Two Generations Later

Around 1900, my Grandma Rose clutched her younger brother’s hand and walked out of their village in Russia. They were delivered to a dock, and left on their own. They were herded across a gangplank, onto a ship, then down into steerage. No ocean breeze, minimal water, starvation rations. Both children were under ten years old.

Rose worked first in a sweat shop, then as a waitress where she eventually married her favorite customer, also new to the country.  Rose and Sam had a son and a daughter. Their daughter was my mother.

Fast forward 2 generations.

I was in my second year of college, talking to another sophomore. I said something about wanting to help new immigrants and to my astonishment, he became furious. He yelled that his grandfather had arrived in the country with a few dollars in his shoe, and had built his life from scratch. He then listed several hardships his relative had suffered, all terrible by any standard. He said that nobody had reached out to help his grandfather, so he didn’t see why he should make any effort on a stranger’s behalf. Survival of the fittest.

I doubt this man remembers our brief conversation from decades ago, but I do. I’ve thought about it several times. Mainly, I’ve wondered how our grandparents could have experienced such similar suffering, while he and I reacted so differently. His conclusion: let new immigrants deal with it, see who came out on top, test their mettle. My conclusion: I never wanted anyone, anywhere, any time, to go through the hardship my grandparents suffered.

Since college, we’ve all changed. I’ve grown in ways I never would have predicted. I haven’t spoken to my college classmate in decades, so I don’t know if he still feels the same way about immigrants. But I do. In this way, my 19-year-old self is still going strong.

RIP Rose and Sam, Grandma and Grandpa. And RIP my classmate’s grandfather, a man I never knew. May your suffering guide the world to a better tomorrow.

___

Amy has written two novels, both available on Amazon. Her blog contains posts on subjects ranging from gender equality to a Rolling Stones concert, from parenting to watching the film The Exorcist. Visit Amy’s website to find out more about her work.

http://amykaufmanburk.com

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Filed under A Home Within, grandparents, immigrants, Uncategorized, Welcoming America

A Vietnamese Lunch

I remember my first day of high school — mainly, the noise.  Three-thousand adolescents shouted in more than forty languages. We had a large population of immigrants and no single racial heritage constituted the majority. I spent a few days blitzed by the contrast to my previous school — immaculate campus, overwhelmingly Caucasian, academically outstanding, college prep. But even though I was intimidated by Hollywood High, I felt a magnetic draw, and gradually my experience began to shift. In this new environment with so many diverse folks, the usual judgments of adolescence fell away. We spoke different words, wore different clothes, ate different food, followed different customs…and I found it absolutely liberating.

I signed up to tutor other students in math and English. In my previous school, I was not admired (a vast understatement) for my Olympic-Caliber-Nerd status. But Hollywood High surprised me. Every time I helped students understand an algebra problem or read an assignment in English, they felt a sense of belonging and a shot of confidence. What I didn’t expect was that I’d feel the same way. As their confidence and self-esteem grew, so did mine. In this new environment, tutoring was viewed as valuable, and I began to thrive.

I remember one girl from a small village in Vietnam. She struggled with geometry word problems. Her issue was the language, not numbers or geometric concepts. Together, we listed the words and phrases commonly found in her level of math, with definitions in both of our native languages. She aced her next test. The following week, she brought me a gift — a meal from an old family recipe. I have no idea what it was, because she only knew the ingredients in her native language — a dialect filled with vernacular specific to her rural village. That day, I learned the powerful bond of sharing food cooked from the heart, offered from the heritage of an immigrant girl navigating a new world.

Circumstances were harsh for many immigrant students. Some lived in impoverished homes, or on their own, or with relatives who didn’t want them, or on the streets. Looking back, I realize how many were in desperate need of an intervention from the foster care system. At the time, the thought never crossed my mind. We didn’t question each other’s circumstances.

