ABOVE: Miss Sammy reads “My Tio’s Pulse” to Come Out With Pride festival attendees at Lake Eola’s Amphitheater. Photo by Danny Garcia
ORLANDO | Leaders of the Orlando community gathered for National Coming Out Day Oct. 11 to introduce a new book meant to help children understand tragedies such as the Pulse shooting.
“My Tio’s Pulse” follows main character Angel and his Uncle Luis, who was at Pulse Orlando on June 12, 2016. The story intends to help parents start a conversation with their children about gun violence, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mental health.The book was created and written by local author Keith Newhouse. As a queer person, Newhouse was deeply affected by Pulse and wanted to do something to help the community.
“When I came up with the idea for ‘My Tio’s Pulse,’ I never imagined the amount of support the project [and I] would receive,” Newhouse said in a press release. “The best way I can describe it is I’m completely overwhelmed with emotion. I knew my passion for the project, but every day I’m more amazed at the passion and enthusiasm our community has put toward making this project a reality. The journey has been incredible and I can’t wait to see the impact the book will have on our community and the world!”
One hundred percent of the profits from book sales will benefit the Orlando United Assistance Center (OUAC), which has provided resources and support to Pulse victims and their families.
Joel Morales is the community partnership developer at OUAC. When he heard about Newhouse’s idea he jumped at the opportunity to get involved. “He wanted to write something for Pulse, for children,” Morales says. “I was already mindful of working with children and a lot of times parents didn’t really have the tools to really engage with the child and talk about those issues, so when they brought the idea I was like, ‘this is great.’”
Morales and Newhouse were joined by several Central Florida organizations and individuals who wanted to be a part of the project, making it a community effort.
“Out of Pulse, we saw the community kind of rally together and stand in solidarity, and we felt like at the OUAC, this book should come from the community,” Morales says. “It’s like Orlando united, having so many different people who are deeply impacted by Pulse in this creation. It just speaks to our community.”
OUAC is a collaboration between the City of Orlando, Orange County Government and Heart of Florida United Way.
Newhouse teamed up with Kenny Tello, a physician coach from Orlando Health and licensed clinical social worker who worked directly with children affected by Pulse, to make sure the book was sensitive to readers. The families of Pulse victims were also consulted before the book was released.
“This book was born out of the desire to help children find the words to describe an indescribable experience,” Tello said in the press release. “To provide some light when reminders take them back to a dark place. And to help them find value and meaning in their experience.”
Children’s illustrator Ethan Long, who designed the characters and cover, came up with the idea to invite different artists to collaborate on the book’s art. Twenty-one local artists contributed illustrations to the book, each offering their own interpretation.
Morales says he hopes the book will open up a dialogue among families about mental health. “What people have to realize is that we don’t talk about our feelings, it could be something that happened yesterday or five years ago, if we don’t talk about these things then we can’t heal and move on,” he says.
“My Tio’s Pulse” is available for purchase at MyTiosPulse.com and Amazon.com. A Spanish-language version of “My Tio’s Pulse” is expected in November.