Ki Brightly Guest Post: College and Universities

Please help me welcome Ki Brightly to the blog today, chatting about her latest 5 star reviewed book Trust Trade.

College and Universities

Hello Readers! I would like to thank Gay Book Reviews for allowing me to be here today. My newest book Trust Trade went up for sale on January 27th. It’s one of those books that is little of this and a little of that—sort of a crime drama/thriller, a lot of romance. (Of course, it’s a romance. Every good story is a love story.)

A good chunk of Trust Trade takes place on a college campus. Jeb has had enough of hustling and the street life and finally found himself in a spot to pursue something different, and hopefully worlds better: an education. In theory, this education should open doors for him that he wouldn’t be able to access otherwise. Jeb meets Freddy at the bookstore on campus when he is shopping for a few of the books for his classes, and their romance takes off from there.

As I began writing Trust Trade, I didn’t really think too much of it when I decided that Jeb and Freddy would be in college. It was just a thing for them to be doing. Everyone’s doing something, right? But as I began thinking about topics I could talk about for the blog tour, I realized that college itself is a very strange, almost sacred institution in my mind. Like Jeb, I grew up poor. I wasn’t as poor as he was, but I grew up as a child of a single parent, and there was never enough money to go around. I was lucky because when I was little we lived with my grandparents and there was always an adult to take care of me, and my basic needs were absolutely always met. But there was never much more than what we needed to get by, and any emergency had the potential to rock the boat. Someone needs a new car? There’s no money for that. I grew two inches over the summer and need a whole new wardrobe? My grandmother would go into meltdown mode. Living near the poverty line is a stressful problem, one that many families face. Life was always a struggle for us, and through it all Grandma told me this: Go to college. Get an education. Then you’ll be set for life. That’s really how she saw things. A degree was this magical piece of paper that would make everything better. It was as if the paper itself, not the education it represented, was what mattered, like if I could break into some secret vault somewhere and steal one I wouldn’t even need to go to school, the inherent magic within the degree would just sort of seep into me and make me a superstar.

You couldn’t have a good life without going to college.

Education is never a bad thing, and she obviously passed this reverence for higher education on to me. I learned years later this stemmed from the fact that she herself never got to go because her parents chose to sink their savings into a store her sister started rather than her education. Women’s education weren’t generally considered very important at the time, especially in the area I grew up. I don’t think she ever got over that, and that was, apparently, before borrowing for school was the usual thing.

I turned the love of learning she instilled in me into an obsession. I pursued it relentlessly, eventually earning three degrees, but here’s the thing— it also made me a snob. For a while, while I was in school, I honestly viewed the world as people who were good enough to be in school, and everyone else. I thought I was superior because I had made the cut and was going to make my home in academia. I would never have to get my hands dirty, never be trapped in corporate America. I was golden. My nose couldn’t get higher in the air.

Oh, I wish I could go back and pat that sweet moon child on the head. I had no fucking clue, about life or anything else.

Because guess what? I graduated the same year that the Great Recession hit. 2007-2008 were officially the worst years on record to have a college degree. Everyone was looking for a job, it seemed, and most people had that illusive thing I did not: experience.

My degrees didn’t mean jack and/or shit.

Worst of all I couldn’t pay back my massive student loan debt. I was able to scrape together the bare minimum payments every month, but it was always iffy. I had to work extra hours to do it. I had to beg for more time at the job I was able to get—and even though I hated it I had to keep it.

I wasn’t better than anyone. Where was all this magic I had expected?

And when my car broke down? I couldn’t fix it. I had to walk three miles to and from work. I took call center jobs and food service jobs and retail jobs and worked alongside people without degrees and people who had my amount of education twice over. Everyone was scraping to get by, and as far as I can see though things are better than they were it’s still see happening.

My first years after graduation were a humbling experience, and one I’m deeply grateful for. I met and mingled with people from all walks of life instead of being able to cloister myself off in an extremely homogenous, monied, existence.

