Juleus Ghunta’s empowering book Rohan Bullkin and the Shadows—A Story about ACEs and Hope, vibrantly illustrated by Rachel Moss, is a much-needed story of a boy who experiences Shadows that interfere with his ability to read because they make his mind “flicker like a hurricane,” go blank, and sometimes race and “refuse to shut down.”
This is an affirming, normalizing contextualization of how bad events and scary experiences, now understood from the science of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), affect the brain to cause “Shadows.”
Rohan’s Shadows represent the varied effects of ACEs and toxic stress, which include challenges with academics, relationships, self-esteem and health.
In my own discoveries since leaving a career as an assistant professor of family medicine and obstetrics and retraining as a somatic psychotherapist, I’ve discovered that adverse events of all kinds are also important risk factors for chronic physical illnesses. This is something that I hadn’t learned in medical school – and which is still much needed in training for health professionals of all kinds. That's because we now have the science demonstrating that adversity, including ACEs, affects risk for chronic diseases in children (such as asthma) and adults (such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune diseases and my own illness of disabling chronic fatigue).
In the book, Rohan’s positive experiences, such as learning to read well, introduce him to his magical powers that weaken the Shadows.
This story is deeply honoring of children’s intelligence and awareness. Ghunta shares how Rohan’s new powers help him develop empowering tools as well as to find friends and adults who are kind and safe.
These tools are still often considered “too simple” of a solution to address such serious problems as chronic behavioral, learning and health problems. Yet the research is deepening. It demonstrates the importance of connection and community, having even one adult a child can go to, and more.
Rohan’s story, which draws from Juleus’ experiences from his own life, highlight the very real positive influences that come from connection with peers and adults who can help us feel safe and loved. These are super powers for the 21st century, in which we are discovering the life-supporting importance of connection, community and support.
The end section of Rohan rightly expands the 10 types of ACEs to include poverty, spanking, child labor, community violence, gender discrimination, racism and more. ACEs are introducing us to the very real effects of adversity on physiology, development, and long term well-being and are helping us awaken, as a society, to the impact of adversity of all kinds and the antidotes that are available to us right here and now.
This is a vital new resource for children and adults, parents and teachers, health professionals and more.
Rohan Bullkin and the Shadows: A Story about ACEs and Hope
Juleus Ghunta / Illustrated by Rachel Moss
CaribbeanReads Publishing / Publication Date: December 31, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-953747-03-7 Paperback
Library of Congress Control Number: 2021943775