Do you believe you can fly? Aaron Braxton sure does and his new young adult novel, JESSE and the CATERPILLAR WHO GOT ITS WINGS proves it.
A heartwarming tale of love, loss, and friendship, Jesse, an imaginative, socially awkward 5th grader uses the magical shape shifting metamorphosis of caterpillars––from humble earthbound creatures, to graceful winged beauties––as a lesson for life, tragedy and healing.
Braxton, a former educator, is no stranger to social commentary regarding the trials and tribulations of diverse youth, growing up in poverty-stricken communities and experiencing self-doubt and transformation. “I grew up poor, in an abusive household where I saw my alcoholic father throw my mother down a flight of stairs and my stepfather put a lock on the refrigerator door,” he says. I was told daily by my stepfather, while trying to cave in my chest, that I would never amount to anything, but I kept telling myself he was wrong.”
For Braxton’s efforts, he has won an International Gala Star and a NAACP Theatre Award for his critically acclaimed one-man show DID YOU DO YOUR HOMEWORK? which chronicles a substitute teacher’s journey through the bureaucracy of an urban classroom. “I used to take profound, often painful, physically and emotionally abusive and traumatic experiences from my past and make them a basis for inspiring my students,” he says. “I would tell them that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger and that everything worth achieving is only accomplished through hard work, perseverance, and positive, focused energy.”
There have been many obstacles in Mr. Braxton’s journey. His query letters to major publishers went unopened or returned. “It’s extremely difficult in the literary landscape for writers of color,” he says. “Most publishers do not accept unsolicited material or they want you to submit by industry referral. Well, if you don’t know anyone in the industry, how are you going to get referrals? It’s oxymoronic.”
Even though getting a publisher to take a chance on his manuscript proved to be tougher than writing the book itself, Braxton remained undaunted. “I knew I had a beautiful story about transformation and recognizing the greatness within ourselves. I firmly believed in it’s message and set out to read everything I could regarding the self-publishing world. Then I took inspiration from self-published authors like William Young, James Redfield and E.L. James. In addition, I came across an article in which Steve Harvey gave a speech to his “Family Feud,” audience where he said, “When you’re standing on the cliff of life, in order to be successful, you have to jump without a net.”
“I read that statement and my spirit turned inside out. I started crying hysterically because I realized, that in essence, I had been saying that to my students, but not fully embracing its message myself. The next day, I marched down to district headquarters, handed in my resignation for the following school year, and my new journey began.”
The story of Jesse has begun to resonate with readers both young and old. Hollywood film producer and director Tim Chey, wrote, “I read your book in one sitting and absolutely LOVE IT! The book is so pure. I even cried at the end.” Others have said, “It’s one of the most powerful young adult novels they’ve ever read…From the opening pages, I felt like I knew Jesse…It finds hope and goodness in a world that can appear exhausting and bleak.”
JESSE AND THE CATERPILLAR WHO GOT ITS WINGS is about inspiration, finding the greatness inside and allowing it live. It is written to represent the inner hopes, dreams, aspirations and consciousness of kids of color who, all too often, do not see themselves fully actualized in print. “There are a lot of books out there that tell amazing stories. Unfortunately, most of them don’t reflect the lives and complex minds of kids from diverse communities and backgrounds. They’re usually thrown into fiction as afterthoughts. I wanted to change that landscape in meaningful ways. So, I infused the novel with Academic Language and Educational Standards and gave a voice and unique perspective to those who are underserved and frequently, culturally stereotyped. We all love, create meaningful friendships and experience devastating loss. Those feelings are universal.”
Hailing from Boston, MA, and growing up in Santa Rosa, CA, the former educator turned actor and writer, holds a BA degree from San Diego State University in Speech Communications and a MA degree in Education and Teaching from the University of Southern California. He now spends half his time in Los Angeles, CA and the other half in Covington, GA.
“When there’s greatness inside you, who says you can’t fly?”
Available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon and all Major Book Outlets!
For more information contact: Robert Levy, Talk of the Town PR-LA, 323-546-4598,1Talkofthetownpr@gmail.com,