A college education is amazing, wonderful, a privilege certainly, but it doesn’t make anyone better than anyone else. We are all people. And even if everyone had a college degree someone would still need to do the real world things we need to make life possible: fix roads, fix cars, build houses, clean hospitals, draw blood, work at grocery stores and restaurants…I could go on and on. Every job that exists does so because we want to access those services. There are a million technical jobs that you may need training for, but not a degree, and make more money than half the things you can get a college degree for ever will.

For a while I thought the world was all about money. And guess what I learned? It isn’t. It’s about people. It’s about being happy.

All the education in the world won’t make you happy or guarantee a life you’re content with.

But to Jeb, who has been poor most of his life and living desperately and unhappy, college had that holy grail appeal, something that he could do that would fix everything and make it all better. It had to. He couldn’t think of anything else that would be able to guarantee an easier path.

On the flip side is Freddy. Freddy went to college. It was a given he would get there, certainly, because he did okay in school and his family had the means to send him. It was expected. He’s happy enough to be there, but it’s not necessarily the right fit for him. He’s doing “what he’s supposed to do” to do it, without really thinking about it or attaching much value to it. He’s the other end of the spectrum of how people think about school. People who come from comfortable positions in life are simply expected to go. There’s no discussion. There might be a small amount of horror from their parents if they said they didn’t want to.

Freddy would have probably been happier simply getting his certifications to be a personal fitness trainer. And by the end of the story that’s what he ends up doing. In Trust Trade I think I inadvertently highlighted the double edged sword that getting an education can be—it can be good, but it can also sink you into a pit in certain ways. Jeb ends up at Nolan’s mercy over his reverence for school and all it has been built up to mean in his mind. He thinks it will make him a better person, when in reality, it’s his own actions that make him a good or bad person, and by the end of Trust Trade he has figured that out.

Jeb and Freddy’s story isn’t an easy one—it’s full of pitfalls and heartbreak, but they belong with one another. I hope you stick through the rough spots in their relationship to get to their happily ever after along with them.

Happy Reading!
Ki Brightly

Trust Trade.
Title: Trust Trade (Gem City Grit #1)
Author: Ki Brightly
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: 27th Jan, 2017
Genre(s): Broken/Damaged Hero, Contemporary, Abuse, Healing
Page Count : 340
Reviewed by: PIU and Natosha

Life hasn’t been good to Jeb Birchman. When he attempted to escape his abusive, zealot father, he found himself on the streets, making a living the only way he knew how, the victim of more violent men—one of whom orchestrates a series of vicious attacks that leave Jeb deaf. Now that he’s aged beyond his latest client’s interest, Jeb knows he needs to escape his risky lifestyle before it’s too late. Seeing one last chance for himself, he earns a GED and enrolls in college.

Freddy Williams enjoys a life that couldn’t be more different from what Jeb has survived. He loves sports, being a personal trainer, and hanging out with friends. The son of deaf parents, Freddy is an outspoken advocate of the Deaf community and works as an interpreter at his college. When he meets Jeb at the bookstore, he’s struck by how attractive he is, and as they get to know each other, he finds Jeb’s good heart just as appealing. By the time he learns of Jeb’s past, it’s only a few steps behind them, and Freddy must make a choice between school and his familiar routine and protecting the man he’s falling in love with.

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About Ki

Ki grew up in small town nowhere pretending that meteor showers were aliens invading, turning wildflowers into magic potions, and reading more than was probably healthy. Ki had one amazing best friend, one endlessly out of grasp “true love”, and a personal vendetta against normalcy.

Now, as an adult, living in Erie, Pennsylvania, Ki enjoys the sandy beaches, frigid winters, and a wonderful fancy water addiction. Seriously, fancy waters…who knew there were so many different kinds? It’s just water…and yet…

Ki shares this life with a Muse, a Sugar Plum, and two wonderful children.

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