Sunday, July 14, 2013


It's only been in the last few years that I have come to realize that conflict is often an opportunity cleverly disguised. When I was in school, my bus ride was chock full of opportunities. 

My brothers and I rode with two families made up of multiple siblings. As individuals, they were dumb as rocks, but as a group, both clans had figured out that because of their numbers, they could rule the bus. 

The Murphy's had the back, taking the seats on the wheels. Those jolted the most when the bus driver sped over bumps and curbs on the turns, sending her passengers high into the air. In those seats, and at the right speed, a kid's head could graze the ceiling of the bus. Most stared longingly at Danny and Richie and their two freckled sisters as they hooted and cursed happily when we hit a particularly potholed road and almost tipped over sideways.

The Greens were made up of two twin sisters, a brother, and a cousin that lived with them. They took the coveted front seats, glaring menacingly at anyone who dared to linger too long in front of them before moving to the middle of the bus...the section reserved for the weak, and families of less than four. Our Adreneline Junkie driver only muttered the occasional, "Shut up", when The Greens would put each other and some unsuspecting lower classmen in headlocks for most of the ride. 

Almost always, I was trapped in my own head, thinking mostly about books or where I'd ride my bike after school, and so much of what went on around me went unnoticed and I was left alone.
My two brothers were much more sociable, joking around and having fun, but sometimes not observing the clearly laid borders around the midsection of the vehicle. This, along with my older brother's temporary speech impediment, would sometimes cause problems for them.

One day, we hadn't even left the school parking lot when Richie M decided to get a jump on pushing around the younger kids. He started with my older brother...the lover, not the this day, he avoids confrontation, that is, after he starts it. That afternoon was no different. He was horsing around with his buddies, and said something indirectly about Richie. He knew that my brother was talking about him and he heard the difficultly with which he got it out (speech impediment). Richie ripped into his prey like a raccoon, inspecting its food roughly before tearing it to shreds and eating it. 

I had just boarded, and heard the verbal abuse as I made my way toward the back. This was not the first time he had made fun of my brother, but it was the first time I let myself get involved. Richie was much older than both of us.

When was he finally going to leave the younger ones alone? 

Without a word, I walked up to him and punched him in the face. He never saw it coming and was shocked to find that he was bleeding. So much. 

In that brief moment of  stunned silence, I said, "You'd better stay away from my brother from now on." I sounded like Minnie Mouse. My tiny voice would've been laughable except for the crimson mess dripping from his nose and cheek where my nail had caught his skin. 

No one dared to move...but Richie. More quickly than I could react, he grabbed my head and slammed it repeatedly into the window. His younger brother Danny was my age and yelled, "Rich! She's a girl!" 

I resisted, so the blows weren't as hard as they could be, but it still hurt as much as if he was hitting me with a metal pipe. As my head rocked back and forth, I thought of what to do. I knew that this was basically like making a first impression, and my reaction would shape the next few years my brothers and I had to spend with this goon, so I made a decision. 

When he was done brutalizing me...I did nothing. Wiping a thick clot of blood that hung from his nose with the back of his hand, he stepped back to survey the damage, pleased with how he had overpowered me. 

I stared at him blankly for a few seconds. 

My eyes did not fill with uncontrollable tears because after years of my mother attacking my scalp with a hairbrush, I had learned to channel pain and anxiety into my feet. 

The entire bus was silent. Even the driver stood frozen next to her seat, unable to pull her eyes away. Fear and shame cloaked them all. Not one person had tried to stop him from hurting me. 

In those quiet moments, I saw it all clearly and drew strength from the pride I felt in standing up to this creepy little bully boy. Although my head pounded and I felt as though I might pass out, I smiled. And then I laughed. When he heard me ask, "That's it?", he shook his head and muttered, "You're fucking crazy", before falling into his seat, exhausted and ready to nurse his bruised face. 

That family was done with us. As far as they were concerned, we didn't exist anymore, to torment or otherwise.

The cousin of The Greens had in it for my younger brother. Michael would bother him every day and my brother did a decent job of ignoring him until one day when he just had had enough. 

