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The Story Behind the Story by Ethan Long

In “The Story Behind the Story” by Ethan Long, the author takes us on a heartfelt journey through his own childhood experiences, revealing the inspiration behind his middle grade memoir, “The Death and Life of Benny Brooks.” Growing up in a family filled with turmoil and distractions, Long found solace in art and humor, using them as a means to escape. However, as he navigated the difficult path of his parents’ divorce and the longing for parental comfort, Ethan discovered the true importance of connection and support. Through this captivating essay, Long reminds us of the power of vulnerability and the significance of finding someone to share our feelings with.

The Story Behind the Story by Ethan Long

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Childhood Struggles

Growing up, you faced a number of challenges and struggles within your family. Your parents’ bad marriage, your older sibling’s personal issues, and your dad’s drinking all competed for your parents’ attention. With so much going on, you quickly learned to stay quiet and turn to drawing and immersing yourself in another world through television, movies, and comic strips. Despite being well-liked in school, you were also shy and kept to yourself.

The Impact of Divorce

In 1978, everything changed when your parents got divorced and your mother moved out of the house. This marked a turning point in your life as you experienced powerful feelings of disappointment, confusion, and sadness. These emotions began to manifest in your behavior and you became the class clown, seeking attention in all the wrong ways. Your grades dropped and you struggled to focus on your studies. The desire for attention became a constant pursuit, but it also led to periods of introversion and solitude when you didn’t receive the attention you craved.

The Story Behind the Story by Ethan Long

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Attention-Seeking Behavior

Your penchant for saying surprising and sometimes inappropriate things became a way for you to secure the attention you wanted. Classmates found you funny and talented, and you worked hard to maintain that image. However, there was a darker side to this attention-seeking behavior. When you didn’t receive the attention you desired, you would retreat into introversion and isolate yourself. The constant cycle of seeking attention and then feeling disappointed drove the inspiration for your middle-grade memoir, “The Death and Life of Benny Brooks.” While attention was what you desired, what you really needed was comfort, which was lacking from your parents.

The Inspiration for ‘The Death and Life of Benny Brooks’

The absence of comfort and support from your parents fueled the inspiration for your memoir. Benny, the protagonist in the story, also suffers from a lack of parental support and struggles to navigate the complexities of his family life. Just like you, Benny feels alone and unable to seek help. The desire for comfort and understanding parallels your own experiences during that time in your life. You longed for a parent to wrap their arms around you, assure you that everything would be okay, and take an interest in your well-being. Unfortunately, you didn’t receive that level of support.

The Story Behind the Story by Ethan Long

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Silent Suffering

When you didn’t receive the comfort and support you needed, you began to feel like you were on your own. The disappointment from your parents’ lack of involvement made you believe that you couldn’t ask for help and that you had to suffer in silence when things became overwhelming. In “The Death and Life of Benny Brooks,” Benny also experiences this silent suffering as he struggles to make sense of his family’s problems. Benny believes he must figure things out on his own until supportive people enter his life.

Finding Support

Throughout your life, you have been fortunate enough to encounter caring and kind individuals who acted as surrogate parents or showed you kindness when you needed it most. These people played a crucial role in your journey, and you feel immense gratitude towards them. It has taken time to accept their generosity and not see it as pity, just as Benny does in your memoir. By the end of the story, Benny realizes that there are people who genuinely care about him and his well-being.

The Story Behind the Story by Ethan Long

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The Heartfelt Story

“The Death and Life of Benny Brooks” is a book that comes from your heart. The early readers who have reached out to you and thanked you for writing the book validate the universal experiences of disappointment and hope. Moving forward, your goal is to continue writing with the same truth and authenticity, remaining open and vulnerable. You also aim to surround yourself with people who genuinely care about you.

The Importance of Connection

The central message of your book and this essay is the importance of connection. It is crucial to keep going, to acknowledge and embrace your feelings, and most importantly, to find someone to share those feelings with. Whether it’s a parent, sibling, friend, teacher, or caregiver, having an open connection with someone you trust makes you feel less alone.

The Story Behind the Story by Ethan Long

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About the Author

Ethan Long is an acclaimed author and illustrator of over thirty books for young people. He received the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for his book “Up, Tall and High.” While “The Death and Life of Benny Brooks” is his first book for older readers, he continues to create meaningful stories for children. Ethan resides in Colorado with his family and invites you to visit his website at ethanlong.com.

Source: https://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/2023/11/16/the-story-behind-the-story-by-ethan-long/