13 Reasons Why: A View

Art's Visual Media Review

Suicides are complex events. They can be acts of rage, despair, even noble sacrifice. There’s no way to generalize suicide. I spent six years as a hotline volunteer, counseling those who were thinking of ending their lives. I was trained to never be judgmental. I was trained to listen. Sometimes that’s what it takes: someone who listens.

Thirty years ago I discovered my mother’s lifeless body lying sideways across her  bed. Her lips were blue, her face the color of a bruise. There were two empty bottles of Nembutal on her night table. She had taken her own life.

I reveal these personal experiences because I’ve just finished watching the Netflix release of “13 Reasons Why.” It’s a dramatic series about suicide, adolescent bullying and rape. I have a familiar relationship with suicide. Watching the series, based on the book by Jay Asher, shook some bones in my own closet of secrets. It made me realize that secrets can be dangerous.

The TV series is not only powerful, but it occupies a unique niche as entertainment. The episodes are never repellant, though they can be brutally heavy and painful. I was glued to the story as it dealt with traumatic issues without getting preachy or sentimental. I am aware that people are upset about the series. They fear ‘copycat’ suicides, they fear that opening the subject will encourage more adolescent suicides.

I worry that we’ll lose more of our children if we don’t engage in discussion about bullying, rape and suicide.

The book/TV series involves the suicide of  fifteen year old Hannah Baker. Before taking her life Hannah leaves a box of cassette tapes. This is her legacy, her suicide note. On these tapes she describes the people and  events that lead to her death. These tapes are narrated in Hannah’s voice as the series proceeds. They single out key people who betray, misunderstand or criminally abuse Hannah. By the end of the series we have heard and witnessed her story.

The teenagers in this series are portrayed as emotionally isolated. Each character inhabits a solipsistic landscape full of intense but unexpressed feelings. These kids can’t or won’t talk to their parents. Their parents may as well be from another universe. The kids can barely talk to each other. It seems as if American teens are the loneliest people in the world. The stress on them piles up. They’re supposed to be preparing for college, right? Then what? The job market? There are huge demands made on adolescents to prepare for the world’s chaos, for a job market that may change beyond recognition by the time they’re ready to look for work. Sprinkle in a ton of sexual angst. Are these kids depressed? Hell yes, they’re depressed! Where does an adolescent get help for such lethal depression?

The French have a pithy folk saying. “The more things change, the more they stay the same”. This is true at a basic level, but things HAVE changed and changed profoundly. When I compare my experience of high school with today’s high school, I have to wonder: what happened?

The Internet happened. Smartphones, laptops, and tablets happened. The effect of having these tools and toys is that gossip travels with the speed of light. It travels fast and it travels far. Gossip is a staple of interaction among high school age people. Girls gossip ferociously. Boys lie shamelessly. Digital media can transform an ordinary event into a ruinous assault on one’s reputation. An adolescent’s reputation is crucially important.  Reputations are built on perceived sexual behavior. Sex is now everywhere. Children have sex younger and they have it more promiscuously. They are oblivious to the emotional consequences of sex until they’re embroiled, confused, deeply hurt and maybe pregnant.

Adolescents face a different world today. In my time at high school the great threat was nuclear annihilation. Today such threats are multiplied. The teenage imagination must deal with a world where politics is so rotten it’s seen as a futile joke. An atmosphere of threat is pervasive. We face unpredictable, but real disaster from climate change, terrorism, tsunamis, volcanoes, earthquakes, plagues natural and plagues man-made.  The earth is moving under our feet. How does a young person come to grips with the future if the future is so uncertain? The pace of change is dizzying. The nature of the future is beyond imagination. How does anyone think rationally in such an irrational world?

THESE ARE IMPORTANT ISSUES! We need to talk to our kids. We need to be available to our kids and we need to train people to help our kids. We’re not doing any of these things. The funding for counseling in school is vanishing along with funding for band and arts programs. Parents are so busy coping with economic pressures that they have no time or energy for their children. This is tragic and points to a fundamental flaw in our culture. Time is money and money is time spent away from our kids. I don’t know what to do. Circle the wagons. Slow down. Pay attention. Now I’m guilty of being preachy and I apologize. Watching “13 Reasons Why” scared me.

I fear that in our short-attention span culture, these issues will reach a media peak, the fuss over “13 Reasons Why” will reach a crescendo and then disappear. We can’t afford to let that happen.

A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv

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“Tabitha’s Death”: a Y.A. novel that dares to journey into taboo realms

Tabitha's Death

Tabitha’s Death, by Jordan Elizabeth is a dark fantasy journey into death and beyond. This book is masterfully crafted to present the often taboo subjects of depression, cutting and teen suicide. Speaking as someone who has lost a son to teen suicide, I thought the subject matter was handled with sensitivity and tact. Even as a work of fiction, Tabitha’s Death carries messages many teens may need to hear.

Tabitha thinks she wants to die and tries to take her own life, but she finds it’s not that easy.  The Grey Man snatches her away from death and won’t let her die until she completes certain tasks for him. As she journey’s through the strange realms beyond death, she learns that there’s more going on beyond death’s doors than she’d realized and her life maybe wasn’t so bad.

