Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Whitest Wall Review from Diane Chamberlain

It was a good morning surprise on a hard day in the world of fetal alcohol parenting to wake up to a review from award winning novelist Diane Chamberlain author of Before the Storm. I truly appreciate her reading The Whitest Wall and her work in writing Before The Storm to promote public awareness on FASD.

Ms Chamberlain's Review:

With an adopted daughter who suffers from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Jodee Kulp knows firsthand the causes and consequences of this devastating and wholly preventable condition. Spurred on by the needs of her daughter and her foster children, she became an expert in the field, a spokesperson determined to educate the public about the dangers of drinking while pregnant, and she has written several nonfiction books on the subject. Often, a writer skilled in nonfiction can become heavy-handed when trying to make her case in fiction. Fortunately, Kulp's transition from nonfiction to fiction is seamless. She understands how to tell a complex story in a way that builds suspense, and her characters are at once sympathetic and so well rounded they feel very much alive. She doesn't club readers over the head with the woes of FASD, but rather draws them into the world of a young man who can barely understand the charges against him as he's accused of murder. Kulp surrounds him with a vibrant community of characters, and she doesn't shy away from addressing the impact of poverty, racism and addiction on these people she lovingly portrays. She writes without judgment about women who drank during their pregnancies and the trials of the children they carried—not an easy task when you're as intimately involved with the problem as Kulp is.
In The Whitest Wall, the first in the Bootleg Brothers trilogy, Kulp manages the impossible: she both entertains and educates. I look forward to the next installment.

Check out her Sympathy for the Devil blog at

Friday, November 14, 2008


. . . and it's not just "Who killed Doc Johnson?", the well-liked chiropractor in Riverdale, Minnesota. We will get to that "something" later, but first the novel, "The Whitest Wall." I can say with both urgency and sincerity, this book is a "must read." Jodee Kulp has not written an ordinary "who dunnit?" She has done something extra-ordinary. With her ever-discerning pen that neglects no detail or nuance, she not only introduces her characters, she invites readers into their lives and allows them to experience their history and bahavior, their thoughts and emotions. When they laugh, you will laugh. When they grow angry, so will you. When they cry, your heartstrings will resonate and the tears may well flow. Her details include the red, white and deep purple flowers that patriotically dress the bridge into Riverdale and the agricultural green of Gunner's 1935 John Deere, "Betsy." Not only is this a rare and desirable talent, but it makes for a compelling page-turner that is next to impossible to put down.

To be sure, the search for the identity of the killer fills the pages with all the intrigue and suspense one would expect from this skilled author. But there is so much more. Ms. Kulp's vivid description of life in the city "gangsta" world, the insidious results of poverty and limited education, the cruelty and insensitivity of racism that rears its ugly head even in this small Midwestern community are so palpable that the reader is forced to search his/her own soul. And anybody looking for a compelling (and indicting) rendition of how we (should) treat each other will have more than enough sobering data to contemplate long after the last lines are digested.

Now for the "something" you should know. There is another "killer" on the loose. Kulp has an agenda: to inculcate in every reader a growing awareness of the condition called Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). But "The Whitest Wall" is not a textbook on FASD. It is a story, an engaging, gripping story of suspense and human interaction. Certainly, FASD has a role, a critical one. But never does this agenda distract from or diminish the story of the human drama played out of the pages of "The Whitest Wall." But the FASD agenda is essential. After completing the novel and recovering from the intensity of the drama, I went to the Internet. I discovered that I was a total illiterate concerning this serious condition. Jodee Kulp has opened my eyes to the gigantic challenge of FASD education and condition. For this I am grateful. I will forever view my fellow travelers with augmented sight.

The negative. "The Whitest Wall" is Volume 1 of a trilogy. I have to wait until September 2009 for Volume II. In the meantime, it's "pins and needles" in anticipation.

Skip Vogel, Spring Valley, Minnesota -- Author "Constant Bearing-Decreasing Range"

Thursday, November 13, 2008

An inside view of FASD

The Whitest Wall by Jodee Kulp is a story of a young man suffering with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and the life challenges he faces on a daily basis. The disability is one that crosses many barriers such as race and socioeconomic status. This novel gets to the heart of FASD and gives the reader an inside view of what a person with this disability experiences through Kevin’s fight with the social and justice systems. Jodee is able to subtly incorporate the manner in which FASD manifests itself without making the reader uninterested with the details.