Today, several decades later, I’m deeply concerned about the new administration’s approach to immigrants. I find it heartbreaking to imagine the weight of fear that immigrants now carry on their shoulders. They left a place of extreme hardship, for a land that offered possibility. We are their hope, but they are also ours. I wish the new administration had tasted that girl’s special dish, cooked the night before by her grandmother, a recipe passed down from several generations. I’ve never known a finer gift.

Now, my heart goes out to those barred from entering the land that was supposed to be their sanctuary. With the ICE raids, I grieve for families torn apart, for parents and children separated and shattered, a frightened and bruised group in need of immediate foster care. Together, one by one, we can reach out and make a difference in the life of a child, an adolescent, an adult — a future nurse, professor, artist, sales clerk — or possibly the owner of the finest Vietnamese restaurant imaginable.

___

Amy’s Novels:

Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable

Caroline Black, 15 years old, leaves her wealthy prep school for her local high school, which opens her world. At Hollywood High, she finds a large immigrant population speaking over 40 native languages. Although frightened and intimidated as she navigates this new territory, Caroline thrives in the diversity of her new school.

Tightwire

Caroline Black, 10 years later, navigates her first year of training as a therapist. Chapters in her treatment of a talented but troubled young man are interspersed with chapters of her own personal history. This book explores how the individual and community mutually influence each other, and the importance of becoming your own full person.

Visit Amy’s Author Page to read reviews, check out the first few chapters, purchase a novel.

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

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Filed under A Home Within, donation, foster care, high school, hollywood high school, immigrants, Uncategorized, Welcoming America

Imagine

I’m a cisgender, straight woman. I grew up knowing I was female, inside and out. I’m writing this post as a supportive ally, in response to the new administration’s pulling back protections for transgender students. However, if you’re not an LGBT ally, if you’re not comfortable with the trans population, I invite you to continue to read, because I’m writing this post for you as well.

Imagine.

Imagine a high school version of my adult self. Everything felt unstable — weight, hormones, emotions. I couldn’t rely on anything to stay the same — even my blonde hair was growing darker. I had achieved my height of 5’2” by age twelve, when I was considered a giant; now at fifteen, I was startled to be viewed as “petite.” My one constant, the core of my identity that held me steady: I was female.

One day, changing into my clothes after gym class, I realized my period had arrived early. I didn’t know what to do. A group of girls with nearby lockers saw me anxiously searching through my backpack, and they exchanged knowing glances. I barely knew them, but they immediately stepped in. One offered a tampon, and we all smiled, bonded in our femaleness.

Now imagine a different scenario. Think about how I might have felt if someone called my “gender identity” (my definition of myself as female) threatening, or dangerous, or sick, or a phase I’d grow out of. Suppose that instead of offering support, those girls had yelled at me, ordered me to use the boys’ bathroom.

Imagine what might have followed.

Suppose I entered the boys’ bathroom, probably with the same hesitancy you’d enter the “wrong” restroom. Maybe the boys would be hostile. Maybe they’d make comments about my body, put their hands on me, become violent. Maybe I’d be so upset that I’d promise myself I’d never again use the bathroom during school. But one day I’d really need to, so I’d duck into the girls’ bathroom, because this was where I belonged, because I was female. I’d pray I’d be safe. But the girls whispered, shot comments, pointed.

Somehow, I’d get through the day. I’d return home, needing to regroup, regain my sense of safety. Then I’d turn on the news, and the federal government would announce that I could be forced to use the “wrong” restroom. The way I was treated in the bathrooms by both girls and boys was perfectly fine. If I didn’t like it, then it was my fault for defining myself as female.

Take a moment, and imagine.

This is the message the transgender population has been given by the people who are supposed to be our most powerful protectors. I’ve written this post as if they were me. 

Now imagine that they were you.

___

Amy’s Novels:

Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable deals with homophobic bullying at school, and follows a girl’s journey after she comes out to her family. The story tracks a group of diverse high school friends as they confront homophobia in themselves and others, and find individual paths to becoming LGBT allies.