A truly inspirational approach to Y.A. fiction, resulting in an entertaining, yet thought provoking story. I give Tabitha’s Death five quills.


Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.

Wake Me Up When September Ends

IMG013 - Copy

September is a month that I’d prefer to skip over if I could. It is not an  easy month for me and hasn’t been for the last ten years. My son Michael was born on September ninth, he died on September 21 at the age of nineteen, and he was buried on September twenty-eighth. Had he lived, he would have been 30 years old yesterday. Since his death the Green Day song, Wake Me Up When September Ends, has held a special personal meaning for me, because it would be preferrable to go to sleep and not wake up until September was over each year. But of course, that isn’t possible and so, I plod through the month, struggling with my emotions, and life goes on. I haven’t forgotten, and I don’t miss him any less as time goes on, but I am now able to prevent my loss from consuming my life, as it did at first.

After he died, I felt his story needed to be told, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it, even though most of what I wrote during the first two years concerned him in one way or another. The wounds were still too fresh and I couldn’t distance myself from the situation enough to write it. I always knew that it was a tale that needed to be told, and I knew I was the only person who could write it, so I saved all the files and the photos, as well as physical momentos and hand written stories and poems written by my son.

As I mentioned in a recent post, It’s All a Matter of Time, I’ve begun compiling the plethora of journals, stories, poetry and visual images I have accumulated in releation to my son, so tuning out the world and hoping September will go away is not going to work this year. I’ve gathered these materials over the past ten years since his death and they are my works, as well as his, and eventually, it will all be included in my memoir about his life and death, His Name Was Michael: How I Lost My Son to Teen Suicide. After a decade, it is time for his story to be told. The pre-writing preparations have begun and I hope to have it ready for publication by this time next year.

This September will be filled with many tears, as I read through all the materials I’ve gathered and/or written for this book. To put it all together I must read through every piece of writing and go through all the photos of him. I’m not saying that it will be easy for me, because it won’t. In fact, it will probably be one of the most difficult things I’ve ever written, but there is no one else who can do it. It’s all up to me and I feel it’s got to be written.

Michael’s story is many stories wrapped up into his tale. His story will tell the tale of an amazingly unique young man in love, who made some poor choices. It will tell who Michael Daniel Lee was and who he might have been one day, had he lived. It will tell of a mother’s grief and attempts at denial. It will tell of the coping mechanisms employed just to make it through each day after the loss of a child. It will tell of a son, who was also my best friend, and a sense of loss that is undescribable, unknowable, unfathomable. It will tell of an epidemic that sweeps through our world taking young people who have their whole lives ahead of them.

Below is the eulogy that I wrote, which I read standing before a mortuary filled with mourners for my son one week after his death. It’s one piece in the tapestry of writing that will be used to illustrate Michael’s brief time on this Earth. I hope it will pique your interest and encourage you to read the book when it comes out, hopefully by this time next year. If you’d be interested in pre-ordering the book, leave a comment letting me know and I’ll put you on the list, making sure you get your copy when the time comes. It would be great to know that someone is interested, and that I will be writing this for someone other than myself.


Michael Daniel Lee Booth


When Mike said, “I love you”, it was forever, and when he called you his friend, you knew you could depend on him to stand by you, no matter what.  He loved to try new things, to explore and to learn.  He had a love for life and for all that he held sacred.  Mike strove for excellence in all that he did, and lived by a code of honor that was extremely tough to uphold.  His Christian upbringing was intermixed with Hindu and Buddhist beliefs to make up the tapestry of his own personal belief system that was disciplined and unyielding.  When he made mistakes, Mike was harder on himself than anyone else ever could have been. 

When he got mixed up with the wrong people and things, he made some poor choices.  He did not deny what he had done, but instead stood up and accepted the punishment that was given to him.  He tried to make amends for his wrongs and was on his way to accomplishing that goal.  He expressed great sorrow for his errors, and inflicted emotional punishment on himself over and above what the law could ever require of him.

He had a strong will and could accomplish anything that he set his mind to, including learning to speak Japanese and perform martial arts skillfully, all on his own.  Mike had a love for Japanese culture and he could have lived off of green tea and sushi.  His knowledge and skills were gladly shared with those who wished to learn.  Mike had a love for nature and enjoyed all kinds of outdoor activities, including skiing, hunting, fishing and hiking.  His imagination was endless and he created stories and drawings that reveal a talent far beyond his tender youth.  

Mike was so much to so many people; a loving son, a dependable big brother, a doting little brother, a respectful grandson, a loyal friend and a devoted husband. He loved his dog, Zaar, who was a companion and loyal friend to him.  Mike was sensitive, and hurt so easily and so deeply, yet he was too strong willed to ever let it show outwardly.  Only through his writing, can we glimpse the love that he embraced or the pain that he felt.   When he loved, he loved with all of his being.  Mike was fun loving and enjoyed spending time with those that were important in his life.  He had beautiful curls and the most wonderful smile, which could light up my heart whenever I saw it.  Mike turned 19 three weeks ago.  He had a whole life ahead of him.  He was much too young to be called home to God.


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