I am overcome with the manner in which Jodee was able to thread together racism, poverty, abuse, fetal alcohol, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder with smoothness that did not confuse the reader. This book leaves the reader absorbed in the challenge to discover how each of the preceding issues will come together on common ground and allow for a better understanding of FASD.

The overall perspective of this book takes the reader to a true understanding of what a person struggling with an FASD may be facing on a daily basis. The analogies to other disabilities and inequities lead the reader to get a feel for the inner workings of the brain of a person who is affected by prenatal alcohol exposure. The issues at hand were made very clear and with such emotion it left the reader feeling very melancholy but with hope for redemption. The Whitest Wall is a book that will be appreciated by anyone who reads it. It is a great work of fiction with a touch of reality that leaves the reader waiting for the next book.

Ruth A. Rice FASD Program Director, White Earth

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What is really behind the recent brutal beatings of vulnerable adult in Minnesota?

The recent violent beating, burning and dragging of a young cognitively impaired adult stuns us.

Does it stun us enough to understand and take action?

The young Lakeville, Minnesota man who was beaten and burned, lost sight in one eye and is now bleeding internally will be physically scarred forever, not only by the prison tattoo his attackers burned into his arm but also by his experiential memories. And yet, Justin Hamilton, a gentle, trusting person afflicted by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), never meant harm to anyone. In fact, Justin had befriended his attackers only to be beaten a second time by the very people who had already harmed him. Public outcry rallied for Justin and his family and rightfully so.

There should be public outrage for the 1 in 100 children born in the United States with FASD, a 100% preventable disability, caused by the ingestion of alcohol by a pregnant mother.

According to the National Association of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) website, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) is the umbrella term for fetal alcohol syndrome and other diagnosis related to maternal alcohol use. If clinicians can identify alcohol-related effects early, intervention approaches can minimize the potential impact of these effects and provide better future outcomes. However, most children diagnosed with fetal alcohol-related problems are not identified before they reach school age, when they are referred for a learning disability or an attention deficit disorder. Without adequate supports and misunderstanding these children become adolescents and then adults who often fall prey to predators because their judgment of high-risk situations is often lacking.

There should be public awareness to build communities of safety.

There should be public outreach to bring people of character into relationships of mentoring and friendship for vulnerable citizens.

Persons with FASD are often misunderstood and ridiculed. The headlines for Justin did not tell the stories of the many other young adults hurt or dead, in prison for the crimes of another or under state commitment. They did not raise awareness for the young man shot in the buttocks in grave humor or for another young man sitting in prison for a crime he never committed. They did not raise awareness for the young women who are gathered together on MySpace to model, perform exotic dances or work the street, women held hostage by predators who begin as 'friends'. The public did not hear about the young woman who was gang-raped because she wanted to be a part of a group; or another young adult refusing the initiation who now bears slashes on her stomach where she was sliced into the gang; or the young adult who was shot in the head and lost an eye. The list goes on and on with assaults quietly buried with increases the pain and confusion of the victims and silences future repercussions.

Do the statistics lie?
Could this be real?
Or do we continue to close our eyes to the horrors unless a family member is victimized?

Two recent novels of drama, intrigue and suspense introduce FASD to readers:
Before the Storm by Diane Chamberlain and The Whitest Wall by Jodee Kulp.

Diane Chamberlain, award-winning author of eighteen novels, introduced a fictional 15-year old FASD victim named Andy Lockwood in Before the Storm. In Diane's previous career as a social worker, she worked in a high-risk maternity unit where she learned firsthand of the permanent damage a pregnant woman's drinking can impose on her unborn child. Later, as a psychotherapist in private practice specializing in adolescents, she treated some of those children.However, Diane did not set out to make Andy a victim of FASD. According to Diane, Andy made that decision for her. As Diane wrote the story, Andy's "voice" began to emerge, and she became aware of his simple, concrete thinking, his impulsivity, and his literal view of the world, and she knew he was a child with FASD.

Jodee Kulp, award-winning author of eight non-fiction books written to help families and professionals work, love and live with persons with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, is a family advocate who understands the tears of the parents and embraces the young people. She is an adoptive parent of a young adult with FASD and has invested herself in the issues of persons with this brain damage, taking time to understand and appreciate the beauty and innocence.

