and a new baby boy in the Midwest... and other stuff, too.
Monday, June 27, 2011
I recently had a chance to interview one of my favorite Autism Activists and twitter pals, Zack Gonzalez, after reading his fabulous new book Charity Bites! Zack works so hard, every day, in so many ways to fight for those who can't fight for themselves, like his own little brother. You may remember Zack from the time he posted a contest for a tshirt slogan (yep, the one I won). Love this guy!!
You seem to have done so much work for Autism Awareness in your young life. Just how old are you?
- As of June 15th, I am 18 years young. I really don't like saying "years young," but it's what all the "cool kids" are saying.
And you made the very big move to leave school to focus on your work, finishing up your education online. How did you arrive at that decision and how did it go over with your mom?!
- It was an option that was proposed via the Internet in my Sophomore year, that I knew my mother would never allow. I went to an expensive private school in LA, and my gradfather, uncle, and cousins graduated from there. It would be a huge disappointment for me to not graduate from there. When the end of Junior year came, the option was proposed once again, this time via somewhere I can't remember; that's what sleep deprivation will do to you. I figured that this would be a great option for me to focus on work, while still getting my studies done; my mother hesistated at first, but accepted and supported my decision. Which I now see was a benefit to me.
What happened to make you commit so strongly to this level of Autism Awareness and charity work?
- My brother, Ethan (Deets), was diagnosed in 2005. When I realized I could play a role in advocating for him, I jumped at quicker than Rosie O'Donnell would at a chocolate cake. For so long I thought I had lost my voice and ability to make an impact in the world. After Ethan's diagnosis came along, I was suddenly able to see that I did have a voice, and I could use it to save him and all the others affected by autism.
Tell me a little bit about your younger brother Ethan and tell me how he got the name "Deets"?
- That's a story better told in my book Saving Deets!, but here's a briefy: My brother EJ tried pronoucing Ethan and came out with "Deetens." We pulled a Lindsay and "borrowed" the name and it eventually was shortened to Deets. Deets... is a handful. From his potty mouth to setting the house on fire, he can be a nice bundle of lemons. And what do you do when life hands you lemons? You make lemonade... and add whole lot of alcohol! (And of course "alcohol" is a metaphoric term for solving your problems.)
You've been accused of being anti-vaccine. You and I both believe that people need to be better informed before making vaccine-related choices. What's the best way for people to get educated?
- Most people will answer that with "read" or "do your research." Reading and researching doesn't mean shit unless you understand what you're reading and researching. The best way to do that is by preaching. Read, research, and then preach what you just read to someone else, and by trying to teach others, you'll in turn, teach yourself. That's what I learned.
What have you learned most from your work with various organizations over the years?
- I've learned a lot. I've also met many wonderful people. I've learned that by supporting other organizations, those wonderful people will delete/block you on Facebook. The world of charity has gotten a little dirty. And I don't mean Anthony Weiner dirty; I mean politically corrupt. People start off in this world with great intentions, and leave with vanity, exposure, and money, which in turn, can consume you if you forget why you're in that world to begin with. I'll admit, I've been sidetracked a few times, but luckily I have enough Zack-haters to punch me back on track.
Have any of the people you've ummmm, talked about in the book contacted you? You use aliases, but come on, right?
- I'm waiting for the day Klark (my arch-enemy in Charity Bites!) comes knocking on my door with a fist ready for beating, but luckily he doesn't have my address. I have not been approached by anyone yet. But there still is the constant excitement. I mean, how good will the sequel be when I have stories of ass-whooping to include!
What's been your favorite part of all your Autism Awareness / charity work?
- MAKING MONEY! -- JUST KIDDING!! I would have to say it is the ability to make a difference. There's nothing more gratifying than receiving emails from parents and caregivers from around the world thanking me for the work I do. I've received emails all the way from Europe and Asia; that's just amazing that I'm able to make a global touch. But in the end, I'm not doing this for acknolwedgement. I'm doing it because I care, and I have a front row seat to autism. And healing my brother for the better of his life, is something that means a lot to me.
The title of your book says it all: Charity Bites. So, what keeps you going??
- My "happy pills!" They rock! (And the fact that my speaking out helps others.)
And finally, in the movie version of your story, who will play you?
- That's a good question. Well, it'll have to be someone that looks like a lesbian, because I was often told that I look like one. I'm not sure who'd I would have play me, though. But whoever it is, he has to be very good-looking because then maybe, just maybe, it'll make me look good-looking.
CHARITY BITES! can be purchased June 14th at retailers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. If readers would like a signed copy, they can buy it off www.zackgonzalez.com at no additional charge (for the month of June!)