Release Date: March 5th 2013
For sixteen-year-old Badi Hessamizadeh, life is a series of humiliations. After withdrawing from public school under mysterious circumstances, Badi enters Magnificat Academy. To make things “easier,” his dad has even given him a new name: Bud Hess. Grappling with his Iranian-American identity, clinical depression, bullying, and a barely bottled rage, Bud is an outcast who copes by resorting to small revenges and covert acts of defiance, but the pressures of his home life, plummeting grades, and the unrequited affection of his new friend, Nikki, prime him for a more dangerous revolution. Strange letters to the editor begin to appear in Magnificat’s newspaper, hinting that some tragedy will befall the school. Suspicion falls on Bud, and he and Nikki struggle to uncover the real culprit and clear Bud’s name.Being yourself can be such a bad idea.
Permanent Record explodes with dark humor, emotional depth, and a powerful look at the ways the bullied fight back.
I really enjoyed PERMANENT RECORD. It was probably the most.. real book I have ever read. The cast of characters was phenomenal, each one different. I was surprised at how even the minor characters added so much depth to the story.Badi Hessamizadeh, AKA “Bud Hess,” might be just my favorite male narrator ever. He is picked on in school for being a little different, and one day-someone brings him over the edge. The consequences are life-changing. Badi’s father changes his name to be more “American.” Bud is enrolled in a new school with a new start, but the mystery behind his leaving his old school follows him-and it doesn’t want to seem to let go.
Badi finds friends in two people from the school’s newspaper. Nikki and Reggie. These two are a little strange, a little different-but just like Badi. They were the perfect friends for him, and I enjoyed reading about their dynamic and their close relationship. The romance that bloomed between each was so pure and real, it was such a fresh experience. No insta-love here.
During this story, Badi’s history seems to be repeating itself. He begins to be bullied again, and now someone is framing him for various things happening around the school. He is being targeted because of his race the most. Just like at his old school, Badi is reaching the end of his patience with his bullies. He has a plan, one that will “fix” everything. A very dangerous plan, indeed.
Leslie Stella does a fantastic job on touching the sensitive issue of racism by creating a fictional background complete with characters you can’t help but love. This is a story we all can relate to-because we have all been bullied once or twice. It is what you do about it that defines you. We learn this lesson right along with Badi. I just had to have her for an interview about this novel!
Where did you get the inspiration for Badi’s character? He is very different from the average male protagonist.
At first, he grew from my obsession with the Wes Anderson movie Rushmore and its protagonist, Max. I have a thing for outsiders trying to create a place for themselves when the world conspires to exclude them. (I also have a deep attraction for any story where the setting, in both these cases a school, functions so prominently as to be almost a character in its own right.) Bud is bullied and put-upon, and he embodies the qualities I love best in heroes: he struggles between his innate good nature and a reactionary thirst for revenge when he gets pushed too far. He is so human, and he wants to be “a good kid,” but he fears that he doesn’t have it in him. I wanted to create a character that could sometimes be difficult to root for because you see him slipping and you want to shout at him, No! Don’t do it! You’re better than this!” When the reader becomes fully invested in a protagonist’s conflict, it’s much sweeter when he surmounts it.
The story deals with Iranian culture, did you have to do research for this or does the content come from personal experience?
My family was friends with an Iranian family when I was growing up. I worked for them in high school, and my sister dated one of the boys. The Persian background of Bud and his relatives was based on that family. I learned so much about Persian culture from them, and about the dynamics within the family and what is expected of the children, particularly the difference between expectations for the daughters vs. sons. They were so interesting because while they were somewhat traditional in their views and culture, they also had a very open and modern view of America and all it had to offer. I wanted my protagonist’s family to be like that, treading that line between who they were and who they were becoming, and I wanted to show how complex it was to have traditional expectations of first-generation children growing up in American culture.What thought or lesson would you like your readers to take away from PERMANENT RECORD
High school is a microcosm of the cruelty and conformity of the larger world beyond. Telling a victim of bullying to “get over it” or “ignore it” reinforces the idea that it is acceptable to treat people that way, and that the onus of recovery is placed squarely on the victim’s shoulders. Bullies grow up, and if we do nothing to stop their behavior, they enter our workforce and communities and political arenas with more power and fewer people to stop them.