments?
Thank you for featuring my book and allowing me an opportunity to talk about myself and my work.