Thursday, July 27, 2006

A healing 'Hole in My Heart'

East St. Louis teen writes gritty novel

"Darrius walked toward the kitchen with tears streaming down his face. Sometimes Darrius hated her and wished she were not his mother. He wished he knew who his daddy was.
He'd asked her so many times."

This excerpt from the novel A Hole in My Heart serves as the backdrop of the story of 13-year old Darrius McMillan, an East St. Louis youngster dealing with far too many adult problems. Drug and alcohol addiction stole his mother's mind and his own self-esteem.

The story itself - which chronicles how an urban teenager struggles to stay on the straight and narrow during hard times - is compelling enough. What is more intriguing, however, is that the co-author of this novel is a teenager himself.

Sixteen year-old Edward Booker, like the character he created, lives in East St. Louis and battled some of the same demons as his character. He wrote the manuscript when he was 14. Booker candidly revealed that his personal experiences inspired him to create the character of Darrius.

"He's really smart, but with the obstacles he goes through, he can hardly think," he said. "People want to know who their father is. Their mother is on drugs. I just started writing there, trying to help them out."

A Hole in My Heart is a story of anger and pain. It details how Darrius struggles with barriers as he tries to get back the mother he once knew.

"His grandmother gives him advice and encouragement," Booker said. "A Hole in My Heart is a story of faith, hope and the power of prayer."

Booker said his own grandmother has shared plenty of wisdom and support throughout his life. He credited the inspiration he received from Rose Jackson-Beavers, his co-author and aunt, who also grew up in East St. Louis. The teen also cited encouragement from his mother, who battled a substance abuse problem but is now clean. Booker said his mother didn't realize how much her addiction impacted her son until she read his manuscript.

Booker created most of the book's characters. Jackson-Beavers, a career social worker, said she added some flavor to the story, based on cases she has worked throughout her 20-year career.

Many St. Louis-area teens are already raving about the 109-page novel, and they flock to book signings on both sides of the river. Seventeen-year-old Winnie Caldwell, a junior at North Technical High School, gave two thumbs up for A Hole in My Heart. She said teenagers with problems of any kind will relate to Darrius' frustration and pain.

"If more authors would focus on writing for teens, a lot more kids my age might be encouraged," Caldwell said. "A lot of adults overlook teenagers, and that may be why some of them act out."

The authors said some of the biggest supporters of the book have been young black males. They have heard from students from East St. Louis to West County. In addition, the novel has garnered interest nationally and across the Atlantic.

"Adults are seriously reading it," Jackson-Beavers said. "What they said to us is, ‘I didn't know that our behavior impacted kids like this.' And it's good to hear the kids' point of view. They make it clear that what we do helps them or hinders them. Teachers can definitely use this book to initiate some serious dialogue with all parties."

A Hole in My Heart, published by Prioritybooks Publications of St. Louis, is available at local book stores and through and

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Shirazi said...

Thanks for introducing this with an excellent review.

Deb S. said...

Shi: As always, thanks for stopping by.

Alina said...

Sound like a must read book. It is true, the adults' behavior has an impact that is severely overlooked, here in Romania even more.

Kids, teens or younger, are expected to go through everything with very little help. From personal experience, I knwo at times like these they rely on other people their age going through the same experience. That's why I believe such a book can have a huge impact.

rama said...

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Deb S. said...

Alina: There is so much truth in what you say. You always bring a breath of fresh air to this space. Thanks for your comments.

Rama: Welcome! Thank you for stopping by. I have already taken a look at your site. You're off to a great start. Congrats on reaching your first milestone - one month of blogging!

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

I HAVE to purchase this one. It sounds like a gem.

Deb S. said...

Dr. Deb: The author our blogging friend Rose, publisher of Lessons Learned.