Book Review: "Family Don't End with Blood"

Fandom is a strong part of my life.  For the past 29 years of my life I have been a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Fan, and 23 of those years I’ve been an active member of the TMNT online fandom.  Though I’ve always been proud and happy to share my fandom with others, even before the internet.  I find it hard to think that people feel they need to hide their passions and worry about what the world thinks, since all of us being different is what makes this world great.  I have embraced all sorts of fandoms, though can’t find myself taking a more active role in those other fandoms since my passion stays so much to the world of TMNT.  My other fandoms shine through more to the people that know me or watch my Facebook Lives.  One of those fandoms is “Supernatural”, I’ve been a fan since season 8. Binged through the series twice on Netflix now and never miss their panel at San Diego Comic Con, which leads me to this story as I found a book that caught my attention “Family Don't End with Blood: Cast and Fans on How Supernatural Has Changed Lives”.  Here’s my review of this amazing book.

“Family Don’t End with Blood: Cast and Fans on how Supernatural has changed their lives”  is a book that was brought to my attention at a small convention here in Michigan a few weeks ago.  I was wandering around the con and saw a table where the lady had a photo of herself with Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, the actors who play Sam and Dean in Supernatural.  I had to stop and say hi, as I glanced around her table I saw a lot of papers stuff on #YouMatter! One of the many programs the Supernatural fans have put together to help save lives.  I shared a little of my story with the woman at the booth, how in 2016 I came close to taking my own life.  Through pure depression, pain and stress from the bully tactics that Worker Comp was putting me through. 

The woman running the booth opened up to share her story, her name is Karla Truxall and she is one of the founders of SPN Survivors.  In 2016 her family went through a lost of suicide, as her nephew took his own life.  She went through a lot of emotions over the lost as they did not see this coming.  Getting into Supernatural helped her deal with what she was going through, and has encouraged her to open up to help others.  They even have a chosen day as “You Matter! Day” on September 28th to create ripples of Kindness Across Our Communities. 

While talking with Karla, I noticed the book sitting on the table in front of me.  “Family Don’t End with Blood” caught my attention, though the line below it hooked me to want to read this book.  “Cast and fans on how Supernatural has changed lives”.  I am a strong believer that entertainment can help others, changed life for better or worse.  There is something out there for everyone.  I stand by all fandoms, even if I am not a fan of the show that people are enjoying.  If it can bring them happiness and make things better for them, it has it’s place in the world.  And we are not to judge. 

Personally I feel Ninja Turtles has changed my life, and is one of the reasons I am still alive today.  They taught me to read, defend myself and got me friends around the world.  A toy that entered my life did all of this over the past 29 years.  I love hearing about other people’s passion as I know it often shares a deep message that not everyone would pick up watching the same show, movie or cartoon.  I did not have my own funds on me, and asked Miki if we could get the books, with promise to pay her back when I could.  She picked up a copy for both of us.  And Karla was nice enough to sign both books, since her story is one of the many stories shared within.

I took the book home and started to thumb through it that day, knowing I wanted to read this book. I do not normally like reading books, as I prefer interactive reading like Facebook, IRC or message boards over just reading a long story where you can’t interact with the story teller.  But more than adventure stories, more than comedy, even more than a drama the stories that hold my interest the most is hearing people’s passions.  I meet fans all around the world of different medias and I often ask to hear their stories behind the passion, this is a book full of just that.  People sharing the depths of something so important to them.  Much like I try to do here on Cowabunga Corner.

The introduction in the book was written by Lynn S. Zubernis, the woman who put this book together.  This is not her first book on the Supernatural Fandom, as she shares a bit of her stories.  The introduction got to me as she talked of how the world often looks at fans as she states “Many people, when they think of fans, still think of the negatives: bad decisions, out-of-control emotions, overspending.”  She goes on to mention how the media even laugh at fans and how we’re often looked down upon.  Leading us through her story and how the fandom has changed her bringing us to hear how being a fan is something good, and how it can have a positive impact on life.   This book is going to share that through the different stories. 

As I read this introduction I felt as if it reached out for all fandoms.  Not just Supernatural, but showing that if people can connect to something that can help their life for the better.  It should be allowed to be embarrassed to help the move forward through their own demons within.  I got excited as I saw how her mind was changed through her own fandom.  To see what I grew up seeing, and to learn how people could view fandom from the outside was interesting to me.  I knew people saw me as strange, but I never understood why.

“Family Don’t End With Blood” kept my attention as I kept reading from fan to cast member, each sharing moving stories of what the fandom means to them and how it’s changed their life.  Everyone of these stories got me to read sections out loud to family and friend that were around and would give me an ear, if I was laughing or crying at the book.  Each person had a strong passion for Supernatural and the people that they met through the series.  Everyone of them made sure to share how Supernatural and their real lifes mixed, and did so really well.

Jim Beaver who plays a character named Bobby in the series, shares how when he got into the series he was more into his last job on “Deadwood” more than what he was doing here, though as time went by with the show he opens up to realize just what he was doing on this series.  While Adam Williams and Lucy Schneider share their story how they found each other through Supernatural, making a big choice in life which has been working out well for them.  Stacey Anderson shares her story of a photo shoot at a convention with some of the Supernatural stars, that meant the world to her.  Osric Chau who plays Kevin in Supernatural, shares how he got into cosplay and so much more about opening up with the fans.  Matt Cohen shares how he found himself with the help of Supernatural.  And all of this is just parts of the first half of the book!

