Writing About Controversial Topics by Lynda M. Martin & Giveaway

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Sugarpeach’s guest post prompt: Why did you write a book with controversial topics?

Thank you, Evangeline, for posing such an interesting question. I spent most of the morning pondering a response. I found myself wondering why these topics — child abuse, a relationship between a man and a girl, untraditional family structures, alcoholism, family violence – should be considered controversial.

What is a controversy, anyway?

Controversy: [noun] a dispute about contentious topic, a disagreement on a contentious topic, strongly felt or expressed by all those concerned, or an instance of this.—Encarta Dictionary

Ah, a contentious topic! That’s the crux of the question. What is so contentious about these topics? On what do we disagree? Is there any question regarding their existence? Well – I would have to say yes, there is. We live in a world devoted to myth rather than truth, sadly enough. The myth in this case is that the majority of children grow up nurtured, beloved, cared-for and protected by a devoted set of parents — a mother and a father, playing traditional roles.

Americans cling to their myths, and this one is no exception. The rhetoric of the social conservatives, in particular, plays tremendous lip-service to the myth of the all-American family as they wander with eyes tightly closed across our landscape. They must do; reality seems to escape their notice.

The truth is well-known to those involved in social services. Close to half our children grow up in single parent homes, for instance. One quarter of American youth live in degrees of poverty that should make us embarrassed, but our only response is to cut the funding that support those same children while chiding their parents for their inability to do better. Impoverished parents must add our disdain and disgust to the daily pressures they face.

When it comes to child abuse figures, the numbers are staggering.  The official numbers which represent only known cases are bad enough at roughly 25% of girls and 13% of boys, but everyone involved in child protection knows this is but the tip of the iceberg. Less than 20% of all cases are ever reported.

Decades ago, I attended an international conference and listened to experts in the field estimate world-wide figures for child sex abuse as 7 of 10 girls and 4 of 10 boys. And there’s no reason to believe North America measures-up any more favorably than anywhere else. In fact, North America is a major market for exploited children. The FBI published the figure of over 100,000 American children trafficked each year for sexual exploitation, and around 250,000 children are bought and sold on American streets at any one time. The Center for Missing and Exploited Children received 797,000 reports of missing children in 2010.

But that doesn’t paint the entire picture. 90% of all child sex abuse goes on in the home, what those in the profession call “familial abuse,” with the term family expanded to include extended relatives and close family friends. What goes on in the home is seldom reported to authority.

I’ve met very few women who do not have some tale of sexual misconduct in their childhood, whether it be nothing more than inappropriate touching such as the uncle who fondles bottoms, or forced submission to adult sexual advances. Very few!

Did you note those figures? 70% of girls and 40% of boys will have experienced some form of sexual assault before they are 16.  Even those appalling figures are considered conservative. Dated as this information is, I would submit the situation has worsened, not improved.

In the United States, I’ve heard estimates as high as 1 in 3 households suffer from some form of abuse. Nation-wide, police responded to 686,272 calls for domestic violence in 2009, and estimates suggest less than 1% of such cases are ever reported.

Much of this abuse is fueled by alcohol and other drug use.  The latest Gallop poll on the subject says 67% of Americans state they are drinkers, with half of these admitting to a problem with alcohol. There are no reliable statistics for illegal drug use, but all social workers agree, alcohol is the biggest social problem we face as a society.

Not a pretty picture, is it? How far removed reality is from the myth.
So, in my mind the real controversy is that we consider such subjects controversial or contentious when the majority of women and a large chunk of men are survivors of our collective blindness, our inability to throw aside our view of “how things should be” and deal with what is.

When I wrote This Bird Flew Away, I wanted to express the reality of one such girl’s journey to adulthood without the rosy-glasses, the denial, the blind adherence to our social fairy tales, because there’s a second side to this “controversy.”

We insist on seeing survivors as anomalies, exceptions to the rule, a few unfortunates removed from the ‘healthy’ majority, whose lives have been “ruined,” who will grow up to become psychotic, twisted, sick individuals likely to become abusers in turn.

