Monthly Archives: June 2009

Weight of Silence Book Launch Tour

Well, the first two weeks of the Book Launch, following its June 15 release date, have been awesome. After The Weight of Silence publication on June 15, I embarked on a 15-day virtual book tour that included website features and interviews, book reviews, and radio and podcast shows. The launch culminated in a Book Release party at The Miracle Foundation on June 30. A lot of people showed up and everyone had a lot of fun. For those of you after we ran out of books – I’m sorry, but if you ordered that night you will be getting yours soon! A big thanks to Stacy Farmer at The Miracle Foundation for all her help.

If you missed the book release tour, below are a few of the highlights – you can check out the entire 15-day launch tour here!

Wandering Educators was the first stop on the Launch Tour, featuring an interview with me about the book, the children, and how travelers can give back.

The Lost Girls featured a fun interview with me – check out the travels and discoveries of three twenty-something New Yorkers who left their lives behind to set off on a trip around the world!

Soul Lab did a great interview with me on BlogTalkRadio:

Brave New Traveler ran a terrific feature about me and the book, discussing among other things the movie Slumdog Millionaire, and the ethics of poverty tourism.

And, Radio Europe did a follow-up interview with me, to their July 2008 show on which I was a guest, discussing the book’s release and issues facing these children. Listen to it here!

All in all, the book launch was a great success, and I truly appreciate everyone who has hosted me, participated, supported me and otherwise worked to gain more awareness for these kids and their incredible stories.

Just because the release launch is behind us, though, doesn’t mean that there are no more events scheduled for The Weight of Silence! Check out the things coming up:

I hope you’ll stop by some of these to check it out! And if you haven’t joined the Facebook page for Weight of Silence yet, then I personally invite you to do so.

Thank you!

A Father’s Day – For Some

amir

Amir, in March 2007

I have a great dad. He has always been there for me, spent lots of time with me as a kid, and I know he would do literally anything for me. He and my mom raised me with a lot of love and a lot of attention. I’m very lucky to have him.

Today, on Father’s Day, my mind is thinking of a group of kids on the other side of the world who don’t have fathers – kids I have grown very close to over the last few years, kids I love. These are the children of The Miracle Foundation homes in India. I woke up today thinking about them – and one little boy in particular, named Amir.

Amir is the sponsored child of my very good friends Leslie and David. He lives in the home outside Rourkela, in Orissa, run by Dr. Manjeet Pardesi. I first met Amir in March 2007; after arrival at Manjeet’s home, I sought out Amir to talk to him and get to know him; and also to let him know I was there on behalf of his sponsors, to let him know that there were people to whom he mattered. To whom he was special. It is a very powerful thing to walk into a place like this and say I am here for you, to these children for whom no one has ever come looking.

I found Amir, then  seven years old, who had an easy smile that turned down at the corners. He wore a sporty blue and orange shirt over a pair of shorts. He was very friendly and I could tell he wanted to talk, but seemed a little shy about it. I wasn’t sure if it was because I was a stranger or he was struggling with English, a new language for him.

me_amir

Me and Amir, March 2009

“Hi, Amir, it’s very nice to meet you.” I sat down with him and house mother Joyti to get to know him, Joyti translating my questions. What was his favorite color, his favorite food, who were his best friends at the home? He answered me easily as he continued to smile and his eyes darted this way and that, Joyti repeating what he said in English.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” I asked. Like with all children, there were some pretty standard answers I usually got in response to this question. Teacher or police officer were the most commonly identified goals, although I also heard dancer, lawyer and social worker quite often.

Amir proudly displays a photo of his sponsor family

Amir proudly displays a photo of his sponsor family

Amir grew serious, and contemplated my question for some time. I could see him rolling it over in his mind, all the possibilities as he truly gave thought to what he’d most like to be. Then his eyes lit up and he smiled his biggest grin yet, and announced his response in Hindi.

Joyti turned to me. “He says he wants to be a father when he grows up.”

The answer hit me square in the chest. I looked at Amir, his sparkling eyes following the other kids around the play yard. This small boy who had no father, and yet his dreams were to be a father. Perhaps to know that connection and joy of family. Perhaps to love his own child and be the kind of real father that he had never known. Whatever the reasons, it was clear that Amir felt the gaping hole of what was absent in his world. He glanced up at me again before racing off across the red dirt to join his friends.

