Wednesday, November 26, 2014

IT'S THIS MONKEY'S BUSINESS by Debra Mares: Review and Author Guest Post

It’s This Monkey’s Business
by Debra Mares
Published by Justicia House
32 pages
Children’s Books

Purchase at AMAZON

"Cabana, a young spider monkey is brought to life to tell her story It's This Monkey's Business to help children who are affected by domestic violence and divorce. Cabana, who lives with her parents in a treehouse high up in a rainforest canopy, becomes startled one day from her Mama's scream, when she is waiting atop a tree branch for her Papa to teach her how to swing. After falling to the forest floor, Cabana frustrated from her parents' fighting, decides she will search for a new family to be part of. Her persistence is cut short when she braves the river to play with a pink dolphin, unaware she cannot swim. The tragedy brings her parents together to realize they can no longer live together. Cabana reconnects with her Papa, realizing he is the only one that can teach her how to swing.

It's This Monkey's Business is an approximately 756 word children's book targeting ages 4-8, which is set in a rainforest and featuring "Cabana," a young female Spider Monkey, her parents and rainforest animals. The book is approximately 30 pages long and features full spread color illustrations."

The hardest thing that I ever had to do as a parent was explaining to my children that their dad and I were getting a divorce. I don’t think that the grief and sorrow of seeing my marriage bond dissolve were nearly as deep and shattering as the pain of having to tell my kids that the world as they knew it was going to change forever.
The fear of breaking the news and single-handedly destroy the comfort of their family setting is gut-wrenching at best, paralyzing at worst, but  letting your children’s innocent eyes witness the drama of domestic disagreements and pending separation without explaining the circumstances can be even more confusing and traumatizing. There is no way to spare a little soul the emotional hit caused by the knowledge that mommy and daddy won't be living under the same roof any longer, but a considerate, age-appropriate, gentle choice of words can help minimize devastation and fear.
To a child of divorcing parents, the world can suddenly appear as an intimidating place. If the parents' disagreements are aggravated by a display of violence, abuse, and neglect, that world becomes even more frightening. Communication becomes essential to control the emotional damage.
Mares' storybook is a great way to prepare the ground for such a conversation and a perfect tool to convey, in a fictional, colorful, friendly setting, what a soon-to-be-single parent needs to say at a level of understanding that a child age 4 to 10 can easily grasp. I would highly recommend Mares' book to all those parents who are looking for guidance on how to prepare their children to these unfortunate circumstances and to those parents who would like to introduce their little ones to the complexity of family bonds, in docile and compassionate terms.
5 out of 5 stars
***Review copy graciously offered by the author in exchange for an unbiased and honest opinion.
I am thrilled to have Debra Mares on Mina's Bookshelf to share her considerations, as a woman, a prosecutor and an advocate, about divorce and domestic violence. Welcome to my blog, Debra!

Growing Up With and Writing About A Jaguar: Domestic Violence

by Debra Máres

Over 3 million children witness violence in their home each year.  As many as 275 million children worldwide are exposed to violence in their home.  This topic is big in the news, from NFL players being accused of it, to events marking the end of October’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  And this topic is real for me.  

What most people don’t know is that I grew up with a jaguar: domestic violence.  It wasn’t easy.  Its effects are long-lasting.  Children witnessing domestic violence or are victims of sexual assault or physical assault constantly respond with stress, which affects their ability to focus, learn, trust and develop empathy.

Whether you were around it as a child, were an abuser or victim, the pain pushes forward.  Boys who witness family violence are more likely to batter their partners as adults and girls who witness abuse are more likely to become involved in abusive relationships.

I hope if you are reading this, you never experienced domestic violence as a child or adult.  However, chances are you know someone who has.  1 in every 3 women will be exposed to domestic violence during their lifetime.  Domestic violence happens behind walls and its usually not discussed outside the home. If you’ve ever been through it or know someone who has, I hope this post will help.



I still remember the day my dad left home and my parents separated.  I was so relieved, thinking I would finally live in peace.  He walked out the back door off the laundry room . . .

That’s when a new set of problems began.  To numb the pain, I began to escape.  Children of domestic violence are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.  The average age a girl has her first drink is 13.  For a boy, it's 11.

Then, my sister came home from her freshman year in college . . . pregnant.  Another effect of children of domestic violence is teen pregnancy.


Life sure does have a way of teaching you the lessons you need to learn.  I graduated from college, then law school.  I got married . . . then divorced.  I’ve been through a lot of relationships . . . and therapy.  It took a while, but I got through it.  Today, I have a healthy relationship with both of my parents, who I love and trust.  I mentor over 100 youth as a Community Prosecutor; many who have also been affected by domestic violence.  I am happy I can teach them tools to get past their pain.  I share my story with them and tell them things like, “it’s not your fault,” “you’re not responsible for what happened,” and I encourage them to focus on their education, learn about healthy relationships and build positive self-esteem.