Tightwire follows a rookie psych intern through her first year of clinical training, treating a stormy and talented young man. This book tracks a strong friendship between two men, one gay and one straight. Two other important characters are a lesbian couple, raising two children, who become role model parents to the main character. This is a story of the importance of becoming your full self.

Visit Amy’s Author Page to check out Amy’s recent blog posts, read reviews, purchase her novels.

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

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Filed under LGBT, Trans Ally, Transgender

More Bathroom Bills

Folks, please, enough with the Bathroom Bills.

If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of being transgender, please talk it through with people who identify as trans. It’s okay to ask questions, as long as you’re open to their answers. They won’t hurt you, and neither will their ideas.

If you don’t know what transgender means, please ask. Nobody knows everything, and people appreciate a willingness to learn. A general rule: the level of respect in the answer will match the level of respect in the question.

If you doubt that transgender is “real,” please allow someone who is trans to share her/his experience. People are different, sometimes extremely different. My own approach: if I don’t understand another’s experience, then it’s on me to ask, listen and learn. Dismissing another’s experience is unacceptable, as is making assumptions based on my lack of understanding. People can have a wide range of experiences regarding gender identity, all equally valid. You might be surprised to discover that along with your differences, you share some common ground.

If you’re worried about what a transgender person does in a public restroom, please ask. You’ll find they behave remarkably like you — nothing dangerous, nothing even interesting. To turn this into a grand political issue is worse than insulting; it’s an irresponsible drain of resources that are desperately needed elsewhere.

If you’re looking for something to occupy your time, please knit sweaters for the homeless, volunteer at a public library, plant a tree, take an art class. But please don’t waste any more time and money on this offensive and useless crusade.

____

Amy’s Novels:

Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable

Caroline Black, 15 years old, leaves her wealthy prep school for her local high school, which opens her world. At Hollywood High, she finds a large immigrant population speaking over 40 native languages. Although frightened and intimidated as she navigates this new territory, Caroline thrives in the diversity of her new school.

Tightwire

Caroline Black, 10 years later, navigates her first year of training as a therapist. Chapters in her treatment of a talented but troubled young man are interspersed with chapters of her own personal history. This book explores how the individual and community mutually influence each other, and the importance of becoming your own whole person.

Visit Amy’s Author Page to check out reviews, read the first few chapters, purchase a book.                                                                              https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

 

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Filed under Bathroom Bill, Civil Rights, LGBT, Trans Ally, Transgender

Fight, Resistance and Basics

I was in tenth grade, relaxing with friends in my high school quad, when two rival gang members hurtled toward us. Of course I had seen school yard brawls, but this was different. These two were muscular, raging, violent, and they knew how to hurt each other. Fear has an odd influence on memory, and I carry the next few minutes as disjointed still life photography. I remember their haircuts. I remember the crowd screaming. I remember that both wore jeans. I remember the thud of pounding meat, each time a fist connected. I remember when the winning hit smashed his opponent’s face, and the explosion of bright crimson. I remember my surprise because the “winner” was the smaller of the two.

More than a decade later, I enrolled in a women’s self-defense class called “Basics.” Most of us had never thrown a punch, and we didn’t have a clue how to fight. Our two teachers worked together, coaching us. During every “assault,” one stood by our side shouting instructions, while the other “attacked” us, dressed head-to-toe in protective gear so we could fight without sending him to the emergency room.

Until that point, whenever I had watched a fight — TV, movies, plays — I saw only chaos. Flying fists, flailing kicks, careening bodies. To my complete surprise, by the second self-defense class, I could break down the maelstrom into structured pieces. I could spot openings, moments when I could step in to protect myself. Every class, our teachers repeated the basics: when you find an opening, commit 100%.  Don’t give up, ever. It’s okay to be scared. Even if you’re fighting by yourself, you’re not alone.