How isolating for us survivors! Most of us received no help; many of us never told a soul what was done to us; most of us don’t understand we are not one of a selected few victims but make up the majority.

So isn’t it time we threw aside the blanket of controversy and wrote (or read) about the truth? And the truth is, we do get over it, grow up and get on with life. We heal, for the most part, and for those lingering scars, a story such as This Bird Flew Away helps us to understand. While it may be considered “dark” subject matter, the book is far from dark – because that is the truth, the optimistic, happy truth.

If you had access to my email in-box and could read the messages from so many readers who were moved to share their own stories, this question would have been moot.

Thanks for the opportunity to wax prolific on this subject, and if I haven’t tackled the other “controversy” in the book, the relationship between Jack and Bria, it’s because I leave that up to the reader to decide.

Buy This Bird Flew Away at*: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk | Barnes & Noble | Author’s Website

Find Lynda M. Martin at: Website | Blog | Twitter | HubPages | Facebook page | Facebook profile | Goodreads

*Note: Book links above are not affiliate links.

Giveaway

I enjoyed reading the above guest post. I’ve always had a little clue as to why authors choose to write about controversial topics, but the impact a book with controversial topics holds leaves me glad there are such books! Lynda is giving away one print copy of This Bird Flew Away. This giveaway is open to all residents of US, Canada and UK.

I am using Rafflecopter to run this giveaway. I am posting this giveaway in Sugarpeach’s Facebook fan page since this widget does not work in WordPress.com. You do not need a Facebook account to enter the giveaway. You do need to have Javascript enabled to see the widget, however. It takes a few seconds for the widget to load.

Click here to enter the giveaway

For the mandatory entry, you have to leave a comment here answering this question: Why do I read books with controversial topics?. After leaving the comment, don’t forget to return to this page, click the I DID THIS button, fill in your name and email address, and then click the ENTER THIS GIVEAWAY button.

If you have any questions regarding the giveaway or usage of Rafflecopter, please feel free to leave a comment below. I’ll be happy to answer your questions. If for good reasons, you are unable to enter via the Rafflecopter widget, comment and let me know. I will try to accommodate your request.

Book synopsis:

What is real love? The whole world wants to know. They should ask Bria Jean, because she has it all figured out. Opinionated, stubborn and full of woe, Bria would tell you real love is having one person you can always count on through thick and thin. For her, that’s Jack. And it doesn’t matter to her that she’s nine and he’s twenty-three-not one bit. When, at the age of twelve, Bria disappears, he and his Aunt Mary search for her, and when she surfaces, injured, abused and traumatized, Jack fights to become her guardian with no idea of the trials ahead of him. By then, Bria is thirteen going on thirty, full of her own ideas on how her life should run and with some very fixed notions about who is in charge.

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Posted on September 8, 2011, in Giveaways, Guest blog posts and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.

  1. Thank you, Sugarpeach (or do I use Evangeline) for asking such an interesting question and allowing me to express my views here. Although you don’t give your own opinion of This Bird Flew Away, I hope you enjoyed it. Perhaps you’ll give your own reason for reading books on “controversial” subjects.

    I will return regularly to respond to any comments left for me, or answer any questions readers may have.

    Thanks again.
    Lynda M Martin

    • Hi Lynda, you can call me Evangeline. Unfortunately, I did not request for a review copy of THIS BIRD FLEW AWAY. After reading its excerpts, I’m really regretting not requesting for a review copy. 🙂
      I like reading books on “controversial” subjects because I find them thought-provoking. I always find it interesting reading certain issues from the perspective of someone else… it helps me gain a perspective of how other people view certain “controversial” subjects.
      Thanks for dropping by and writing the guest post. 🙂

  2. This sounds like an interesting book. I’d like very much to read it.

  3. I read this type of book because I want to be informed of what and how people feel about things that happen in life.

  4. I think reading controversial material is a great way to keep things not only interesting but realistic. Sure it’s great to escape away to mystical lands with magical creatures..but what about the real life issues? I think it is important that we are able to read about them to keep us grounded and remind us that things aren’t always rainbows and lollipops and even though the issue may be something hurtful/negative (either physically or emotionally) that there are ways to overcome the pain and move on.

