Featured Interview With Bruce Edlen
Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
I grew up in Southern California, where I still reside. After attending college, I began a long run in the business world, and then gravitated over to what became a 20-year career as an educator. Following my recent “retirement” (I don’t relate to that word – I still consider myself a teacher), I happened across a video about Jazz Jennings, the subject of the biography I came to write, and that has been the main focus of my attention for the last one and one-half years.
At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?
My mom receives much of the credit for getting me interested in books very early on in life. I still have a set of books she read out loud to me most nights. My family had a wonderful tradition of visiting the public library every two weeks, the older ones heading upstairs to the grownup book area, and younger ones downstairs to the children’s book room. I loved those library visits. I even remember one of the children’s book librarians, a school friend’s mother. But I was pleased and proud when I got the library card to access the upstairs grownup book section. Even today, I can still picture practically every square foot of that beautiful old Carnegie Library building, now sadly gone.
I’m not sure about the age when I first got into writing, but it was when very young. I still have one of the first stories I wrote, probably in third grade, with a comment from the teacher that I must have copied the story because it was way too good for a kid to compose. Fast-forward to high school. I recall volunteering articles for the school newspaper, and getting them back from the journalism instructor with lots of curious editing notations written in red pencil. (I wasn’t even in his class.) Several of my submissions actually did make it to print, and I have saved a stack of those old newspapers with my stories in them.
Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read. Who Inspires you in your writings?
Although I have many favorite titles that I have read over the years, I can’t say I have any favorite authors that I follow. Having read such a wide variety of well-written books over many years certainly has affected my interests and my skills and writing style. The script writer Aaron Sorkin of TV’s West Wing and The Network has been a particular influence on my work. My home is filled with book cases overflowing with tons of the books I have chosen to keep, including a bunch from my younger days, and lots more titles acquired for my classroom library when I was teaching.
Definitely biographies. But I also enjoy nonfiction titles about modern history, politics, and education, and in the fiction realm, some mysteries catch my interest.
Who or what? I have been known to compose a response to some article, post, or situation that is fascinating, moving, uplifting, irritating, or anger-inspiring. But in terms of writing a book, so far that only applies to my one title, Jazz Mergirl. I was inspired to write this biography after coming across a video about the early life of Jazz Jennings. I found her story to embody those same qualities of being fascinating, moving, and uplifting, a story that I felt just had to be shared in book form. And I was inspired to support Jazz’s TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation, to which this book’s profits are given.
Tell us a little about your latest book?
To begin with, Jazz Mergirl is the first book I have written. This biography is the true story of Jazz Jennings, who is now well-known as a transgender teen activist and TV Star of the TLC docuseries I Am Jazz. My book tells how Jazz, a girl born in a boy’s body, and her family, navigated the challenging road to transition her into the bright, beautiful, lovely teen she is today.
It is also the story of Jazz’s courage and determination in speaking out to the world about being transgender. She urges those who are “less understanding” to become more accepting of “unique and special people,” and encourages kids who are different to accept and love themselves.
The target audience for Jazz Mergirl is teens 15+ to adults, but this biography will also be of interest to teachers, those in psychology and gender studies programs, therapists, and healthcare professionals. Included in the book’s back matter are links to online resources, an extensive, user-friendly glossary, and guides for those who wish to learn more about the transgender experience.
When I came across the story of Jazz Jennings, and began doing research for the book, Jazz was not so widely-recognized, nor was there a Caitlyn Jenner, along with all the awareness she has generated, and the two TV series I Am Jazz and I Am Cait, were not even planned. Over the past year, public interest about the transgender community has grown exponentially, so it turns out that Jazz Mergirl has been published at a most propitious time.
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