Six Sad Childhood Books

Recently BuzzFeed published this listicle: 16 Books You Read As A Kid That Were Actual Emotional Torture.

I read the list. Exactly zero books listed match the sad books from my childhood.

Of the sixteen books, three I’ve read as an adult, six I’m aware of but have not read, and seven I’ve never heard of prior to this list. Some of these books weren’t even out when I was kid.

I’m not sure who comprises the BuzzFeed community that submitted those titles, but I’m going to guess millennials. I’m technically a millennial, but an old one, so I decided to share the six saddest books from my (very ’90s) childhood. I know some are still around and read, but I hope I’m not the only one that remembers the others.

Oh yeah, spoilers incoming.


The Gold Cadillac by Mildred D. Taylor

Reading this book was the first time I learned about and understood racism and injustice. Seeing the family in the book be treated so terribly for being black and driving a fancy car made me so sad and angry as a seven-year-old and I’ve never forgotten it.



A Dog Called Kitty by Bill Wallace

At some point we all read a book or see a movie where the dog dies. This point for me was first or second grade. I remember being really happy that the main character went from being mean to dogs to a dog-lover, but then the dog, Kitty, dies, because elementary school kids need more reasons to cry.



The Christmas Spurs by Bill Wallace

Bill Wallace really had it out for me as a kid. That, or he really thought kids should learn about death and how to deal with it. I don’t remember the exact specifics of the plot, just that there were two brothers, a pair of spurs, and that the younger brother dies from cancer. It has some kind of little twist that made the ending bittersweet.



On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer

This book was read to my class during library time by the librarian in fifth or sixth grade. I hated it. And then, when it got to the crux of the story, that one of the two main boys actually dies because they were being silly kids, I hated it even more. Then you have to actually be there when the surviving boy tries, and fails, to tell the other boy’s parents what happened. It’s The Worst.



Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

My sixth grade reading teacher was a Lowry fan, so we read two of her books that year. This was my first Lowry book and the first time I’d read anything about the Holocaust. The oppression and terror the characters experienced was awful, but at least this story didn’t end too terribly (leaving everything to escape to a different country because your people are being kidnapped and killed is pretty happy, right?).



The Giver by Lois Lowry

This short, simple book is full of terrible things. Infanticide, senicide, forced birth, forced suppression of biologic functions, and a complete and total lack of individualism make up the main character’s world. He doesn’t realize these things are terrible (or even happening) until he meets The Giver and receives the memories of the past before everything changed, and some of those memories are terrible and painful. Then the little kid narrator has to leave everyone and everything he knows to save a baby and escape his controlled existence, only to end the book near death in the snow. Talk about emotional.


These books taught me things, the main lesson being I prefer books where the overwhelming feeling at the end isn’t sadness. I’ll still read a sad book from time to time, but they are harder for me to start than most others. Is it because of these early forays into sadness or because currently, the world is sad enough as it is?

I’m going to go with both. Both is good.

What books would make your saddest childhood books list?



Evolving Identities

josephine-amalie-paysen-341672CN: discussion of sexual and romantic identities, sexual attraction, romantic attraction, sexual arousal, labels

If you asked me when I was 16 what my sexuality was, I would have said straight.

I would have been lying.

I wouldn’t have meant to lie, at least not exactly, but there would have been a few things I didn’t mention when I answered that question. Like how I sometimes had crushes on girls. Or how I never thought of people as sexy and didn’t ever desire sex the way most people seemed to.

I wouldn’t have told you about that one time in 5th grade when me and three other girls pretended that two of us were guys, and we carried on, holding hands and flirting. I told myself that it didn’t matter if I was acting gay, everyone else in my class was gay so what did it matter? Granted, that was a truly erroneous statement, and I barely had a concept of what the word gay meant, but I was trying to justify liking a girl when I had a vague but menacing notion that it was not approved of in rural Tennessee.

If you had asked me that question at 16, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you about the girls I kissed in college because it hadn’t happened yet. I wouldn’t have been able to explain that we just did it for fun, none of us were anything but straight (because there was only straight and gay, right?), or that despite enjoying kissing them, as well as some guys along the way, I never had sexual feelings for any of them, something I didn’t understand and couldn’t explain.

So now that I am not 16, now that I have found my voice, I can tell you the truth:

I am not straight.

