Letters to My Bully edited by Ifalade Ta’Shia Asanti and Azaan Kamau

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Publisher/Date:  Lulu, Aug. 2012
Genre(s):  Life Guide, Self-Help
Pages:  180
Website:  http://gloverlanepress.webs.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

“And in between the Silence, Listen to the Voice that whispers,
You’re good. Overcome.”

Somber and bittersweet, LETTERS TO MY BULLY edited by Ifalade Ta’Shia Asanti and Azaan Kamau is an uplifting work.

It documents letters, essays and poetry written by authors to their tormentors, usually their peers or loved ones, with the purpose of showing teens and adults that they are not alone and with time, life does get better. The 35 authors featured in Letters, including CSI: Miami actor Robert LaSardo, have been beaten, humiliated, tortured, but in spite of what they endured, they still impart positive messages, and prove that the best revenge is living well.

As noted in Letters, their harassment was due to any number of reasons bullies chose to focus on: sexuality, skin color, weight, intelligence, socio-economic status, etc. It also paints abuse at the hands of family members and lovers, turning their homes into haunted houses in the one place that’s supposed to be safe.

Letters shows another side to bullying in that the abused, without an outlet for their pain, can as easily turn their hurts onto someone else, using their clenched hands and sharp words to give love and hate. It’s a vicious cycle that must stop.

One specific thing I took from Letters is that as the adults, we are the ones who can lessen or end bullying. How we treat others starts at home, and our children learn most from what we teach and what they see from us. Beyond saying it gets better, how about we make it better. Show them they are more than what some bully says or does to them. Most of the former victims felt helpless and wondered, why me, and at the same time, wanted love more just as much as being rescued. When 160,000 bullied children miss school every day and bullying is the number one cause of suicide for 11-16 year olds, something has to be done.

Letters is what editors Asanti (The Bones Do Talk) and Kamau (Stiletto), accomplished authors and poets both with numerous titles, wanted to contribute to this epidemic. Kamau is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Glover Lane Press, which also published the co-edited Tapestries of Faith: Black SGLBT Stories of Triumph, Family, Love & Healing. The book’s flow was nicely paced and included statistics about bullying. The only weak spot was that some of the poetry didn’t grab me as much as the personal essays.

I’d recommend Letters to teens and adults, especially to in need of healing from their pasts. The most powerful message sent from Letters is that each one survived. There’s a great energy and almost small appreciation to what they went through to prove that anyone can overcome.

YOU DID NOT WIN. I am a fat lesbian (albeit a slimming one as I lose the need for protection) who loves herself and doesn’t give a damn what anyone says about her state of being. I love my body and love my experience of love as a lesbian. I am no longer trapped in the coffin of your bullying and while I do not believe good comes because of evil, I believe good comes despite evil. The good that came for me despite your evil words and deeds is that I am stronger, more vocal, more attentive and more resistant than I used to be, or than I ever guessed I would be.

Reviewed October 2013


National Coming Out Day – Coming Out Still Matters

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Today marks National Coming Out Day, an annually observed day to celebrate individuals coming out who publicly identify as bisexual, gay, lesbian, or transgender. This year’s theme is Coming Out Still Matters. And it does matter.

We still have a fight waging over gay marriage in this country. We still have children committing suicide because of their sexuality. Nothing will can cure these ills unless we become visible. This visibility, though, begins with the individual.

Coming out whether at work or at home is a personal decision. You shouldn’t put a timetable on yourself, do it as your own speed, but here’s a few resources that can help.

Books to Read About Coming Out

Teen Perspective

Adult Perspective

Online Resources

  • Coming Out Black is website celebrating and empowering same gender loving, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people of African descent. It has a blog, a Wall of Pride, podcasts, and list of well-known African Americans who’ve come out
  • The Human Rights Campaign has many articles concerning sexuality and coming out. Read its Resource Guide to Coming Out for African Americans.
  • R U Coming Out inspires, supports and unites those who are living their lives either completely, or partially in the closet.  The main focus of this website is the stories.  People from all over the world write and submit their own personal accounts of Coming Out.

