Bodley: A message of hope

Published 8:20pm Friday, November 16, 2012

Selma author and HIV/AIDS prevention specialist Johnny Bodley released his second book last month entitled, “If I Should Die Tonight: The Untold Stories.” Unlike his previous book, which was an autobiography, the newly published work is a series of fictional short stories, which Bodley said are inspired by his own experiences.

“I guess probably about 85 to 95 percent of this book is me, but it’s fiction. It’s mostly about teenagers who I’ve known who have died from AIDS — young people in the streets, gang bangers and hustlers,” Bodley said. “I know that if you’re going to write about something, you should write about something you know about. … And I know about HIV and AIDS; I know about the streets, I grew up in the streets; I know about hustling, I used to be a hustler; I know about being an outlaw, I used to be one. That’s why I say a lot of this book is me.”

The book, although fictional advocates HIV/AIDS and street violence prevention through a series of stories focusing on young people and teenagers who deal with serious, real life issues.

“It’s not a book of glorification of that lifestyle — actually it’s a road map for troubled teenagers,” Bodley said. “And it’s one of the reason’s I decided to write the book, because that’s the work I do, I work with people who’re infected with HIV/AIDS —teenagers, grown people, and I’ve been doing that for about 15 years.”

The target audience, Bodley said is young adults and teenagers.

“This book would help a young person more than anything else,” he said. “It’s a road map to these teenagers to save them, to keep them from going down the road that I went down, and the road a lot of the young people in this book went down who have died. [It shows them] what not to do, if a young person will read and take head in a positive way.”

Bodley’s story is not only for the pages of his new book; he has traveled to schools all over the state sharing his story and experiences with students.

“I teach them the basic facts about HIV and AIDS, how you can get it, how you can’t get it, the things you do that put you at risk of getting it,” Bodley said. “I feel so, so wonderful – sharing my story. I constantly let them know. It is so touching sometimes; I get so caught up I can hardly speak. I feel so good just letting them know where I’ve been and where I’ve come from.”

From a troubled upbringing to a published author and speaker, Bodley now gives the youth a message of hope.

“I always feel like it’s a miracle from God that I’m alive,” he said. “I get all of these letters and all of these comments from young people, thanking me for coming out to speak to them.”

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