White Bees is 97,000 words and is targeted toward females ages 12-35.
Below is a brief synopsis:
My first memory is not of the surgeries for my bilateral cleft palate, instead, I remember clearly sitting on top of the kitchen heat vent, looking out the sliding glass door, watching the snowfall. To me, the fluffy white wonders don’t look like snow at all, but rather, white bees. They were innocent, happy, and content, despite their chaotic journey through the atmosphere. And I could relate.
When my peaceful world is interrupted by school, it’s the bully who plagues me, lifting his lip up until his mouth mimics an upside down v. His words sink in and cover me in pain so thick it feels as if my face is being dragged across the asphalt. Yet, the days on the playground build my character and trust in my beautiful sister, Jeannie, who files her nails to a point for better scratching, wears her Sunday shoes to school for better kicking, and fearlessly eliminates the bully from tormenting me.
The reliance in my older sister during childhood builds into a bond during my teenage years as I lean on Jeannie to protect me and show me the way. White Bees parallels our two lives: I inwardly struggle to endure speech therapy, prank calls, and surgeries; and Jeannie effortlessly dating, modeling, and competing in pageants. I hides my inner conflict deep within layer eleven – where all the dark days are held in quiet reserve waiting for freedom. I bravely continue with hope and faith in God– and the pain is all worth it for the fairy tale ending that comes just before a late winter storm, at the age of seventeen.
Surrounded by my friends, the Rebels, and a family who loves me deeply, I finds my own inner beauty and optimism for the life I have yet to live. White Bees is a hopeful and triumphant memoir written for the girl and woman who has always felt more beautiful on the inside than on the outside —and the moment when the rest of her world finally sees her beauty too.
The first few paragraphs of Chapter 1:
Above my basement bedroom, I heard Mom opening and shutting cupboard doors, the weight of her feet flexing the creaky floor in the rhythm of a new morning. I turned my head and inhaled the worn scent of my blue pillowcase, a faint blend of hairspray and salt water. My first day of high school wasn’t supposed to start this way—the same way all of my other school years had started. I tucked the warm blankets beneath my chin and wondered how I would fit in with the thousand new students I was about to meet. The boys would undoubtedly look at me, turn away, and think, Oh! That girl’s face! What’s wrong with her? My chances of feeling accepted and finding dates would vanish as first impressions materialized, and instead, I would be left with a familiar feeling of rejection. I pulled my right leg to my chest and hugged my knee, then dropped my hand to trace the inch-long scar on my ankle from an IV I’d had as a new baby. Mom couldn’t remember which surgery caused the scar. There had been too many. But she’d said it had started as a small pierce from a needle and, once healed, had stretched as I’d grown.
My younger sister stirred in her twin bed four feet from mine. She lobbed one arm up and out from under the covers and onto the nightstand where her thick glasses rested. With the other hand, she cleared the tangled hair away from her face. She situated the glasses on her nose and asked, “Is it already time to get up?”
I leaned up on one elbow, looking past her silhouette to our bedroom window: “Yup, it’s morning, Toots, even though it’s still dark outside. Jeannie is already up. I call the shower next.”
“What’s that sound?”
“That squeaky sound?”
“Just Mr. Sorensen. You know, letting his dog, Max, out to pee. His gate squeaks.”
“Oh. How’d you know that?”
“I’ve been paying attention all summer. Listen. In a minute you’ll hear it again when he goes back inside. I’ve memorized the whole process.”
Jeannie, older than me by eighteen months, threw open the door connecting our two rooms, her hair in a giant, towel turban. “Hey, I lost the back to one of my pink triangle earrings. Do either of you have a pencil eraser I can use?”
“I do,” Toots said. “But don’t use my favorite pencil. Just use one of the regular orange ones over there on my desk.”
“I only need half. Thanks, Toots. You’re a lifesaver.”
I released my hand from my ankle, stretched both legs down long to the end of my bed, then pointed my toes until my feet arched and my calf muscles burned. I’d waited fifteen years to be transformed into beautiful. The “big” surgery, the cranial facial surgery I’d been waiting for, was supposed to have happened before my sophomore year started. Instead, it hung on the horizon teasing me with time until the bone in my face matured. I didn’t want the surgery for me. I wanted it for the kid in the grocery store line who asked his mom, “What’s wrong with that girl?” I wanted it for the bully who unleashed his verbal torment on me in elementary school, strangling my confidence, and I wanted it for those so distracted by my lips that they never heard the words that crossed them.