Sunday, February 25, 2018

Autism Answer: Everyday People: The Color Of Life (Book Review)

Many of you already know that one of my wishes for this world is more diversity in our storytellers. Writers, actors, directors, painters, comedians, producers, etcetera etcetera, need to be of every type. All genders and identities, colors and cultures, abilities and handicaps, styles and beliefs, economic distresses and blessings. In my idea of a perfect world, our storytellers and performers are like The Muppets! Unusual and mismatched and entirely encouraged and embraced. 

Art imitates life and life imitates art and our stories and world should be so diverse and interesting that we are comfortable with being uncomfortably surprised by unexpected people. Until we are rarely uncomfortable because it's just so darn common for folks to be unexpected and different. 

So, knowing how important I feel it is to expect and invite diversity in storytelling you can imagine how excited I was to be offered an advance copy of Everyday People: The Color Of Life - A Short Story Anthology, edited by Jennifer Baker with story contributions by established and emerging writers of color. 

HINT: If you imagined me nearly dropping my computer, jumping up off a couch, squealing and dancing with excitement while my friend looks over at me from her kitchen with a curious expression and asks without a hint of sarcasm, "Did you just win Publisher's Clearing House?" you'd be pretty close to correct. The only thing missing in your imagining are her dogs. But close! Good job, friend! tee hee!

When Everyday People arrived last week I dove in immediately!
The book took my breath away in brilliant and unexpected ways, over and over. Reading so many powerfully crafted stories written directly from (not about) cultures unfamiliar to me felt like experiencing a series of reincarnations. It was dizzying and delightful and eye-opening and awesome!

This book was so well curated - the writers have voices that are confident and vulnerable and authentic and compelling, and every story seemed to understand the necessity of the theme completely, ignoring any temptation to exploit it -  that it reinforced and gave new passion to my belief in diverse storytellers. It was a strange feeling, being dropped over and over again into foreign values and cultures and ways of life. But it also made clear the world of difference between writing ABOUT something and writing FROM it. How enlightening! 

When the world pretends it is being diverse, by adding characters that are colorful (disabled, gay, strong women, sensitive men, people of color, poverty, differing cultures, and the like) but the tellers and actors are not diverse, well, it isn't true. It isn't diverse. It isn't okay. 
Preorder your copy of Everyday People on Amazon!

I always try to be inclusive in my storytelling but I can't tell a story well that comes from a place I've never really been. "Write what you know," is all we can do, although the more gifted storytellers are able to discover untold imaginative treasures in that reality. And I am inclined to believe that if more people were telling their stories and writing what they know, we would all know more.

Everyday People: The Color of Life - A Short Story Anthology is made up of stories that dive deep into expectations, reasons, justifications, self-exploration, insights, hopes, fears, and identity. No two stories feel the same and yet they are all equally moving and engaging. 

I felt myself both missing and found in each story. 
As it is with all the greatest stories.

I am going to keep this book on my desk so I can revisit these feelings often.

I encourage you to get a copy so you can do the same. 

Hugs, smiles, and love!! 
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)


 Thank you, Books for the Soul, for giving me this great gift. I owe you one! 
Hopefully coffee and dancing one night. 
I would freaking love that!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Autism Answer: Confessions And Corrections

Me and my youngest brother.

Sometimes I feel annoyed when my youngest brother calls asking if he can come over to my house. He's bored and lonely and is feeling cabin feverish. He's feeling a bit desperate and needy and wants to bring that to my house.

But then I feel annoyed with myself for being annoyed with him. I remind myself to be honored that my youngest brother calls me asking if he can come over. That he is comfortable being vulnerable with me.

Sometimes I feel the heavy weight of responsibility being his one friend in town. He has asked over and over for help making friends and I give and I give, exhaustively searching for a way to help him get it. A way for him to get friends other than just me.

But then I feel the heavy realization that I am being cruel. That my brother isn't my responsibility, he feels and worries and wants and is being responsible for himself by asking me for help. I remind myself to feel the love and joy and miracle of being his friend and living separately in the same town. And it is a miracle. He has his own apartment, that was not expected of him from anyone (except, of course, my mom who believes in making miracles and therefore has made a beautiful career of it). And I live nearby, that was never my plan. Sure, living near family always has been. But not small-town Texas, not living near only one brother. Yet, here we are and we have grown close in ways I never would have imagined because of it.

Sometimes I feel bad that my knee-jerk reactions to my youngest brother are often unkind and self-centered. I wonder if my own meanness knows no bounds, is never-ending. Just when I have discovered a prejudice or mean bit of myself and cleaned it up, I find another. But then I remind myself of the millions of other knee-jerk reactions I've faced head-on, choosing to practice a new way with purpose, and how they then turned into true authentic thoughtful automatic reactions. I think of the fun I've had tweaking, editing, discovering, and changing my beliefs, my reactions, myself.

Together my brother and I talk about the value of forever learning and creating and moving forward. The only mistake really would be to not notice what we react to and how, and to not find thoughtful ways to change with purpose.

My brother and I make an awesome team and help each other out in the most wonderful and important of ways!

I'm a grateful sister!!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook) 

INVITATION: I have included a great many stories of growing up with my brothers in my book, Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself: A Collection of Stories that Slowly Grow Up. There are also stories of me as a mom, me as a daughter, and me as a younge woman trying to figure it all out; life, myself, the world, what exactly it means to be a good person. One thing all my stories have in common is a confession and correction style. I love to be almost dangerously candid about my mistakes while offering an excited idea for how I solved them. I hope you will consider reading my book and sharing your thoughts with me. You don't have to be dangerously candid, but you can be! Hugs, hugs, hugs! ~Tsara