Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Armchair BEA 2012: Networking

Here on day three of Armchair BEA, we're supposed to talk about a positive real-life experience with books. Their suggested topics were partnerships in the community, a book signing I may have gone to, or a get-together with other bloggers, just to get us thinking.

Unfortunately, I've done none of that. There aren't any bloggers in my area that I know (but I know one is around here; ARCs for YA books both recent and unreleased keep turning up at a used bookstore) and I've never been to a book signing. So my topic? What one book series I read ended up doing for me and how it encouraged me to both deal with and start speaking out about one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. Hoping this doesn't end up being terrible off-topic, but I felt it would work.

(For anyone who may need trigger warnings, putting up one right here for sexual abuse of a child.)

Like most people once were, I used to be thirteen and stupid. Though I consumed books like they were candy--reading, like my body type, is a trait passed through my mother's side of the family--I didn't care about them and never thought much on them. More than anything, I read magazines like CosmoGirl! and Seventeen.

 In one issue of CosmoGirl! that I read in October 2007, there was an excerpt of a novel called Vampire Kisses 4: Dance With a Vampire by Ellen Schreiber. I can look back on that passage now and recognize how bad it was, but at the time, there was something about it that spoke to me. It wasn't anything big; it was just Raven and Alexander on a date together, and Raven thought Alexander was finally going to bite her and turn her into a vampire.

Whatever captured my attention, it did it fully. A few days later, we were on our way out of town on a trip when I begged my parents to stop by the bookstore and let me get the books. My parents have always encouraged me in any of my pursuits and they had no problem with letting me buy some books. And so I left Books-A-Million with the first four books of the Vampire Kisses series, read them all over the weeekend, and promptly fell in love with them.

Not only was I thirteen and stupid, though! I was thirteen, stupid, and hurt. A year and a half before, when I was but twelve, my brother's best friend came on a camping trip with my family and molested me. It took me six months to tell my parents and at the time I encountered Vampire Kisses, I still wasn't sure how to deal with what happened to me. My parents never sat down and had a talk with me about it and very few thirteen-year-olds have been educated on how any sexual abuse inflicted upon them isn't their fault. I wasn't one of those children and so I often blamed myself for what happened.

Vampire Kisses by itself didn't help me deal with the trauma, nor did any of the books I sought out after I finished reading the books and decided I wanted more like them. As I started reading more books and became exposed to broader ideas, my views changed. I started registering it more when women in a book were treated badly and recognizing it as Not Okay when this treatment was justified. I eventually stumbled into contemporary YA and the books about sexual abuse, which gave me the message that had never occurred to me before: What happened to me is not my fault.

So did I use this blog and my books to get involved in the book community? Unfortunately, no. I have never been good at networking, though I've been working hard to improve on that in the last few months. Have I used books to get more involved with other feminist-minded readers who don't want to see women blamed for what happened to them or put down for daring to be sexual? Hell yes. That is how I've networked: by connecting with other readers, online and real-life, who want to see the same changes I do in YA so harmful messages aren't being sent out to people who can be affected by them. I've used my experience to educate people more than once on how they should be careful of what they say and how they treat others.

It is always difficult to talk about what happened to me. I've kept it bottled up for close to six years now and I've only started opening up about it in the past year or so. But I don't want anyone to torture themselves the way I did because books are giving them the wrong messages.

(And as a postscript, I've been the one having the last laugh at the guy who molested me. He's been having some marital problems lately with his pregnant wife--it turns out she cheated on him and the child may not be his--and though some may call me cruel, I say this is karma coming back to him.)


  1. What an amazing story! I love to hear positive experiences with books! As for that creep, they always say " Karmas a bitch " this case it was deserved! Here is my post if you are interested-

    McKenna @ Young at Heart

    1. Thank you! Books really can help people in all sorts of ways. Karma is indeed biting him in the ass.

  2. What a positive story! I feel for you, I was already a lover of books but a similar event (he wasn't a friend of my family in anyway) changed my reading focus completely.

    Definitely a case of karma! Mine has been in and out of jail since. ;)

    I love that you use books to help others in the same situation.

    1. I'm sorry something like that had to happen to you too. People really suck sometimes, but thank goodness there are plenty of good books around. My guy never went to jail for what he did, but he's had some rough times himself. The thing with his wife hasn't been his only problem.

  3. Your story is an amazing testament to the power of books to help you heal.

  4. Aww...**Hugs!** I'm sorry that had to happen to you, Ashleigh, but I'm glad that books helped you through it! Like everyone else here as already said...such an inspiring story!

    P.S. I totally hope karma doesn't stop giving him a good ass-kicking for a long while.

  5. Then I think you've succeeded at networking. You've made connections & helped others. That's what it's all about. It can translate just as well into a blog, you just have to work at it a bit harder. I'm glad you joined ABEA & shared your story with us. Tattooed Books

  6. Thank you so much for sharing that post! Yay for letting everyone know that books do make a difference in so many ways! I'm not exactly the best networker either - but small steps :-)

  7. That sounds like networking to me! And you're using it to help people, so that's even better.


I love hearing what others have to say about books and it makes me feel less like I'm talking to an empty auditorium, so comment away. Thank you for reading my blog post!