I did labor under the delusion that I was straight until my late twenties. It was then that I stumbled upon the word demisexual. This word seemed to describe me perfectly: a person who does not experience sexual attraction unless they form a strong emotional connection with someone (from AVENwiki). This opened up all kinds of doors for me. It made me feel seen and understood and I no longer felt broken or weird for not desiring sex like most people seemed to.

It would take another couple of years for me to be fully honest with myself that demisexual was not the whole story of my sexual identity. During this time I was also transitioning from being an evangelical, Southern Baptist conservative to a spiritual, Two Commandments liberal, so my views on feminism and LGBTQIAP+/queer issues were solidifying. This led me to a greater understanding of human sexuality, namely that identity is fluid and that there is more than one kind of attraction.

So last year at age 30, I determined that my full identity was hetero-demisexual and biromantic, which meant that I was only sexually attracted to men after making a strong emotional connection, but that I was romantically attracted to men and women. That fell under the asexual umbrella term gray-ace, so that is what I started using.

A year later, gray-ace is no longer my preferred term. The reason is because no matter how much we may know ourselves, sometimes there is always more to learn.

Earlier this year, I was planning a presentation on asexuality, so I had to dive in deep in order to try and describe what being ace means to the many types of people that fall under the ace umbrella. In addition, I had to try and explain this to both ace and non-ace people. One of the key points of this presentation was that sexual attraction, sexual arousal, and sexual action are three different and separate things.

The more I understood about these three things, the more I realized that in my own sexual identity, I had been confusing sexual attraction with sexual arousal. I thought that because I was experiencing arousal (in my body) that meant I was experiencing attraction (in my mind). But while the two can correlate and happen simultaneously, they don’t have to, and I realized for the first time that I was not actually experiencing sexual attraction, which means I am simply ace, no other descriptors needed.

As to my romantic identity, I had some learning to do there too. Attraction can be a funny thing and mine is quite specific. There usually has to be some combination of facial features, outward presentation, and personality to ring my romantic/sensual/aesthetic attraction bells.

But I realized the gender of the people I tended to gravitate towards didn’t actually matter, so that puts me in the camp of panromantic. In queer communities, bi- is used to mean “more than two” “same and different,” so biromantic would still fit, but I’m trying to get comfortable using panromantic because it is a more complete term regarding my romantic attractions.

So it has taken me about five years to understand my own sexual and romantic identity to the point where I feel solid in the labels I choose to use. Does that mean they won’t change again at some point? No, but at least for now, I feel confident that I am representing myself in the truest way possible.

Identities evolve, and that’s okay. You should never feel ashamed about questioning who you are or how you relate to the world around you. It took me a long time to figure things out, but no matter how long it may take you, your journey and your identity are valid. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

For more information on asexuality, please visit
The Asexuality Visibility and Education Network.

To look up terms mentioned in this post, please visit the AVENwiki.





Photo Credit: © 2017 Josephine Amalie Paysen via Unsplash

Life’s Little Mysteries


From the time I could read, I’ve been enthralled by mystery stories. An unsolved case, a missing person, an inexplicable event – it didn’t matter the context, I just wanted to follow the clues with the characters and know the answers.

My first mystery stories were ones from my local library. They weren’t exactly mysteries in the traditional sense but they definitely had that mystery element and tended to be about things like ghosts and kids with strange powers. I found my way to traditional mystery novels in junior high and high school, and to this day, I power through mystery novels as fast as I can get my hands on them. Cozy, twisted, themed, classic, contemporary, historical, it doesn’t really matter; I love them all.

But life isn’t often much like books, especially ones that are high concept and take situations to the extreme like mysteries do. I got to thinking about the mysteries I’ve experienced in my own life, true mysteries for which I don’t have the answers. I only have a few, but I decided to write a little about them and speculate as to the truth.

roseThe White Rose

When: December, 1999, the last day of fall semester

Where: my combination junior/senior high school

What happened: School was over and winter break had begun, but I think I had basketball practice that afternoon, so I was staying at the school until practice was over. I had cleaned out my locker, leaving only a few school books I wouldn’t need, and headed to the girls’ locker room to hang out until practice started.