Now, more than 25 years later, I find myself entering a different kind of battle, facing an unprecedented situation in my homeland. I look around and see my fellow citizens under assault, and I will not be a passive bystander. As a woman, I too am under assault. But I know self-defense and even in this unfamiliar arena, stepping forward with non-violent resistance, those “basic” teachings are more relevant than ever.

Wait for your opening.  When you step in, commit 100%. Different people choose different ways to fight, but you’re still on the same team. Yes, you might get hurt in the struggle but no, that doesn’t mean the fight is over. If you’re knocked down, you can fight with equal strength from the ground. You can fight through pain. A fight, especially a prolonged fight, is emotionally and physically exhausting, so don’t forget to take care of yourself. It’s okay to be scared. You’re not alone. Don’t give up, ever.

And from that gang fight in high school so long ago: the smaller fighter, in the end, can still triumph.

____

Amy’s Novels:

Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable

Caroline Black, 15 years old, leaves her wealthy prep school for her local high school, which opens her world. At Hollywood High, she finds a large immigrant population speaking over 40 native languages. Although frightened and intimidated as she navigates this new territory, Caroline thrives in the diversity of her new school.

Tightwire

Caroline Black, 10 years later, navigates her first year of training as a therapist. Chapters in her treatment of a talented but troubled young man are interspersed with chapters of her own personal history. This book explores how the individual and community mutually influence each other, and the importance of becoming your own full person.

Visit Amy’s Author Page to check out reviews, read Amy’s recent blog posts, purchase a book.

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

 

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Filed under #ShePersists, ACLU, California Rural Legal Assistance, great teachers, Planned Parenthood, resistance, self-defense, social justice, Southern Poverty Law Center, Uncategorized

Donating Profits From Book Sales

 

ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union)
CRLA (California Rural Legal Assistance)
Planned Parenthood
Southern Poverty Law Center

I’ve published 2 novels, and this month — February 2017 — I’ll donate all profits from book sales to these organizations, dedicated to full rights and equality for all. Please spread the word! For each book sold, you, your family members, your colleagues and your friends will be contributing.

Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable

Caroline Black, 15, leaves her college prep academy for the local public high school, which opens her world. I wrote this novel in reaction to seeing gay students bullied.

Tightwire

This novel continues to follow Caroline Black, now a rookie psych intern treating her first patient — a stormy, brilliant, troubled young man who grew up in the circus. I wrote this novel in support of same-sex parents, as a voice against the stigma of therapy, and from my deep respect (actually awe) for the human capacity to heal.

Both novels are available on Amazon as ebooks. They can be put on a Kindle, or any electronic device using Amazon’s Free Reading Apps. The novels cost $2.99, and each book sale helps! I’ll donate 100% of my profits for this month to the American Civil Liberties Union, California Rural Legal Assistance, Planned Parenthood, Southern Poverty Law Center.

Together, we can make a difference!

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Filed under ACLU, California Rural Legal Assistance, Planned Parenthood, Southern Poverty Law Center, Uncategorized

GLSEN 100 Days Of Kindness

When I was in high school, my friend stopped an incident of bullying with one quiet question.

“Pam” (not her real name) and I were at the beach, standing at the water’s edge, 16 years old. A  group of three guys stood to our right. Another adolescent, male, swam alone in the surf. At the same moment, Pam and I realized the group next to us was angling for our approval.

“Look at him!”

Pam and I exchanged a confused glance.

“Can’t even swim.”

They pointed to the water, where the swimmer navigated the ocean like a dolphin.

“He looks like a total jerk.”

The boy — maybe 17 — caught a wave and rode it to shore. He rose to his feet and headed back out, diving through the breakers. His timing was perfect, a strong swimmer, at home in the crashing surf of the California coast. His skill was clearly a threat to the three fine gentlemen to our right.

“He’s a f – -!”

“Total f – -!”

“Definitely a f – -!” They gave each other high fives.

I said quietly, “Let’s go,” but Pam shook her head. Instead, she faced the three boys and spoke softly.

“What if he is?”

They stared at her. Then one pointed to the water. “F – -!”