    Great post Lynda and than you Evangeline for sharing 🙂

  5. Thanks for an interesting read. My book “Sensitivity 101…The Search for Acceptance” is seen by some as controversial as well. It is the story of a young boy trying to find acceptance and haapiness after the divorce of his parents. He turns to sex as his release and begins to believe that this equates to happiness, but finds out later it more of a pleasure, not true happines. I have some real good reviews and some that are not so good. The ‘bad’ ones all say that the book is well written and brings some terrific insights to light, but that the material just shouldn’t be written about. Are these people prudes, or can’t see past the ‘myth’ you talk about? Not every person is raised the same, in a ‘perfect family’, oopen your eyes and look around you. I enjoy the contoversial subjects as they give me insight to what others are going through. We can learn from what we never experience.
    Great post, thanks for sharing!

    Philip Nork
    author of
    Sensivitity 101…The Search for Acceptance

  6. I cannot say that I am very interested in reading this book. For starters, the author slammed conservatives and secondly she, as most women do, causually glances over the many men affected. I am weary of the liberal feminist attitude sneaking into absolutly everything. I dealt with my past they way many do, instead of living in the idea that we have a “rape culture,” I choose to be around people (including men) who are uplifting and positive. I am sure I will be sneered at with, “not everyone can get or afford help,” or something along those lines. But, therapy does not necessarily come from a paid professional…it can be as simple as talking it out with a friend, your mother or other trusted person…or writing.

    Another reason this infuriates me is to think that most Americans are so coddled they cannot get up and change their lives without help. This book looks like another “enabler” or “entitlement program.” That really bothers me. Let me be clear, I do understand that children cannot help themselves (modern American children), but the adults can…if they have the right people in their lives encouraging them to get up and do something. If adults do not like their lives…there is nothing but lack of willpower or creativity stopping them from changing things.

    Evangeline, that was a great question and I am glad the author gave her honest answer.

  7. Hello Evangeline, Send me an email and I’ll forward an e-copy of the book — the least I can do for having me here. I also like reading about the lives of other women, which are more controversial than not. I’m reading a fascinating such book now, which I’ll soon review on my Hubpages site.http://lmmartin.hubpages.com/ Thanks again.

    Hello Carol I think you nailed it. We like to read the life-journeys of others in order to understand the world around us and those in it better. Evangeline has left the link to my website above where the book is offered at a reduced price for the duration of this tour. I hope you take the time to send me your thoughts after you’ve read it.

    Hello Philip I like the title of your book. The search for acceptance has so many layers of meaning; the acceptance of others, so necessary to our happiness in life, but perhaps even more important, the acceptance of ourselves and what befalls us. We can learn much by living the lives of others however vicariously through books. Perhaps we should do a book swap, and review each others work.

  8. Hello Mar’ah. It was not my intention to slam conservatives, only to suggest that some (and not just conservatives) prefer to cling to myth rather than reality. Truthfully, I have no political agenda, but do wish truth could triumph over stereotype. Secondly, while I am aware of the number of male survivors, I specialized in working with girls and as a woman, I am more conversant with the female point of view. I believe in the maxim, write what you know. I fail to understand how a work of fiction celebrating one girl’s life journey can be considered “enabling” or “entitlement” but your use of these words tells me all I need to know about your views. Thank you for sharing your opinion here.

  9. Hey Jaidis, Sorry I over looked your post in my zeal to answer these interesting comments. Yes, it is nice to escape sometimes, but often it becomes a life-style. We escape into mythical fiction, into television programming that in no way reflects real life, into our day dreams and into our writing. Soon, we are more involved in a fairy-tale world than we are in the real one. Now, I’m not suggesting escape doesn’t have it’s place, just that it should not be a steady diet. I’m often surprised how many people tell me they read only for escape. Books, including fiction, have so much more to offer, a better understanding of our fellow humans, of our world and even of ourselves. Should we allow our minds to soak up nothing but fantasy, or should we use our intellect to learn, share and experience another point of view? Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  10. I believe in dealing with issues up front rather than pretending they don’t exist. I’ve seen so many parents shelter their kids, only to have them be rudely awakened in the real world.