Celebrities Speak About Coming Out

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Michelle Rodriguez:  “I’ve gone both ways. I do as I please. I am too fucking curious to sit here and not try what I can. Men are intriguing. So are chicks.” (Entertainment Weekly, Oct. 1, 2013)

Raven-Symone: “I am very happy that gay marriage is opening up around the country and is being accepted. I was excited to hear today that more states legalized gay marriage. I, however am not currently getting married, but it is great to know I can now, should I wish to.” (EOnline, Aug. 2, 2013)

Brittney Griner:  “My parents didn’t know at the time,” she said. “I hadn’t come out completely. It was kind of like, YOU KNOW…I just hadn’t said it. My dad and my mom have always told me ‘be who you are.’ At the time (chuckling), they probably weren’t sure what I was interpreting that as.” (USA Today, April 18, 2013)


BrookLyn’s Journey by Coffey Brown

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brooklynsjourneyncodPublisher/Date: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, June 2012
Genre(s): Young Adult, Coming of Age, Identity
Pages: 258
Website: http://www.coffeybrownbooks.com

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

There were times reading BROOKLYN’S JOURNEY by Coffey Brown I didn’t quite know what to feel.

On one hand, it’s an affecting story about 18-year-old BrookLynn Scott living an abusive home. On the other hand, the unlikely love story surrounding her and Gabriella Michaels is almost like an fanciful fairy tale, because Gabby saves her in a way BrookLyn never thought possible – with unconditional love.

Growing up with a belt-swinging father and a snitch of a mother caring only to save herself, Brooklyn is trapped in her own house. She is the baby of the family, her brother and sisters long escaped, and her goal is to excel in high school so she can attend college far away from her parents. Since she wasn’t allowed out except to go to school or church, no parties and definitely no boys, her plan seemed attainable.

It also seems like fate when she runs into Gabby, and her church mate uses this chance to finally be with dream girl BrookLyn. As Gabby confesses her affection for the quiet girl in the choir and asks for her trust, BrookLyn imagines a life free of pain. With an inheritance and her own home at 19, Gabby woos BrookLyn with promises of love, protection and most of all, normal teenage experiences. In every step of their relationship, it appears impossible that BrookLyn has found someone who will love her, scars and all, but she holds on tight to this impossibility – because if not, what else does she have left?

I applaud Brown for the message she sends with BrookLyn’s Journey, because the questioning BrookLyn has about her sexuality is authentic to what some teenagers face when they’ve been sheltered and discover their first attraction to the same sex. Her portrayal of the horrid emotions of child emotional and physical abuse, as unfortunate as it sounds, was too real. I wanted BrookLyn to leave this house or to have someone, her older siblings especially, to take her away from her awful excuse for parents. No one would save the studious girl who missed days at school so her bruises wouldn’t be noticed.

Yet when that someone comes in the form of Gabby, I was skeptical at first. With everything BrookLyn’s been through, I didn’t want to see her hurt again, and I couldn’t wrap my mind around how quickly they fell for each other, more so Gabby. She is totally in love with BrookLyn, and I think being in her situation, BrookLyn was grabbing on to any life preserve she could find.

But the one thing I love about BrookLyn is that she’s resilient; she may not know what love is, but she surely knows what love isn’t. And that’s what she sees in Gabby – someone who won’t hurt her again. That kind of love is powerful, and I wish every child, neglected or not, has someone – whether a parent, teacher, aunt or uncle, best friend or significant other – she can receive that kind of love from.

There are other things about BrookLyn’s Journey – the sometimes awkward dialogue, the plausibility of the love affair – that I question, but Brown does a decent job giving BrookLyn a voice that teenagers will undoubtedly relate to and cheer for.

Reviewed October 2013

About Coffey Brown

Stacey Pierce aka Coffey Brown was born and raised in Orange County, New York. She graduated from the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Fairleigh Dickinson University and New York University. She has been a social worker for almost twenty years. Stacey will be publishing fiction and non-fiction books in various genres hence the pen name. However, she will be using the pen name for LGBT fiction. She recently relocated to the Charlotte area with her partner of fourteen years. BrookLyn’s Journey is her first novel, followed by The Awakening of Graye Moon.