She shrugged disarmingly and repeated, “What if he is?”

They looked at each other, then back at her. “Well, nothing, I guess.”

She held her ground for a long moment, then turned to me. “Let’s swim.”

For the next hour, we bodysurfed with the swimmer. We left the ocean together, streaming water, warm in the salty sun. He invited us to join his friends, and we feasted on iced tea, veggies, hummus, chips, guacamole. The pack of three glanced at us periodically, but didn’t approach. We never asked if the swimmer and his two friends were gay for the same reason they didn’t ask us: it didn’t matter.

What. If. He. Is.

Four simple words. Mightier than the sword.

___

Amy Kaufman Burk is an author and blogger. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, was written in reaction to seeing gay teens bullied in high school, and follows a family’s journey after the daughter comes out. Amy’s second novel, Tightwire, includes a strong friendship between two men, one gay and one straight, as well as a lesbian couple (raising a son and daughter) who become role model parents to the main character. Amy’s blog has several posts in strong support of LGBTQ+. To learn more about Amy, visit her website and find links to her blog and to her novels on Amazon.

http://amykaufmanburk.com

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Filed under #KindnessInAction, bullying, GLSEN, high school, LGBT

Amy vs. Chapter 37 – GLSEN No Name Calling Week

 

“You think beating J.D. to death was okay?”

“What’s the big deal? He’s only a fa—”

“Don’t say that word!” 

Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable

Chapter 37

 

I talked in paragraphs at fourteen months, and I haven’t shut up since. Most people don’t realize, because I usually keep my words inside my head, ready to be tapped. As I created my first novel, I wrote with confidence, trusting my collection of sounds, phrases, suffixes, sentences — until Chapter 37, when I found myself locked in battle with one word.

I chose the title Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable from my high school and its motto. Over the strong objections of my parents, I transferred from a college prep academy to the local public school. Mom and Dad were appalled when I insisted on trading a stellar academic curriculum, a gorgeous campus with state of the art science labs and tennis courts, for a school that struggled to afford textbooks. To this day, I’m grateful to my parents for trusting me at fourteen — sitting before them in ratty jeans, dark blonde hair slightly tangled, fumbling to explain that my horizon needed to stretch.

Hollywood High opened my world — over 40 native languages uniting to form an extremely diverse community. I volunteered to tutor in math and English, and suddenly being a hyper-nerd was viewed by my peers as valuable. Who knew.

But one aspect of Hollywood High haunted me: the violence targeting gay students.

I wrote about high school in reaction to the bullying I witnessed. As I created the fictional story, factual images flooded back full throttle. I remembered the pack of athletes chanting “F – -”, surrounding a boy, shouting until he cried.  I could picture the group of popular teens snickering as two guys walked by in heels. I could see the girl who casually took my arm and told me, smiling sweetly, that she heard a gay student had been beaten to death by football players. Actually she didn’t say “gay student”; she used the same word the pack of athletes chanted.

Decades later, several drafts into writing Hollywood High, Chapter 37 was putting up a fight. I had launched a key character on a homophobic rant, and I decided he needed to speak the same word that the athletes and the gossip-girl had used. No problem — except my hands wouldn’t cooperate. I sat poised, fingers hovering over the keys, unable to type. But like I said, no problem, because I had zillions of words floating around my head. I swapped out the offensive word and tried another, and another. But at that specific moment in the story, at that point in the character’s development, no other word made sense. Again, no problem…except I couldn’t do it.

I gave myself a firm talk: snap out of it — nobody said writing was easy — homophobia is brutal and my language has to match the severity. I hit the “F” key. I steeled myself, and hit the “A”…and I couldn’t complete the word. Every time I tried to type the “G”, I was transported to tenth grade. I felt the same queasy dread, cold-sweat panic, deer-in-headlights paralysis. Caught in a time warp, I could hear that word shouted, see the boy fighting for composure, feel my own composure break when he lost.