I got to talking with one of my friends and fellow teammates and realized that one of the books I needed to take home over break was one I’d left in my locker. I trudged all the way back to the junior high lockers to retrieve it.

The school was practically empty and no one was about in the halls. Our lockers were old and didn’t have locks, so when I opened my locker, I found that someone had left a white rose inside. The rose was rather large and pretty, and had one of those plastic tubes at the bottom filled with water. I looked around, but no one was there. They had to have put it in my locker in the short time between my first locker visit and me returning to retrieve my book. If I hadn’t needed that book, the rose would have stayed in there until school started again in January, so I was really glad I’d had a reason to go back to my locker.

Whodunit: I’ve always thought it was one of two boys. One of them had a girlfriend at the time, but we flirted a lot and I really liked him. The other liked me but I wasn’t interested in him as more than a friend. Neither of them ever admitted to leaving the rose. And because of the lockless-lockers, it could have been anyone.

Why: Either someone wanted me to have a rose, or they put it in the wrong locker. Your guess is as good as mine.

footprintThe Footprints

When: winter of either 1998 or 1999

Where: my house

What happened: School got cancelled because of snow, so my parents were at work and I was at home with my little sister. The snow fell until about noon, leaving 4-6 inches on the ground the rest of the day.

In the afternoon, my sister got hungry so I made her some ramen noodles. My sister has always been a ramen fanatic, but this was the first time I ever tried making food using the stove without my parents around. When my parents got home a couple hours later, I stood at the door in the laundry room that led to the garage and watched them through the open garage door, facing the backyard and looking at something in the snow.

They asked me if either of us had gone outside. I said no (they’d told us to stay inside during the day and we had). Again, they told us to stay inside instead of coming out there to help them bring in dinner.

We had a window with blinds on it that looked directly into our kitchen from the back deck. I peaked through the blinds that had been open all day to see my mom and dad peering down at the ground as they walked carefully through our snow covered backyard.

When they came inside, I asked them what was going on. They asked if either me or my sister had seen anyone around the house. We hadn’t. They told me to put on some shoes and a jacket and come outside. We walked out on the deck through the back door and there, in the snow in front of the kitchen window, was a pair of footprints.

They were bigger than my dad’s size twelve. They trailed from the copse of trees behind the neighbor’s house, through our yard, and to our kitchen window. They had to have been made after the snow stopped falling since they hadn’t been filled in, which means someone was likely watching me while I was in the kitchen or watching me and my sister while we were in the living room (where we would have been visible through the open kitchen door).

Whodunit: Due to the shoe size, the culprit was probably a large male or a medium male with snow boots, and therefore, I’ve always thought it was a pervy neighbor we weren’t acquainted with. But we never found out and nothing like it ever happened again.

Why: People can be creepy.

thank youThe Empty Thank You

When: sometime in late 2004, early 2005

Where: my house

What happened: I was at home from my freshman year of college, either on break or on a weekend, when my mom checked the mail and saw that I had received a card.

The card was smaller than a greeting card and in the return-to-sender corner, all that was written was D. Drury.

I opened the card and saw that it was a thank you card. It was standard white with a simple gold cursive THANK YOU printed on the front, and inside, it was blank.

No message, nothing. I studied the card and envelope for several minutes, showing it to my family. I hadn’t done anything, been to anything, that warranted a thank you card, and I didn’t know anyone with the last name of Drury, but whoever they were, they knew my name and address and thought for some reason to send me this card, blank as it was.

I searched the internet as best I could considering the little information I had (and considering it was 2004/5) and came up with absolutely nothing. I didn’t know whether to think it was some kind of mistake or some kind of weird trick.

Whodunit: I would love to know.

Why: Seriously, I would love to know.

So those are my little mysteries! Do you have any unexplained happenings in your life? If so, are they interesting like in mystery novels or a little mundane, like mine? Let me know in the comments if you wish!


Photo Credits:

© 2016 Dmitry Ratushny via Unsplash
© 2017 Annie Spratt via Unsplash
© 2016 Paul Green via Unsplash
© 2017 Aaron Burden via Unsplash

Don’t. Assume. Anything.

naomi-august-138149CN: Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, suicide

While writing, reading, and books are a main part of what I write about on here, I also want to talk about other things that affect me and others around me. In this post, I’m going to be using the term mental illness a lot, mainly because it’s an easily recognizable term. I want to clarify that I do believe that a mental illness is a brain illness, which means it is a physical illness even if it manifests in the intangible mind.

