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Dear Reflection: I Never Meant to Be a Rebel by Jessica Bell
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Dear Reflection: I Never Meant to Be a Rebel by Jessica Bell

Jessica Bell never meant to be a rebel. But growing up with two gothic rockers for parents seemed to make it inevitable.

In 1980s Australia, Erika Bach and Demetri Vlass founded ‘Ape the Cry’ and ‘Hard Candy’, two iconic Melbourne indie bands. They encouraged Jessica with unreserved love to pick up the guitar and write her own songs. But Erika’s back problem became a nightmare of pill popping, alcohol abuse, and anxiety attacks. Demetri retreated into silence for fear of triggering Erika’s drug-induced psychosis. And Jessica turned inwards, to her own reflection.

But her mirror-self was a fiend, not a friend. All it took was one secret drink at 15, and Jessica dove headlong into depression and self-destruction to escape the madness at home. Experimenting with bisexuality in a high school rife with bullies? Not a problem; she had alcohol. Losing her virginity through rape? Not a problem; she had alcohol. Trying to supplement absent love with unprotected one-night stands? Not a problem; she had alcohol… Until, one day, alcohol nearly drove Jessica off a cliff.

Jessica had to look at herself honestly and frankly. Why did she keep running from reality, and more importantly… herself?

“Because my parents were creative, they encouraged me to be creative too. So one spring weekend in 1990, with our wild jasmine bushes in full bloom, and the huge pile of wood chipping dumped in the middle of our lawn filling our backyard with its masculine scent, I had the idea to clothe our old blue VW Beetle in watercolour graffiti. But what had initially been a simple fun activity turned into something I could never again live without: uninhibited creativity and me-time. The voice in my head had hushed. For a short while, I wasn’t dreading going to school, or feeling sorry for myself, or thinking about the next time my Mum would tell me off. I’d found a place I could run. Without anyone noticing I’d gone.”

Dear Reflection is an extraordinary memoir about music, love and loss, a gripping tale of one woman’s search for identity, belonging and creative fulfilment, universal themes that will resonate with so many.

* Jessica Bell is available for interview and commission *

Please email Emma Noble or phone +61 (0)432 899139 to arrange an interview or order a review copy.

Jessica Bell is an award-winning poet, novelist, publisher, book cover designer, teacher and musician from Melbourne. She currently lives in Athens, Greece, where she is the singer in electronic indie outfit Keep Shelly in Athens. Jessica is touring Australia on publication. Watch Jessica in action here.

[Published by Vine Leaves Press, 10 July 2017, $22.99 pb / $3.99 e-book]

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