They decided to get off at Michael's stop and duke it out. I told my brother not to, but he shook me off and insisted that he was going to shut this kid up. 

I told him that I would be coming too, but he warned me to stay out of it. 

I promised that I would....until Michael got my brother in a headlock that he couldn't get out of. As Michael spun around, dragging my brother's body with him, our sibling eyes met and I snapped. I lunged from the far corner of the lawn, where I had promised to stay, and grabbed Michael's hair. The surprise and pain made him instantly release my brother and I watched my younger sibling fall in a heap, trying to catch his breath. 

The sight of him struggling for air took me out of my rage and I realized that this was an optimal teaching moment. The lesson in my young head was, if you push, expect to get pushed back.

I kept my grip on Michael's hair and as I punched him in the face, each blow was accented with a word. You. Will. Never. Come. Near. My. Brother. Again. Or. I. Will. Kill. You.

My brother pulled me off of him and we left Michael on his front walk, bleeding and trying to cry through ragged breaths. 

When his mother pounded on our door an hour later and complained about what my brother had done to her "baby", my mother just laughed and said, "My DAUGHTER beat your son up. Maybe now he'll stop bullying everyone. Get the hell off my lawn before I call the police." Then she shut the door in their faces. Problem solved.

With each challenge (and in the case of this week's pick, when we're bullied) we have the potential to learn something about ourselves: How far is too far? How do I handle tough situations? Maybe I need anger management counseling after all...

Welcome to WEEK 3:
The rules:
1. Book discussion comments are left on this site

2. Comments should only be about the BOOK and in no way be offensive or degrading to any person or persons.

3. It's ok to jump into the club late. Join us on any day of any week. BUT if, for example, you are starting with SUKI on WEEK 3, DO NOT READ THE DISCUSSION COMMENTS. Stop after you get to the link to purchase the book or you may ruin the story for yourself. I cannot stress this enough.

by Javier A. Robayo               

Antonio Amaya’s life revolved around his family, his friends, and one dream: to live in the United States. When the dream becomes reality, the drastic change creates daunting challenges.
Antonio endures exclusion and disdain from his new schoolmates by turning his disillusionment inward. Yearning to belong, he fills the pages of his notebook in the hopes of learning English.
But how does a thirteen-year-old overcome language barriers, racial slurs, and bullying while hiding his desire to return to his country from his parents, who have given up everything to live under two flags?

Readers, welcome back Tony Amaya, a fickle character from Mr. Robayo's previous books, THE GAZE and THE NEXT CHAPTER. In MY TWO FLAGS, we learn about Tony's life before he meets Samantha, Gwen, and everyone's heartthrob, Lewis. 

Tony (Antonio) himself, narrates how he landed in the country that would change him and eventually lead him to his future with Gwen and his daughters.

As always, Javier's stories are well written and meaningful, but this book will hopefully change your perspective about being the "new kid" and how we view people who are "different". One of the things I liked most, was that I think this book does a wonderful job of highlighting both sides of that situation. 

Tony arrives in the U.S. with expectations that are not necessarily met. In some cases he is surprised, but in others, he is disappointed and angered by differences between the two countries. He forms impressions that are not very good, based on limited knowledge and experience of our culture. 

At the same time, many of his fellow students approach him in the same way...not really knowing him or who he is or why he behaves as he does, but quick to form opinions and have extreme reactions to his very existence.

I was deeply moved by two scenes in particular and would urge readers to pay close attention and put themselves in Antonio's place as you read them:

1. His struggle to order food from McDonalds. If you think there's nothing to buying a value meal, try doing it in China. In Chinese.
2.The meeting between the guidance counselor, his Spanish teacher, and Antonio himself after he is busted for "fighting". There is no way to know what is going on inside of someone unless you take the time to ask. And listen.

Have you ever been pushed to your limit? Can you remember ever being a bully or having been the victim of a bully? After reading this book, do you find yourself considering someone else's perspective before passing judgement?