If you are a person with a mental illness, chances are you’ve had some silly things said to you about your illness from people who do not share your experiences. I’m sure I’ve even said some of those things, though I myself have depression and anxiety, because, hey, no one is perfect.

But I want to explain why some of these things can be bothersome, so here are three things that have been said to me in the last three years when I’ve revealed that I have depression/anxiety/panic attacks. These things came from well-meaning individuals, but I found myself feeling less empowered and uplifted and more misunderstood and alienated.

“I never thought you were depressed. You’re always so happy!”

I would like to introduce you to my Survival Mask. My Survival Mask makes it so that I can seemingly function in the world while dying on the inside. My Survival Mask helps me navigate day to day situations without turning into a blubbering pile of despair every time someone asks me how I am. I have stuff to do, and my Survival Mask helps me focus on getting those things done instead of focusing on how I terrible I feel. Each morning I create the mask and once I’m back in a safe space where I can wear my real emotions on my face, I take that mask and throw it against the wall, only to create a new one the next day.

I deserve a flipping Oscar for the amount of people I have fooled into thinking I am a positive, happy, optimistic, always bubbly person. I mean, I am, that’s mostly what the Real Me is like. But the Real Me is only achieved when my depression is under control thanks to medication and other therapies. And while I am open to talking about my mental illnesses, I don’t feel like sharing every problem they cause me all the time. I’m definitely in the camp of “fake it ’til you make it” and I try to live how I want to be, not necessarily how I am. The drawback is that wearing my Survival Mask is exhausting, so when I’m not wearing it, all I want to do is sleep. And not everyone can hide their depression, and really, none of us should have to. The stigma around mental illness is a big reason why most of us try.

If I tell you I have depression, what that means is I suffer from a mental illness that affects every moment of my life. I’m letting you in, lifting the mask, and I’m trusting you. You don’t have to tell me you didn’t know, because I meant for you to not know. But now that you do, I’m hoping you understand me a little more than you did a minute ago. If not, you can educate yourself here.

“Oh, you have anxiety/panic attacks? What about?”

While stress and upsetting situations can trigger/make me more susceptible to anxiety and panic attacks, neither require a source. Sometimes I just feel anxious. Sometimes I just have a panic attack. Both suck and zap me of energy and often leave me feeling fragile and vulnerable. I have learned, through therapy and continued education (which can be found here), how to deal with both in ways that work for me. I use a pressure point and breathing exercise, calming music, ASMR videos, and EMDR therapy (this video usually) to reduce anxiety, and sometimes these methods can keep me from falling into a panic spiral when I feel a panic attack coming on.

But for panic attacks that get to a point where those methods won’t work (or I’m not in a state that I can use them effectively), I often have to cocoon myself, which generally means I have to wrap myself up in blankets, stay in bed (my safe place), and sometimes receive comfort from a safe person. I’ve had one panic attack where I could not get to a safe space, was alone, and could not calm myself. It was so bad I started having suicidal thoughts. I knew I needed outside help, so my only option was to call 911. It was the right decision because the panic attack triggered an asthma attack, so I was in as much physical pain as I was mental pain.

But here’s the real problem with the question above: even if my anxiety/panic attack has a trigger, I’m not likely to tell you what it is. First, knowing that you think all anxiety/panic attacks have a source lets me know you are not a safe person to discuss them with. Second, unless you are already a trusted person with whom I’ve talked about this before, this question feels like prying. I know the intention is usually to help, to identify the problem and reassure me things are fine. But if you understood anxiety/panic attacks, you’d know that while I appreciate your sympathy, your reassurance isn’t actually helpful.

“Depressed? You shouldn’t feel bad about yourself. You’re great!”

Self-esteem has never been a problem for me. Being that I am a woman with a large quantity of fat on my body, the assumption might be that I have body image issues, but I don’t. I’ve always been bigger than other people even before I was fat and it’s never been something that bothered me in a lasting way. But self-esteem doesn’t have to be body related, it can be about my view of myself as a whole person.