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blogtalkradioJoin Shelley today on Lit Media Reviews Radio Show as she discusses the release of The Weight of Silence: Invisible Children of India and the issues facing these kids. 4:30 pm CST.

You can also view the various interviews that have taken place over this past week, kicking off the Virtual Book Tour from June 15-30. Here is where you could find Shelley:

June 15: Wandering Educators

June 16: Hot Mommas Project

June 17: The Lost Girls

June 18: Wanderlust and Lipstick

June 19: Launch Notes

Monday’s tour stop will be at Surface Earth – check it out! Click here for a full schedule of the entire tour, with websites and blog stops, radio shows and podcasts, and magazines and book reviews.

Order The Weight of Silence: Invisible Children of India

Book Release Today!

WOS cover

Buy the book here

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The Weight of Silence: Invisible Children of India is officially released! Buy your copy today – I thank you on behalf of these children, and your interest in reading their amazing, inspiring stories.

As you have noticed, today has also unveiled a new design to this site, and kicks off a Media Tour for the book from June 15-30. During the tour I will be appearing on a different website or radio show each day to do an interview Q&A about the book and the topics and issues surrounding these children of India. Some of the tour stops will be online feature articles, where you can just visit the website and take a look. Other stops are local Austin appearances and radio shows, or interactive online chats and podcasts. The book release tour will conclude with a Launch Party at The Miracle Foundation on June 30 at 6 pm (click here for map).

Join the facebook page!

Join the facebook page!

The complete tour schedule can be viewed here. You can also view a schedule of each event on Facebook, and add them to your FB calendar if you wish. While you’re at it, join the Weight of Silence Facebook page!

How Can you Help with this Cause?

  • Share this page with people you know
  • Place an announcement about the book, with a link, on your own website or blog. Of course you can write whatever you’d like in your own words, and you can also get lots of information from the Media Kit.
  • Add this page to Digg, Facebook, MySpace, StumbleUpon or other sites.
  • Make a donation to The Miracle Foundation, UNICEF, One.org, Children’s Defense Fund, or a nonprofit of your choice that is advocating for children’s rights around the world.

Thank you all again for the wonderful support you have all shown me!

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Slumdog Millionaire, Poverty and the Hard Truth

Jennie Kermode with Eye For Film just wrote an excellent article about the issues surrounding Slumdog Millionaire – the lessons of the movie, the fate of the actual child actors, and the life portrayed in the film that is the hard reality of millions of other children in India, often unseen.

Jennie contacted me to ask for some information about my experiences and reaction to the film, and has quoted me in the article. She says, “After watching Slumdog Millionaire, many viewers will feel they’ve gained an insight into this difficult life. Perhaps as a consequence, donations to charities working in this area have increased, yet there have also been accusations of exploitation concerning the film’s child stars.

But these are just two children, and whilst western eyes may be wide with horror at the thought of the bright young stars having to face poverty, millions of others are forgotten.

‘Currently 25 million Indian children there live without homes or families of their own,’ says author Shelley Seale. ‘They live in orphanages, slums, railway stations or on the streets. Yes, that’s 25 million – equivalent to the population of the entire state of Texas. They are highly vulnerable to abuse, harassment, HIV/AIDS, and being trafficked into child labor if they’re lucky – brothels if they’re not.’

Seale has spent three years travelling around India to research her book, The Weight Of Silence, which explores the lives of children like these. Stating that Slumdog Millionaire portrayed their situation ‘all too well’, she says ‘like everyone, I loved the magical, feel-good ending. But I also hope desperately that we will not forget that there is no such fairytale ending for millions of Indian children in similar circumstances. For them, such dreams will remain only that.’

So what can be done to help the situation? The makers of Slumdog Millionaire have donated $1m to charities tackling child poverty in India, and the money should go a long way. But by presenting audiences with fairytale solutions, do films like this encourage them to believe that poverty isn’t really so bad, so that even if they donate in the short term they’ll stop worrying about it in the long term? Some critics have suggested that Hollywood exploits poverty to profit from viewers who may be motivated by social conscience or by voyeurism.”

Jennie goes on to ask one of the most uncomfortable questions I have ever encountered: “In an affluent world, is poverty one of the last truly exotic experiences?

Read the entire article here, and decide for yourself.

And please – don’t forget those millions of children.

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