This book has everything from romance, self exploring, dealing with lost, finding new friendships and traveling.  People achieving their dreams.  Realizing that there are others out there like them.  And it goes further to people dealing with life changes which hurt them, and how this fandom helped them find a purpose to keep going forward.  It’s such a deep book filled with compassion and hope.  I found myself with tears as I read through these heartwarming life tales.

The biggest surprise came for me with the last chapter.  Karla made mention that Jared Padalecki is a Ninja Turtle fan and that he mentioned it in this book.  Though getting to his chapter and reading about his TMNT fandom, just brought excitement through me.  He’s a fellow Michaelangelo fan.  And it was a series he connected too when he was young.  His three fandoms he really went in with was Star Wars, TMNT and James Bond.  It was great to read about each of those, but his chapter brought more out as he went on a little about his depression and explained one of the events that went on at San Diego Comic Con 2015

Jared was going through a rough time, and the SPNfamily got together to show support to him and passed out these little tea lights that said “Always keep fighting”.  I remember at the time I did not know much about the actors personal life, and this is when my sister, Miki, started to teach me about their other programs such as Random Acts.  I was surprised to learn this, and took the tea light reading the words “Always Keep Fighting” it meant something to me.

While I mention 2016 was my worst year for depression, the depression started to get bad in 2014.  2014 is when suicidal thoughts first started to come to my head.  We were starting the road to losing our home, a bad flood happened, I was dealing with losing my Great Aunt, my dad still recovering from a triple-bypass, and Miki breaking her neck.  Stress was piling down on us and I had to try to find a new home, while my RSD/CRPS was getting worse with more painful attacks.  In August 2014 a flood hit our area, we were out of town and it destroyed most everything in our basement.  While trying to clean that out, feeling very alone and hurting all over the thoughts finally broke through.  How much easier it would be, if I was not around anymore.  Waking up in pain, working on cleaning out that basement and going to sleep in pain.  There was little to no breaks for my own head to wrap around what was going on.  It was eating me alive, and though I managed to pull out of that depression thanks to friends at Youmacon 2014, it’s easy to fall back on that slope of thinking.  This event happened less than a year from that first crash of depression and it hit a chord with me.

I made sure not just to hold my tea light high, but to keep a hold of it afterwards.  Keeping it where I could find for those times when my head starts to slip down that dark road.  It was a powerful moment, all the lights going up at the same time.  The reaction from the guys on the stage, as surprise struck through realizing this was all for Jared.  It was a touching moment that I am thrilled to say I was there for.  I got tears in my eyes as he shared his story leading up to the event, his side of the story I did not know.  And just how much it meant to him. 

I usually do not read books, outside of Comic Books.  And even those books are only Ninja Turtle books.  It takes a lot for me to stop and pick up a book to read.  And a surprise to my family to see me glued to a book.  Even after I finished reading the book, I still carry it with me to show my friends and tell them how good this book is.  I know that if I get the chance to get autographs from the cast of the series, this is my favorite thing I have based on Supernatural which I would want them to sign.  It shares so much of what I enjoy about fandoms, such a powerful message from so many outstanding people from all walks of life that come together over passion.

The SPNfamily is a great fandom.  A group there for each other, who let their passion bring them together through the good and bad times.  Making friends around the world and sharing their feelings when they’re able to bring the strength together.  This is how I have felt with many of my friends in the TMNT fandom, some of which I’ve now known for over 20 years.  Through the TMNT fandom I’ve been to weddings (even got to be a bridesmaid), made close friends with people from other countries, experienced living situations around the United States by staying at friend’s homes, had people come stay with us from around the world, and even had my life saved in 2012 by one of my best friends.

There is a difference here though as I witnessed through my years as a Supernatural fan.  There’s a strong hold for helping people outside their circle.  While we have done this a few times like helping a child who lost his collection to a fire and raising funds for one of our TMNT writers during his fight for cancer.  The SPNfamily has come together to create groups that help so many people.  From Random Acts which is registered nonprofit whose mission is to conquer the world one random act of kindness at a time and Attitudes in Reverse is 100% Volunteer driven organization which offers multiple programs to educate youth about good mental health eliminate stigma.  “Family Don’t End with Blood” explains about these and others that have come around thanks to the SPNfamily!  What a great way to share the passion and help others on their long roads through good and bad times.

I got drawn into this book with the idea of people sharing their roads through the passion that has helped them in their lives.  I stayed for the strong stories of hope and dreams that was shared with each story.  I shed tears of sorrow and joy as I related to so many of the people sharing their journey with their fandoms.  And I cheered as people fulfill their goals.  While holding my breath for others that still have a road of challenges ahead of them.  Each story will remain with me, and I know I will revisit this book time and time again in my future.  With filling this way, I highly recommend this book to my friends and family to read.

If you’re a fan of Supernatural or just buried deep into your own fandom.  I feel this book is for you.  If you’re someone who is still trying to understand fans who let a show, comic, movie, or toy become a part of that fans life, this book may help explain just that.  If you’re looking for a feel good book of true stories, then by all means this is your book.  It has so much to offer.  A big Thanks needs to go out to Lynn S. Zubernis for finding away to put this compassion, hope and emotional history together into one book for others to read, understand and relate!

Have you read “Family Don’t End with Blood”?  If so do you like the book, please share your review below?  Do you have a story about your fandom worth sharing?  Please share it here!  We will love to read it!  Please leave all questions, comments and reviews below!

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