People have asked me how I overcame the effects of growing up with domestic violence.  But all I can say is I’ve handled it like a jaguar: tamed it, managed it, and trained it as best I could.  I work daily to keep my mind, body and spirit balanced.  Meditation.  Exercise.  Discipline.  I practice and teach empathy.  I also focus on the happy times growing up.  Because there were a lot.  Summer trips to Tahoe.  Fishing.  The beach.

I also remind parents there are ways to lessen the negative effects to their children.  Keep a close relationship with your child and let them express their fears, talk about the chaos at home and don’t keep it a secret, help your child stay connected to extended family, help them build healthy self esteem & relationships, teach them empathy, help them develop an easy temperament, stress the importance of education, facilitate relationships with mentors, educate yourself and your child on the affects of abuse so you know their triggers, teach impulse control, incorporate healthy eating, exercise & meditation, and most importantly, make life fun and don’t forget to laugh! Life has already been stressful enough.  


Another thing most people don’t know is that I write poetry and legal thrillers about domestic violence.  And I’ve released my debut children's book, It's This Monkey's Business, targeting ages four to eight and bringing awareness to domestic violence.

If you would have asked me ten years ago if I would ever be able to talk publicly about growing up with domestic violence, I would have said, “no way.”  But poetry has helped me express the ineffable, especially childhood fears.

Behind the Wall

Little girl, behind the wall.
Curled up, in her ball.
Parents fighting, while she's alone.
Another scream, another moan.
Always worried no one could hear,
Her silent death, caused by fear.
Every time she feels him pull away,
It takes her back, to that abandoned day.
Curled up, in her ball.
Now a woman, behind a wall.

Writing It’s This Monkey’s Business was daunting; as a children’s book, I had to put myself back into my own shoes as a child.  With a lot of support, I was able to do it and it was even therapeutic.

Page 18 of It’s This Monkey’s Business reads:

“Did Papa push you?” Cabana asked.
Her mama got quiet really fast.

Then Mama said, “It’s not your monkey business.”
(Forgetting that violence at home is scary to witness)

If you are struggling with the effects of domestic violence or know someone who is, know this:

You will get through it.

You’ll come away from it a stronger person.

You WILL find serenity and love in some form.

You WILL learn to trust.

Take each day at a time & balance. Mind. Body. Spirit.

Go easy on yourself and from time to time, visit the sea to breathe.

About the Author

For Independent Author Debra Mares, violence against women is not only a topic in today's news, it's a topic in her crime novels, cases she handled as a county prosecutor, and now it will be the topic in her first children's book It's This Monkey's Business.  Debra is a veteran county prosecutor in Riverside currently specializing in community prosecution, juvenile delinquency and truancy.  Her office has one of the highest conviction rates in California and is the fifteenth largest in the country. You name it - she's prosecuted it - homicides, gang murders, domestic violence, sex cases, political corruption, major fraud and parole hearings for convicted murderers. She is a two-time recipient of the County Prosecutor of the Year Award and 2012 recipient of the Community Hero Award.

Debra is the granddaughter of a Mexican migrant farm worker and factory seamstress, was born and raised in Los Angeles, was the first to graduate college in my family, and grew up dancing Ballet Folklorico and Salsa. Her own family story includes struggles with immigration, domestic violence, mental health, substance abuse and teen pregnancy, which she addresses in her novels. She followed a calling at 11 years old to be an attorney and voice for women, and appreciates international travel and culture. Her life's mission is to break the cycle of victimization and domestic violence. 

Debra is also the co-founding Executive Director of Women Wonder Writers, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization implementing creative intervention and mentoring programs for at-risk youth.  In 2012, Debra self-published Volume 1 of her debut legal thriller series, The Mamacita Murders featuring Gaby Ruiz, a sex crimes prosecutor haunted by her mother's death at the hands of an abusive boyfriend. In 2013, Debra released her second crime novel, The Suburban Seduccion, featuring "The White Picket Fence" killer Lloyd Gil, who unleashes his neonatal domestic violence-related trauma on young women around his neighborhood. 

To bring to life "Cabana," Debra partnered with 16-year-old Creative Director Olivia Garcia and Los Angeles based professional illustrator Taylor Christensen

16-year-old Creative Director Olivia Garcia attends high school in Panorama City, California, is the Los Angeles youth delegate for the Anti-Defamation League's National Youth Leadership Mission in Washington D.C., an ASB member and AP student and enjoys reading, crafting and knitting.

Taylor Christensen is a Los Angeles-based illustrator holding a BFA from Otis College of Art & Design, focuses on fantastical creatures and surreal imagery, and produces artwork for illustration, character and concept design.
Her latest book is the children’s picture book, It’s This Monkey’s Business.



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