To be completely honest, I am brazenly self-centered. I analyze everything I do, say, and think and I live in my own little world most of the time. I talk to myself and I enjoy talking about myself and sharing my thoughts and opinions. I am always intricately involved with whatever is going on with my brain, sometimes to the detriment of my communication skills. I’m compassionate and empathetic, loving and kind, but also cynical, sarcastic, and I can use my words as weapons. I’m extroverted and love to talk to people about things I enjoy, but I’m also introverted and enjoy being alone and can get annoyed when my solitary activities are interrupted. I can be extremely patient and extremely impatient. I am Type-A and can be an insufferable know-it-all. I know I am smart and capable of many things. I can come across as condescending and conceited, overly enthusiastic and loud, a bleeding heart, ditzy. I know I am awesome but I also know I’m not a perfect person. Either way, I do not feel bad about myself. I try to be my best self, which doesn’t always work, but I try, and that’s what matters most to me.

I am a person with depression but I do not have low self-esteem. While low self-esteem can accompany depression and sometimes the two can become intertwined, depression and low self-esteem are separate issues. I believe where the two become conflated is in the notion that depression lies to you about yourself, which is true for many people. But in my case, depression does so by taking over my feelings.

Depression makes me feel worthless, that no one loves me, that no one understands me, that I am utterly alone, and that dying would be better than continuing to live in such pain and turmoil. When depression takes over, I feel those things, but I don’t think them, because the me that does the thinking is Real Me and Real Me knows better. I can even hold two opposing ideas – feeling unloved but knowing I’m loved – in my head at the same time. I’ve been dealing with depression for over twenty years now, so while not all people with depression can, I am able to separate my thoughts and feelings from what depression puts in my head.


If I had to sum up in one phrase how to avoid statements and questions that make life more difficult for someone with a mental illness, I’d pick this:

Don’t assume anything.

There are many kinds of mental illnesses, and every person’s experience is different. If someone has trusted you enough to reveal that they have a mental illness, know that they don’t do so lightly. Do your best to be a support to the people in your life with mental illnesses. Help us end the stigma by breaking the cycle of misinformation and bad representation by educating yourself using the many sites and tools the internet provides.

Above all, set an example by treating us with the dignity, respect, and compassion we deserve as human beings.




If you or someone you know is suicidal, please contact

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.


Photo Credits:

© 2016 Naomi August via Unsplash
© 2016 Artem Kovalev via Unsplash



If you’ve read any number of young adult books, it comes as no surprise to find that there is often some kind of romantic plot/subplot within the text. Since I write YA books, there is some expectation of that in my stories as well. I plan to have (at least) one in my current project. I have my main character, A, and she is eventually going to wind up with boy Z.

Already I’ve got several little scenes of them falling for each other, but the more I thought about them riding off together at the end of the series, the more my gut was telling me something was off. I didn’t question if they would remain together (they definitely will), but I couldn’t see what their lives would be like at all.

I’m not one of those authors who knows the entire future of my characters post-book. I don’t really feel a need to know, but I do need whatever conclusion I give them in the book to feel right, to feel true. When I started digging through my own brain, I realized the problem I was having with A and Z wasn’t what was missing after the action of the books, but what was missing within the books.

I’ve never pictured A and Z kissing.

When I figured that out, other things became clear to me. They prefer to be touching if they can be, and hugging is their favorite. The love to laugh and banter, they help each other through trauma and pain, and by the end of the series they are deeply in love.

So why no kissing?

And then it was like a lightening bolt struck me on the head: A and Z are asexual. Everything fell into place when I used this word to describe them.

In case you don’t know, I am gray-sexual or gray-ace, which is under the umbrella of asexuality. (If you want more detailed info on what all of that means, click HERE.) But it had never, not once, occurred to me that my main character and her final love interest could possibly be ace. I’d considered it with other characters, but not them.

I had been taking the sexuality (implied or explicit) found in the majority of YA love stories and applying it to A and Z, expecting them to fall in line. But why should they?

It seems like such an easy and obvious conclusion to come to, considering I’m ace myself, but it took me a while. I’m glad my characters, or my inner ace, put up enough fuss to show me where I was going wrong with A and Z’s love story.

Hopefully I’ll get to share them, in all their ace glory, with you eventually.




For more information on asexuality, please visit

The Asexual Visibility and Education Network.


Photo Credit: © 2016 Everton Vila via Unsplash