Her debut novel, The Whitest Wall, the first in The Bootleg Brothers Trilogy, implores society to understand without judging three characters within a community who have brain damage due to maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Everyone wonders why certain people behave in ways that appear strange or out of the norm. Since communication and miscommunication are issues for each of us, this theme is universal.

The Whitest Wall is a worthy read, a trip into a novel world, written with entertainment quality as vivid as a screenplay with a multitude of metaphors for interpretation and meaning. Jodee has created a new third-person Catcher in the Rye, capturing the chaotic turmoil of culturally-muddled miscommunication of lost-boy Kevin, a 21-year-old going-on-ten jailed for murder, seemingly by his own matter-of-fact confession. This tantalizing tale should engage youthful readers and provoke discussion among those of high-school age and older. Caulfield, move over, there is much more to tell!

Chamberlain and Kulp encourage us with their stories in telling us how vital it is to commit to building better baby brains for the future by abstaining from alcohol throughout pregnancy and how vital it is to understand this disability affecting over 40,000 newborns each year. They show us the importance of building compassion and healthy sustainable supports for a lifetime.

Fetal alcohol brain damage does not go away. No one outgrows it.

For more information on FASD visit Before the Storm and The Whitest Wall are available for purchase at and

Justin's family has set up a trust to aid in his recovery and defray costs of his care. Donations made be made to Wells Fargo Bank for the benefit of Justin Charles Hamilton, 16817 Duluth Avenue SE, Prior Lake, MN 55372.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What you don't know won't hurt you is a lie.A big lie.

Knowledge is still power, and the power found in these pages is undeniable.

When Jodee Kulp began to explain to the insidiousness of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome I did not get it. I could not sympathize. It was too much like an out of control virus that was taking over the world. But when I began reading the life stories of the characters in this book I became educated vicariously, even without knowing it.

The strength of story could not be better illustrated than within these pages. Full, rich, deep personalities walk through your imagination as close as your own family as this epic-like volume clings to your heart. You will want to pick up the phone and call each one to say, "I'm right here, and I understand, or watch out." The identity of these characters becomes so personal you just know you are reading their memoirs.

Fiction, as C.S. Lewis would say, adds to reality, not just describes it. It enriches daily life and irrigates the deserts of our lives. I found "Whitest Wall" so compelling I wanted to jump to the end, but so glad I didn't. Life is complex and lives are intertwined to a greater degree than we think. We tend to be myopic, critical, judgmental, and basically self-absorbed, or is that just me?

Jodee Kulp is so adept at casting the players in Whitest Wall and so passionate a story teller you will look at your neighbor through different eyes than ever before. I believe there are many books in the book, I trust at least there are many more books coming from Jodee.

Mac McConnell, author, "Forever Changed", "Bozra"

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Hurricane of Publishing The Whitest Wall

I should have realized that getting this book into my hands was going to be "one of those."

Good books are like that, they take time
...a lot of time!

There will be no special book signing today,
there will be no release party.
...good books are a battle that begins with the conception of the idea and the process of growing each word into a healthy form - ready for birth to the world, much like the birth of a child - they require toil and pain and attentiveness to detail - every small detail. They arrive when they are ready.

Today is FASD Awareness Day and we celebrate the 10th anniversary of an idea birthed by three parents Brian Philcox and Bonnie Buxton (author of Damaged Angel - highly recommended! ) and Teresa Kellerman ( a tenancious advocate who has crossed this continent ringing out the truth of fetal alcohol.

Since 1999 - actually 9.9.99 at 9:09 am bells began ringing in New Zealand and rung on the hour around the globe.

What begin with just a few has grown to an international bell concordance ringing out warnings of Fetal Alcohol and the damage it does to a person's brain. The efforts of a united world must be applauded.

Excerpt from Teresa Kellerman ( website

On Sept.9, we would like to ring bells in every time zone to mark the "magic minute" at 9:09 a.m. We call this, the "FAS Bell Concordance."

In early August, we learned that the only carillon in Africa, the historic 37-bell War Memorial Carillon in Cape Town, South Africa will be ringing in the Moment of Reflection. Installed in 1924 in memory of those who fell in World War I, in 1924, the carillon has rung out on numerous historic occasions, including the release from prison of Nelson Mandela. The carillon is the largest musical instrument in existence, and its music can be heard for miles. Inspired by Cape Town's efforts, our volunteers have arranged FAS Day carillon music in Toronto, Niagara Falls, Hastings, NE, and Austin, and San Antonio, TX. Other church bells will be playing around the world.
We have come up with the bell idea as there is a purity about bells that reminds us of the innocence of children. As well, bells are historically associated with warnings, alarms, marking important moments, and simply pealing for the joy of connecting with the community. FAS Day is all of these things.