On Amazon:
On Barnes and Noble:
In Print:

Thank you to Mary Margaret Tucker and Stacey Roberts for doing your homework this week. They will both receive a free copy of MY WAY by David P Perlmutter and Mary Margaret  can show off her SUKI mother/daughter bracelet at any event, 
compliments of THE SHINY BEAD.














CF Winn is the author of  The COFFEE BREAK SERIES, a hilarious group of short stories meant to be read while on a break or in the waiting room of a doctor's office. Her first novella, SUKI, has been grabbing hearts and hugging souls all over the United States.


Javier A. Robayo said...

First off, I'd like to thank Chris for all the support and mostly for sharing her own experience. Most often, we write our stories never really expecting anyone else to connect with our characters and what they live through on the pages.
If success as an author is measured by the intensity of a single connection, then by all means, I'm happy to feel I succeeded in my goal to make a reader think and feel what Antonio goes through in "My Two Flags".
Evoking such a memory, and learning from someone else's experiences because of what we write is a compliment without comparison. I'm ever so grateful for this blog post. Thank you

MaryMargaret Tucker said...

No spoiler, except that I have already finished this weeks selection (though I am doing rereads and picking up so much on my second sweep!)and already can not wait for the discussions. So if you are reading with us and have yet to comment, remember this is a safe place and just dump your thoughts here...No one is correcting grammar or punctuation, (thank God, or I would be silent). And truthfully, the reading is so much richer with a little conversation to round out your own thinking. Challenge yourself! Challenging yourself is so much a part of this weeks beautifully written, page turning emotional journey. I defy you to not fall in love with Antonio. Time for a teenaged crush girls, immerse yourself. Guys, get schooled in the fine art of how to make the girls swoon without trying!

Thank you to Margie at the Shiny Bead, and David Perlmutter for my free copy of his second book, My Way. Wow, a book club, with benefits...well, that's gotta be as good as...oops, PG site!

Oh, and readers...Mr. Robayo is an approachable author, just as CFWinn, and David Perlmutter have been. So reach out and tell him what you think, ask him your questions, and have some fun getting inside the mind of a brilliant author.

Happy week three, all...

Lorena said...

I'm 3/4 of the way with reading "My Two Flags" and it's been quiet a challenge for me getting through each chapter as I have lived similar experiences in terms of being bullied throughout my whole school life. I've literally been reading through tears and lots of the rage that I have kept inside me all of these years after I graduated high school. However, Tony's close and loving relationship with his family has quite a healing power for this rage and resentment that I have inside my heart for all the damage the bullies in my life have caused. His courage and will power to not let it break their dream is inspiring. Mr. Robayo, I have to say, you are nothing short than amazing and I am so looking forward to reading more of your work. Thank you, Chris, for inviting me to be part of your blog.

Stacey Roberts said...

I was thinking about the study questions offered by this book club's Nag in Chief, particularly the one about being bullied. I think we all have stories in that genre to share, but after reading My Two Flags, I realized I didn't have all that much to complain about - Tony had it bad, so we should leave the stage to him. This book started out slow, which is a pet peeve of mine. Javier, it's perfectly ok for authors with no storytelling power or sense of character or ability to wring emotion out of their readers to squander a novel's most valuable real estate - the first page. You have way too much talent for me to let you off the hook. This book and The Gaze, which I am still reading, have guaranteed my place in line any time you publish a new book, but let me challenge you to hook me in on page one in your next novel. I know you can do it. Not for me, but for the legions of potentially-lost fans who might not stay with you long enough to benefit from your enormous talent. I was reading this on vacation, and there were times when I should have put My Two Flags down so I could have rested up for the next day's rock climbing, bear baiting, moose wrestling, or the Ben & Jerry's factory tour, but I just couldn't stop reading. Well done. Bears, moose, Ben and Jerry all thank you for distracting me.

Pembicara Marketing Online Erianto Simalango said...

Evoking such a memory, and learning from someone else's experiences because of what we write is a compliment without comparison. I'm ever so grateful for this blog post. Thank you

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CF Winn said...

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