I wish I could go back, because now I’d know what to do. I’d shoulder my way through the crowd, and stand with that boy. I’d establish a gay-straight alliance, and send the athletes, popular kids and gossip-girl invitations to join. I’d approach the school’s outstanding drama department, and offer to sponsor a play to educate people, try to plant the seeds of empathy. If they couldn’t find a play, I’d write one. I’d coordinate with other organizations at school to stand against bullying, and I’d reach out to other schools as well. I’d ask my friends on the school newspaper if they’d write a piece. I’d bring as many people together as I could. And as I filled my head with wishes, I felt my writing process unlock. My character needed to say that hateful word (actually twice), but I didn’t need to replay the worst of high school. Now, each time my character tried to speak, I’d bring in another character to interrupt him. I needed the “F” and the “A”, but I didn’t need the “G”.

This time, I stopped that word in its tracks.

___

Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable deals with homophobic bullying at school, and also follows a girl’s journey after she comes out to her family. The story tracks a group of diverse high school friends as they confront homophobia in themselves and others, and find individual paths to becoming LGBTQ allies. Click on the link below to find Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable on Amazon.

 

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Filed under bullying, GLSEN No Name Calling Week, high school, LGBT

Reach The Top

I can’t remember Laverne’s face, only her legs. But that makes sense, because standing tall, I came up to her knees. I was two years old and I adored my preschool teacher. Under her guidance, my entire class aspired to greatness, which we defined as climbing to the top of the jungle gym. One by one, the other kids triumphed. Finally, I was the only child who hadn’t summited.

Every day, I arrived at school and gazed at that jungle gym — majestic and imposing, beckoning and terrifying. The bars towered enormous, a soaring five feet tall. I felt a powerful need to climb. But every time I stepped toward the challenge, my fear steered me back to the safety of the swings. One morning, Laverne found me at the base of the grand structure, staring up. I was verbal for my age, so she knelt next to me and asked what was holding me back.

“It’s too big.”

“Are you scared?”

“Very scared.”

“Well, here’s an idea.” Laverne spoke slowly, giving me time to keep up. “You can be scared without being brave, but you can’t be brave without being scared.”

I replayed her words in my head several times. After a minute, I nodded. “I’m ready to be scared and brave, not just scared.”  I stepped forward, then hesitated.

Laverne took my hand. “Let’s do it together.”

I remember the next few minutes as a series of disjointed freeze frames —  the cold against my hands as I gripped the bars, the strain as I pulled myself upward. A part of my memory confused me for a long time: a crystal clear view of a smooth, medium brown surface, under a lattice of white. I couldn’t make sense of it until I realized that as I climbed, Laverne climbed next to me. When I looked at her for a shot of courage, I was looking at her brown legs under white fishnet stockings.

My next memory is the sound of my classmates cheering. I turned my head slowly, astonished at the splendor of the view. I saw a red ball behind a shed, a white sock in a pile of leaves, a spiderweb in a nearby tree. I beamed at the sweeping panorama brimming with hidden treasures. The moment was fine and at two years old, I was changed forever.

To this day, I always feel a warm confidence when I think of jungle gyms, spiderwebs and fishnet stockings. Although I didn’t have the language to frame the feelings when I was two years old, I understood on a visceral level the value of fear as an essential part of courage. I experienced first-hand how a great teacher can bring students to heights they never thought possible. In a place too deep for words, I knew that when a girl reaches the top of her world, she’ll never be the same.