(From the Oxford English Dictionary:
1. The fact of agreeing or being concordant; agreement, harmony...
4. An agreeable or satisfactory blending of musical sounds or notes; harmony.)

I want to thank the tireless efforts of professionals and parents, friends and families who work towards a healthier and safe future for those affected with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)

For our sweet daughter - one of 100 live births in the USA each year - 1 of over 40,000 each year. Once again I stroke her battered wings and once again she will shake me free to try to fly. We have seen growth - and love - and a settling that was not there are a teen - a rebelliousness of fighting her disability, but of accepting it and working to understand it. Her last fall was sharp and hard, she was bruised and battered in body, mind and spirit. But like so many of us who have faced diffcult life experiences she has come through stronger and wiser. Our daughter is not a book learner, though she can read - she does not learn from videos - though she can see - she learns from walking and doing and being - and that style of learning comes at a very high cost to everyone - her, her parents and our society.

May God Bless all the children born with Fetal Alcohol today across the world. May God grant us mercy and favor to change this 100% perventable disability and all work toward Building Better Baby Brains.

Visit if you would like our free public awareness quilt.

Friday, August 15, 2008

This is a must read book for everyone as it's a topic that has been in the closet for too long.

Having compiled many books and other video resources on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder over the past 10 years or more, I have added Jodee's newest fictional story focusing on FASD to the top of my list along with her other educational books on the subject.

This is a must read book for everyone, because most of us probably know someone impacted from FASD even if we aren't aware of their problem. Jodee's characters are real life. They made me laugh with them as well as cry, and I can relate to the many problems and situations described in the Whitest Wall as I have been employed in the drug and alcohol field for the past 25 years.

FASD is an undiagnosed and misdiagnosed condition that has been ignored for too long by mental health, drug and alcohol, medical and educational field and every other social service field. Jodee's book will open everyone's eyes that FASD is a very serious issue that we all need to become better educated about as well as develop services for those impacted by it.

Jodee, I can't wait until Book 2 comes out.
Keep the Faith.

Also recommended: Everyone also needs to read The Best I Can Be by Jodee and Liz Kulp as well as The Long Way to Simple by Stephen J. Neafcy.

Glenys DiLissio, Executive Director

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


The Whitest Wall by Jodee Kulp will be released to the public in celebration of the 10th FASD Awareness Day - September 9, 2008.

Better Endings is accepting pre-publication reviews.


Libraries and community organizations will benefit from Better Endings New Beginnings new FREE downloadble window displays and handouts to celebrate International Fetal Alcohol Month in September. Packages include window display pieces, fact sheets and books at wholesale for fundraising at the community/grassroots level.
Downloads available July 31, 2008.

FASworld is an international alliance of parents and professionals who do not want to see any more children, teenagers and adults struggle with birth defects caused when their mothers drank alcohol in pregnancy. Co-founded by volunteers in Toronto, Canada, and Tucson, Arizona, it has resulted in the creation of the Canadian organization, FASworld Canada, which continues to work with the FAS Community Resource Center in Tucson to coordinate work in worldwide awareness.

About Fetal Alcohol

Individuals struggling with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders may be diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND) -- formerly known as Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) -- Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD), Alcohol-Related Birth Injury (ARBI) or Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS). (In New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and other parts of the world, these conditions are spelled, "Foetal Alcohol Syndrome," etc.).

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects may include physical, mental, behavioral and/or learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications. The term FASD is not intended for use as a clinical diagnosis.

Psychologists and psychiatrists often assess individuals with FAS disorders as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Conduct Disorder or Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) -- but are often unaware that the real problem is permanent neurological damage caused by prenatal alcohol.

People with prenatal alcohol exposure have a high risk of mental disabilities, learning disabilities, early school drop-out, juvenile delinquency, trouble with the law, alcoholism, drug addiction, unemployment, homelessness, poverty, incarceration, and mental illness. As many as half of all adults with some form of FASD have depression and a significant percentage of those have attempted suicide. With early diagnosis and treatment, many of these "secondary disabilities" could be prevented.