Monday, August 25, 2014

Harper Teen Book Blast & Interview: Positive (Paige Rawl)

Positive: A MemoirHardback, 288 pages
Expected publication: August 26th 2014 by HarperCollins
ARC Provided by Publisher for Honest Review

An astonishing memoir for the untold number of children whose lives have been touched by bullying. Positive is a must-read for teens, their parents, educators, and administrators—a brave, visceral work that will save lives and resonate deeply.
Paige Rawl has been HIV positive since birth, but growing up, she never felt like her illness defined her. On an unremarkable day in middle school, she disclosed to a friend her HIV-positive status—and within hours the bullying began. From that moment forward, every day was like walking through a minefield. Paige was never sure when or from where the next text, taunt, or hateful message would come. Then one night, desperate for escape, fifteen-year-old Paige found herself in her bathroom staring at a bottle of sleeping pills.
That could have been the end of her story. Instead, it was only the beginning. Paige's memoir calls for readers to choose action over complacency, compassion over cruelty—and above all, to be Positive. 

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Paige was born HIV Positive and bullied severely in middle school because of her HIV status. Her classmates called her cruel nicknames, such as PAIDS. Her soccer coach even made a joke about how her HIV status could help the team. And the school administrators let her down by not protecting her. After leaving her middle school, she decided to take a stand and started to speak out sharing her story. At the age of fourteen, Paige was granted special permission to become the youngest person to ever be certified through the American Red Cross as an HIV/AIDS Educator. She even pleaded to congress in her home state of Indiana and helped pass the Anti-bullying Bill #1423 that was affective July 1, 2013.
All through high school Paige was the guest speaker for the I Need You to Listen, Hear, and Understand Me TOUR that was sponsored by Indianapolis Urban League, Indiana AIDS Fund, Indiana State Department of Health, Marion County Public Health Department, Teen Damien, and United Way. This tour travels through Indiana educating youth at schools and churches about HIV/AIDS. In 2013, this tour also added a bullying tour which Paige has had the opportunity to be the guest for as well. Paige has had the opportunity to travel on a national level while working with many organizations, sharing her story to try and reduce the stigma towards HIV/AIDS.
Paige has also been involved with Project Kindle as a part of Speak Out that travels to schools across the country to educate about HIV/AIDS and for the students to hear stories from personal kids impacted by the disease. Project Kindle also has a camp called Camp Kindle that Paige became involved with in 2010 as a camper and is now a counselor at the camp. This camp is for kids and teens who are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS.
Paige has been treated for her HIV status at Riley Children's Hospital at the Ryan White Infectious Disease Center since her diagnosis. She was named a 2014 Riley Champion. A Riley Champion is someone who is a Riley patient who has inspired communities with their bravery and commitment to help others. They reach beyond their own medical challenges to give meaning to their struggles. Paige also is a Riley Ambassador and travels to different dance marathons, across the state of Indiana, sharing her Riley story. During her freshman year of college, Paige had the opportunity to be apart of the Ball State University Dance Marathon Riley Relations committee.
Paige has been honored numerous times for her involvement in the HIV/AIDS Community. Paige made the list of 5 Female Stigma Warriors Who Will Inspire in 2014 by Stigma Action Network, Top 10 Young Women to Watch in 2014 by the Emma Willard School, and 10 Kids Who Made A Difference in 2013 by Mom.Me. Paige was also selected as one of the 5 Years, 5 Heroes. Five people were selected for their extraordinary contributions to the HIV/AIDS community sponsored by Bristol Myer Squibb. She was given the Excellence Award for her recognition for her contribution in the fight against HIV/AIDS presented by Positive Living, inc. Paige was also selected as one of 5 Seventeen Magazine's Pretty Amazing Finalist in 2013. During her senior year of high school Paige was chosen by her administrators to receive the Outstanding Leadership Award and chosen by her class as Most Likely to Change the World.
Paige has been featured in magazines such as POZ, Seventeen, GLAMOUR UK, Girlfriend (Australia's version of Seventeen), Indianapolis Monthly, and was featured in and on the cover of Scholastic Action magazine. Paige has also been featured in newspapers such as the Indianapolis Star, USA Today, Huffington Post, New York Daily News, Ball State University Daily News, Boston Globe, Indianapolis Recorder, and numerous papers across the country. Paige has also been featured on Nick News with Linda Ellerbee, The Doctors, FOX 59 Female Focus feature, Channel One News World AIDS Day special, and Antibullying PSA sponsored by Kohl's Caring for Kids.
Paige is currently a student at Ball State University, majoring in Molecular Biology. She plans to continue to travel and speak to reduce the stigma towards HIV/AIDS and be an advocate against bullying.

Contact Paige:

1. What gave you the inspiration to write this book?

After everything I endured in middle school and once I left and continued out the rest of my eighth grade year by being homeschooled, I decided that I needed to do something. I knew that I didn't want to have to see any kid go through what I went through. I began sharing my story and educating others to reduce the stigma towards HIV/AIDS. I realized that I wanted to get my story out there to help others and writing a book was one thing that came into my mind on how to do that.

2. Which came first, the title or the novel?

The novel came first. I began writing and thought of “Front Paige News” as a pun, playing on the fact that I was once on the front page of the Indianapolis Star (my hometown newspaper), before I arrived at the title POSITIVE.

3. What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?

I am most proud of the Camp Kindle scene. This camp is like a second home to me and everyone there is like a second family to me. My first year at Camp Kindle made such an amazing impact on my life and year after year I continue to return with no regrets! No matter how many times I read that chapter over, I feel like the magic and details are just coming off of the pages every time. I hope everyone who reads about this wonderful place feels the same way. 

4. Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?

The most important thing that I have learned as a writer is that no matter what, if someone feels they have a story that needs to be told then they should not hesitate to get it out there. There is always going to be at least one person who can benefit from hearing your story. 

5. What do you like most about the cover of the book?

I like most about the cover that it shows that I am just a normal teenager. Just by looking at me you can't tell that I am HIV-Positive, demonstrating that HIV doesn't define who I am. HIV does not discriminate and there is no one “face” to HIV. 

6. What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2014?

The book I'm looking forward to coming out actually comes out the same day as my memoir: A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall! This is a romance-type novel, but the story of the two people are told in 14 different point of views from people in their life. It seems like such an interesting approach, plus I love reading young adult romance novels.

7. What was your favorite book in 2013?

It didn’t come out in 2013, but my favorite that I read that year was The Perks of Being A Wallflower.

8. What’s up next for you?

I plan on graduating from college with a degree in Molecular Biology to become a HIV/AIDS Medicine Researcher. I also intend to continue to dedicate my life to educating about HIV/AIDS to reduce the stigma, sharing my story, and advocating against bullying.

9. Is there anything that you would like to add?

Yes, that if I can save just one life through this book, then it'll all be worth it!

Additionally, Paige, in conjunction with MAC AIDS, is in Andrew Jenk’s (MTV’s World of Jenks) documentary about living with HIV around the world (to premiere this Fall). He has documented life for one person with HIV in numerous countries around the world and Paige is the sole representative for the United States.

To learn more about the fight against bullying and HIV please visit Paige Rawl's website. 

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