 

Amy Kaufman Burk is a blogger and author of two novels. Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, written in reaction to seeing gay teens bullied in high school, follows Caroline Black through tenth grade. Her second novel, Tightwire, continues to follow Caroline, as a rookie psych intern treating her first patient. Amy blogs about a variety of subjects including parenting, LGBTQ+ and a Rolling Stones concert. Amy also collaborates with educators who use her novels in their curriculum. To learn more about Amy, visit her website.

http://amykaufmanburk.com

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Filed under Education, gender equality, girl power, great teachers, preschool

Tightwire, Two Years Later

Two years ago yesterday, on December 5, 2014, I received an email from Amazon: Tightwire, my second novel, was up and running. With that message — rote and impersonal — my extremely personal Tightwire journey began. I’ve had readers email me to say the novel made a difference in their lives; I’ve seen my writing through the eyes of college lit students and psych grad students; I’ve established a dialogue with classrooms in Ask-The-Author threads; I’ve collaborated with professors. I’m still traveling the path of my Tightwire journey — striding and stumbling, learning and questioning. All I know for sure is what I didn’t know on this day, two years ago.

I didn’t know that my second book (Tightwire) would feel just as challenging (a polite word) and overwhelming (more like the truth) to write as my first book (Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable). I didn’t know I’d rewrite Tightwire between 50 and 100 times before publication; I figured that happened with my first book only because it was my first book. But that’s my ongoing process as a writer, and it’s holding true again as I work on Novel #3. Apparently, there’s no rushing art, especially mine.

I didn’t know that every time I’d publish a book, I’d feel vulnerable. I’m not talking about a mature brand of vulnerability, described with balance and eloquence, preferably while sipping tea and reclining comfortably. No, I’m talking about clutch-a-stuffed-animal, scrunch-your-eyes-shut, hide-under-the-bed (if I could still fit). Tightwire follows two main characters: Caroline, “a whip-smart neophyte therapist who lives too much in her head” and Collier, “a gorgeous child of the circus who has only been admired for his body” (from a 5-star review on Amazon). The story is pure fiction, but Caroline’s style as a therapist bears a striking resemblance to my own. What’s more, anyone who knows me will recognize that Caroline and I share too many personality traits to be mere coincidence. When I put up Tightwire, I put up pieces of my self for public consumption. Searingly vulnerable.

I also didn’t know that Tightwire would change my relationship to my own vulnerability.  Within a few weeks of publication, Tightwire would top Amazon’s list of Hot New Releases…and I still felt vulnerable. Tightwire continues to land on and off Amazon bestsellers lists — and I still feel vulnerable. Reviewers have tossed out words like “riveting” — “profound” — “inspirational” — “spectacular” — “captivating”…and I still feel vulnerable. Of course, the reviews are validating, and I’m grateful beyond words. But curiously, the vulnerability remains. I finally realized that to connect to my readers, I need that vulnerability. I can’t speak for other writers but for me, if it isn’t rooted in vulnerability, it isn’t worth reading. My Tightwire journey is grounded in layers of vulnerability.

I didn’t know how many Tightwire journeys my readers would share. From 5-star reviews on Amazon:  “I feel this book could help many readers realize they…shouldn’t be afraid to seek therapy” — “The story is one of hope, with an ongoing theme that people can heal from all sorts of past difficulties through insight and the power of healthy relationships” — “This book could help many readers realize they’re not alone”– “Sexuality is not as simple as the categorizations that our society often attaches to it.” I didn’t know there would be so many Tightwire journeys, from so many readers.

Clearly, I didn’t know a truckload, but the past 2 years have been an education. I now know how grateful I am to each person who reads my work. I know how much I’ve grown to respect the value of vulnerability. Most of all, I know how open I am to discovering what else I don’t know.

___

*If you’re considering Tightwire for a course or book club and you’d like a curriculum guide and chapter summaries, go to my website, click on contact, and you can email me. http://amykaufmanburk.com

Amy Kaufman Burk is a blogger and author of two novels. Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, written in reaction to seeing gay teens bullied in high school, follows Caroline Black through her first year of high school. Her second novel, Tightwire, continues to follow Caroline, now a rookie psych intern treating her first patient. Amy blogs about a variety of subjects including parenting, LGBTQ and a Rolling Stones concert. Amy also collaborates with educators who use her novels in their curriculum. To learn more about Amy, visit her website.

http://amykaufmanburk.com

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Filed under indie publishing, writing