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The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Brave Face: A Memoir is YA author Shaun David Hutchinson's frank look back on his struggles with coming out as gay and with depression during his teen years. It includes a harrowing and detailed description of his attempted suicide, and honest descriptions of self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and a sexual assault. Some things are difficult to read, but none of it is glorified; it's meant to help people with similar struggles see that it's OK to ask for help, and to know that although it does get better, getting better takes a long time, a lot of work, and that the road to recovery isn't a straight line. The introduction offers a content warning and resources, websites, and phone numbers for help with depression, suicide, coming out, and more. There are descriptions of both same-sex and opposite-sex kissing and making out. Having sex isn't directly narrated, but body parts, positions, and specific acts are mentioned. Besides frank words for body parts like "d--k," other strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," "fag," "faggot," and "homo." Brave Face teaches readers a lot about how depression works on your mind and why positive representations that avoid stereotypes are so important in mainstream media. It'll inspire a lot of empathy for people who are hurting because they feel like they can't be themselves, like they're worthless, and like no one understands them or what they're going through.
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What's the story?
In BRAVE FACE: A MEMOIR, author Shaun David Hutchinson looks back on his struggles as a teen with depression and with accepting himself as a gay man. Hutchinson didn't want to be like the stereotypical gay men he'd seen and heard talked about all his life, and couldn't even if he did. That just wasn't him. Plus, laws and policies enacted by his government reinforced the idea that gay people were best hidden away, doomed to a depraved lifestyle and early death from AIDS. That's more than enough for anyone to struggle with, but Hutchinson also had a mind that kept showing him that he would never fit in because he was ugly and didn't deserve to love or be loved by anyone. Suicide became the most logical course. It was an ending, but what he couldn't know then was that it was also a beginning.
Is it any good?
This honest, eye-opening, and moving memoir is for anyone who is or loves someone who doesn't fit in, doesn't feel loved, isn't sure who they are, needs help, wants to help; in short, anyone. Brave Face: A Memoir tells one particular teen's story in a frank, no-holds-barred way that deftly balances the way he sees things now, 20 years later, with the only way he was capable of seeing things in the moment, as things happened. Readers who are trying to cope with the same or similar problems will find an oasis of understanding here and be encouraged to envision a future where they belong. Readers who are having an easier time will still find a lot that's easy to relate to. They'll get a profound understanding of what depression is and does, as well as what's it's like when you don't like, and are even pretty scared of, what you think you're becoming.
A lot of the issues Hutchinson deals with are difficult to think and talk about, let alone experience. But it's a good chance to try to start talking about how we see ourselves, what we think the future holds, what our value is as human beings, what we hope for, what our inner voice tells us, when we're OK, and when we need help. Ultimately the messages are hopeful: that it's OK to hurt, it's OK to ask for help, and that although it doesn't happen quickly or easily, it does get better. Strong language, frank sexuality, and difficult themes of self-harm and suicide make it best for teens and up.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Hutchinson's suicide attempt in Brave Face. Do you know anyone who's thought about it, talked about it, or tried it? Have you? What happened? Please check the front of the book if you need help, for yourself or someone you care about.
How does his depression affect the way the author thinks about himself and his life? What did you learn about depression from reading Brave Face? Did it change the way you see or think about people who are clinically depressed?
How do you think Hutchinson's life would have been different if he'd seen more non-stereotyped LGBTQ people represented in books, movies, music, etc.? Why are positive, inclusive representations important?
- Author: Shaun David Hutchinson
- Genre: Autobiography
- Topics: Friendship, High School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Non-Fiction
- Publisher: Simon Pulse
- Publication date: May 21, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
- Number of pages: 368
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
- Last updated: June 24, 2019
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