    Kind of like my 4yo’s trip to the dentist this week to fill cavities. The dentist snuck in the needle, and she freaked out; we ended up leaving without a permanent filling. Whereas she did just fine with shots earlier when we discussed it ahead of time, the fact that it would hurt, etc. etc.

  11. Hi Mozi Esmes Mom Perhaps someone should write a children’s book “It’s going to hurt like heck at the dentist.”

    I received some correspondence with two twelve year old girls whose mothers gave them This Bird Flew Away to read. I found it both interesting and gratifying these two young women not only related to Bria, but already had an understanding of the world and the dangers therein.

    On the other hand, I heard from a mother of a fifteen year old who was appalled at my suggestion the novel was also appropriate for her daughter, saying she didn’t want her daughter’s first impression of sex to be something so negative. I couldn’t help wondering how blind must someone be to believe someone of fifteen has no such knowledge already, and if the girls is so sheltered and naive, is this a good thing.

    Thanks for commenting. Lynda

  12. Why do I read books with controversial topics?
    I just love all books — add some controversy and that makes it an even more interesting book. Thanks for the chance to win. I believe it’s better these controversial topics are spoken about, written about and in movies and shows. No hiding it — it needs to be out in the open.

  13. Wow, what a seriously powerful post. I think that books with “controversial” topics, for me, are usually simply just “good books”. Many opf my favorite writers have tackled very serious topics over the years and I will always find a personal commitment to reading books on harder subjects. Thanks for this post.

  14. I read books with controversial topics because they force me to reevaluate the things I have in my life and my beliefs. I find that they expand my mind and give me awareness of the things that happen in society and the world. I would definitely love to read this.

  15. I’m with Marlene V: A good dollop of controversy adds spice to what might otherwise be a bland work.

    iwriteinbooks: Very true. My favorite writers, too. Harper Lee could simply have written a pleasant book about three young children growing up in the depression era south, the so-called haunted house and the feared Boo Radley, but she chose to address the issues of racism and justice. Would To Kill a Mockingbird be such a good read, or considered an American classic without those issues? I don’t think so.

    Hi Diana. a reader/writer relationship can be a very personal one, though it’s unlikely they’ll ever meet, but only when the writer has used conviction and passion in her work — which often incorporates controversy. When we read such books, we are sharing another person’s mind and thoughts, perhaps even memories. We can experience another life in this way.

    Thanks to all of you for reading and commenting here. Lynda M Martin

  16. I like to read about controversial topics to see how my views compare with those of others as well as to learn other people’s views.
    nhmummab@comcast.net

  17. I would love to read this book!!! I tend to gravitate towards controversial topics because they make me think the most!

  18. Hi Tia — isn’t that the truth! Reading a book written from the heart, and we are inside another’s mind, thoughts and beliefs. We can grow from this.

    Hi Gina — Your wish is easily fulfilled. If you are not the lucky winner here, go to my website where the book is on sale for the duration of this tour. And yes, the best literature does make us think.

  19. I read books with controversial topics to learn more about those particular topics.
    mamabunny13 at gmail dot com

  20. Because I think its good to hear different perspectives about things.

  21. I read these books to try to learn from them.

  22. Thank you Mamabunny, Amandasue and Linda Kish.
    To all who comment here, if you are not the lucky winner of this giveaway, please contact me through my website linked above and I will ensure you receive a copy at my cost price. (Contrary to popular myth, authors don’t get free copies of their work and have to pay for them.)

    Thanks again, Lynda

  23. Don’t get me wrong, I do love a mindless novel once in a while, but I also like reading about topics that people won’t talk about in normal conversation/chit chat. thanks for the chance to win this

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