First Chapters

Insights From A Thousand Names For Joy

By Byron Katie

The truth is that there's no such thing as enlightenment. No one is permanently enlightened; that would be the story of a future. There's only enlightenment in the moment. Do you believe a stressful thought? Then you're confused. Do you realize that the thought isn't true? Then you're enlightened to it. It's as simple as that.

All suffering is mental. It has nothing to do with the body or with a person's circumstances. You can be in great pain without any suffering at all. How do you know you're supposed to be in pain? Because that's what's happening. To live without a stressful story, to be a lover of what is, even in pain -- that's heaven. To be in pain and believe that you shouldn't be in pain -- that's hell.

When the mind is clear, life becomes very simple. I have the thought to stand up and do the dishes. I notice a sense of profound excitement as the body rises with this thought. How childlike it is as it moves to the kitchen, to the sink. I turn the handle, experience the water on my hands, pour some liquid soap onto a sponge. Amazing. It's not ever about doing the dishes, until I hold one and see it change from crusted or sticky to wet and soapy, to shiny, to dry, so that it can serve again. Everything changes. I never know what anything is going to be. Without believing any thought of a future, there's no way of knowing what is me and what is the plate, the soap, the water, the world of bubbles and shine.

First Chapter: Seventy Times Seven

By Salvatore Sapienza

I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through raging waters they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned.

-- The Book of the Prophet Isaiah, 43:1-3

All the incoming freshmen boys at Mount Saint Vincent's High School were issued gym uniforms with their last names emblazoned in black block letters across the backs of their gray T-shirts. This was primarily so the PE teachers, who had classes of more than sixty students per session, could easily identify each boy. "Hey, Simmons, stop roughhousing!" "Owens, pick up the pace!" That sort of thing.

Poor Paul Ness. Since he and his identical twin brother, Matt, were in the same PE class, the Ness boys were issued shirts embroidered not only with their last names, but also with their first initials. The taunting of Paul started on the first day of gym class, when Brother O'Malley -- during a hellish round of dodgeball -- yelled," You're out, P. Ness!"

"Brother O'Malley called that kid a penis," one boy whispered. Soon laughter spread throughout the gym, with only Brother O'Malley clueless as to what was so funny.

First Chapter: Orphan's Quest

By Pat Nelson Childs

Chapter One

Hunter's Moon

The cock crowed. The sun had just begun to creep above the Emerald Mountains. The autumn days still bore the sweetness of summer, but in the nighttime, cold air now swept over the peaks and high hills, leaving a crispness on the morning breeze. It wafted through the window of a dormitory room, and touched the faces of the two figures sleeping there. One of them yawned and sat up, shivering a bit as the bedcovers slid down and bared his torso. He stretched, flung back the grey woolen blanket and swung himself out of bed. Naked, and immediately chilled, he quickly headed for the basin to wash. The water, too, was ice cold, and he hurried through his ablutions so that he could dress.

This was Ely, a novice of the Brotherhood of the Noble Contemplative. He was a strapping lad of 17, with short brown hair, hazel eyes, and a wide, handsome face flawed only by a nose slightly crooked from a childhood break. Ely pulled on his muslin shorts and donned his robe, the cobalt blue color worn by all novices. Then he turned his attention to the still-sleeping figure in the other bed.

"Hey sleepy head," he said, giving the bed leg a kick. "Hey, Rokey! You're going to be late . . . again."

First Chapter: Split Screen

By Brent Hartinger

I was standing far from daylight, deep in an echoing corridor of stone. The air was dry and dusty, and all around me, lifeless bodies lurched and groaned.

Then my best friend Gunnar motioned to me and my other best friend Min from over by a bulletin board next to a row of lockers. "Russ! Min!" he said. "You have to come see this!"

I was standing in the concrete hallways of Robert L. Goodkind High School, surrounded by sleep-deprived high school students. Hey, it was 8 A.M. - what'd you expect?

First Chapter: The Order of the Poison Oak

By Brent Hartinger

I was surrounded by fires, angry blazes raging all around me. The flames hissed and crackled, their blistering heat searing my exposed skin. I desperately wanted to run, but there was no escape. I was trapped by the heat. Any step I might take, any direction I might turn, the flames would flare up and engulf me.

Then the school bell rang, and the students around me began bustling off to class.

I was standing in the hallway of Robert L. Goodkind High School in the moments before my first period. I was surrounded by flames, yeah, but not the kind you might think. No, the fires that threatened me were the flames of hatred and suspicion that flickered in the eyes of my classmates. Why did I feel like the hallway of my high school was some perilous corridor of fire, and that the looks in the eyes of the other students were the flames of that blazing inferno? There is a very short answer to that question: earlier in the year, some friends and I had started the Goodkind High Gay-Straight-Bisexual Alliance. And now the whole school knew I was gay.

First Chapter: Geography Club

By Brent Hartinger

I was deep behind enemy lines, in the very heart of the opposing camp. My adversaries were all around me. For the time being, my disguise was holding, but still I felt exposed, naked, as if my secret was obvious to anyone who took the time to look. I knew that any wrong action, however slight, could expose my deception and reveal my true identity. The thought made my skin prickle. The enemy would not take kindly to my infiltration of their ranks, especially not here, in their inner sanctum.

Then Kevin Land leaned over the wooden bench behind my locker and said, "Yo, Middlebrook, let me use your shampoo!"

I was in the high school boys' lockerroom at the end of third period P.E. class. I'd just come from the showers, and part of the reason I felt naked was because I was naked. I'd slung my wet towel over the metal door of my locker and was standing there all goosebumpy, eager to get dressed and get the hell out of there. Why exactly did I feel like the boys' lockerroom after third period P.E. was enemy territory -- that the other guys in my P.E. class were rival soldiers in some war-like struggle for domination? Well, there's not really a short answer to that question.

Transparent: First Chapter

The following is an excerpt from the book "Transparent: Love, Family, and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers" by Cris Beam, Published by Harcourt, Inc. Reprinted with permission.


Here’s what you see when you drive down Los Angeles’s Santa Monica Boulevard just east of La Brea: a 7-Eleven, a Shakey’s Pizza, a low concrete building with fish painted on the side, and a taco stand. There’s a Chinese takeout place and a triple-X video rental shop, a filling station, and four lanes of traffic, two in each direction. Old people waiting for the bus. Young mothers dragging children in flip-flops. A discount dollar store, a Laundromat, and a bunch of teenagers standing around and smoking. If you stare for more than a minute, you may note that most of these teenagers are girls, and that they’re more ethnically varied than other cliques in this segregated town. But that’s it. Santa Monica Boulevard’s got the sun-bleached, chain-store feeling of most of L.A.

If you’re a transgender girl (meaning you were born male but live as a female), you might notice something extra along this stretch of Santa Monica. It’s here that you’ll find girls trading secrets about how to shoot up the black-market hormones purchased from the swap meets in East L.A. If the hormones don’t work fast enough to manifest your inner vision of wider hips and C cups, you can find out about “pumping parties” out in the Valley, where a former veterinarian or a “surgeon’s wife” from Florida will shoot free-floating industrial-grade silicone into hips, butts, breasts, knees -- even cheeks and foreheads. Of course, this is dangerous when the oils shift and form hard lumps in the armpits and thighs, but you’ll look good for a while.

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