E. came to the back room, started to search on the computer, then turned around where J. and I were talking.
"Do you have any ideas? There's a woman out there who wants something Buddhist for her 16 year old brother so he can get his life together," he said.
"She wants something Buddhist? For a 16 year old? Are there specific issues...like school?", I asked.
"She said their parents yell at him all the time," he shrugged. "She wants something Buddhist so he can read it and figure out his life."
"What about a novel?", J. said. "It's harder to find a non-fiction book for something like that, but there are lots of novels and kids can read them and relate to the experiences of the characters."
"My partner says the same thing. She doesn't think it's a good idea to help kids work through issues with a non-fiction book," I said.
J. smiled, "I am glad my point of view is validated by a professional!", she said.
"She said she wants something Buddhist," E. shrugged. "But I don't have any ideas."
"Want me to talk to her?", I said.
"Sure, that'd be great," he said, relieved. "She's sitting in front of the Eastern religion bay."
I head out and kneel down by the young woman. Blond, in a t-shirt and jeans, she looks 19 or 20. "Were you looking for something for your brother?", I ask.
"Yes. I am. He pretty much thinks he's worthless. My dad yells at him and tells him he's worthless and not going to do anything with his life, so my brother has pretty much assumed that's how it is. My mom just kind of ignores him, he had some behavior problems when he was younger and she just passed him around so others would take care of him. She never did. I'm Buddhist, and I don't care if he decides to be Buddhist, but I think it would be good for him to see what it's about and then he can decide. At least then he might know he has some options other than deciding he's worthless."
"There aren't a lot of Buddhist specific books that are going to be all that accessible to a 16 year old," I said. "There are some great books, but he might be more open to reading a novel, or maybe a biography about someone. Sometimes kids can relate better to fictional characters than to a self-help book that tells them what to do. I had a customer a few months ago who was looking for a self-help book to help his 12 year old granddaughter recover from being molested. My partner, who is a therapist, didn't think that was a good idea."
"No, it's not!," she said. "You can't get over something like that with a self-help book. I know. My brother and I both lived through that too."
"Your brother is lucky to have you," I said. "I don't know the details of his situation, but there are some novels that show kids coming through some difficult situations in their lives."
"I did find this one, and even if my brother doesn't read it, I'm going to keep it," and she showed me the book.
"Oh, he's great. That is a good one. Another book you might consider is by Sherman Alexie. He himself is Native American, and has a book, a novel, about a kid growing up on a reservation with abuse and so on and coming through it. Just recently there has been some controversy about teen fiction. Some people have criticized authors for writing about abuse and drugs and so on for teens. Sherman Alexie responded to the criticism with an amazing article about why he writes about dark and intense situations. He said that kids have lived it, they have to be able to read about it. He said he survived the horrors of his own childhood because of books. Anyway. His book might be a good one for your brother."
We walk over to the teen section and I hand her THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN.
"You can take a look at it. Another one that deals with some tough issues is THIRTEEN REASONS WHY. It's about a girl who commits suicide, but before she does, she records her reasons why she did it and sends it to the people who contributed to her feeling worthless, people who bullied her and so on." I hand her a copy.
"Okay, wow," she says. "These are good ideas." She pauses. "He wants to join the military," she said. "I really don't want him to."
I see E. walk by and I call him over..."Her brother wants to join the military," I said. I turn to her, "E. was in the military."
"I thought of another book that might be good...FINDING FISH," he said. Antwone Fisher had a horrible horrible childhood, abuse, poverty, you name it. He does join the military, and that's one way he got his life together, but he doesn't portray it as the only way. Joining the military helped me get my life together," E. said.
He hands her a copy of FINDING FISH.
"Okay," she says, thinking. She sees another book on the shelf, "What about this one?" She picks up ANGELA'S ASHES.
"That's a good one too. The author grows up with abuse and poverty, and he makes it out. He grows up in Ireland."
She puts her hand to her chest and her eyes open wide, "We're Irish!", she says.
I smile. "This might be good. The only thing is that the author is in his 60's or 70's now, so it's a little far removed from right here and now. But it is a good book."
She looks at the books she's placed on a table. "Now I have to decide." She turns to me, "Thank you so much, you've been so helpful. This is amazing. I wish I had enough money to buy them all. Thank you. Really."
"You're welcome. He really is lucky to have you," saying it again, wanting her to hear that. "Having a book might be good, but having you is better. Good luck."
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