Teen author Riyani Patel has already written two books that aim to raise awareness of some of the challenges that kids like her struggle with on a daily basis, with her latest work having debuted as a “No. 1 new release” on Amazon in November 2020. Her ongoing advocacy efforts continue this weekend, with an Oct. 2 event in Morgan Hill to support National Bullying Prevention Month.
The free community event will take place from 10am to 12pm at the Community and Cultural Center, 17000 Monterey Road. The event will feature numerous speakers, including Patel, a 17-year-old Morgan Hill resident and a senior at Sobrato High School. Patel has been the target of childhood bullying because she suffers from the neurodevelopmental disorder Tourette syndrome, which is characterized by uncontrollable vocal and motor tics.
Patel and her father, Yogesh Patel, are hoping to see a large crowd at the Oct. 2 event.
“October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Everyone is invited (Oct. 2) so they can be inspired, and I can share my story and they can really understand what’s going on,” Riyani said in a recent interview.
In a short video posted on Youtube promoting the Morgan Hill event, Yogesh noted that one out of every five students report being bullied in school. “We want to change that ratio,” he said.
“Join us to make a difference, as we discuss solutions to help lessen (bullying’s) effects,” he added.
Riyani Patel published her debut book in 2017, at age 13. The fictional book is titled The Boy Battle, and follows a character who, like the author, suffers from Tourette syndrome. She wrote the book to raise awareness of the disorder, which can become evident in early childhood or adolescence.
The tics she exhibited due to Tourette syndrome made Riyani a target of bullying when she was in middle school—often to the point where she wanted to go home early. For her second book, The ‘Terrible’ Bullies, she wanted to make a difference again by raising awareness of bullying and inspiring other kids who face similar struggles.
“For the person that is being bullied, you have the courage to stick up for yourself and tell that person this isn’t right and they should leave you alone,” Riyani said. “It’s also about empathy and understanding of others. The bully should understand what that person is going through and whatever you do or say can hurt others.”
Since she started high school at Sobrato, Riyani hasn’t been bullied nearly as much. “Kids in high school are more understanding and much more mature about it,” she said.
For The ‘Terrible’ Bullies, Riyani is represented by Mascot Books, which is based in Washington, D.C. The publisher offered valuable resources for the editing, marketing and illustration of the book, Riyani said.
In November 2020, the book debuted as a “No. 1” release in the Teen & Young Adult category.
“Following The Boy Battle, The ‘Terrible Bullies’ finds the three main characters Tanya, Jake, and Diamond teaming up together to stop the new bullies in high school,” reads the description of the book on Amazon.com. “As the trio begin their freshman year at Bridge Bank High, they want to do the right thing to stop bullying.”
Riyani’s advocacy efforts include her role as a Youth Ambassador for the Tourette Association of America. As such, she participates in the association’s efforts to educate broader audiences about Tourette syndrome.
Asked if there was one thing she would like people to know about Tourette syndrome, Riyani said, “First, before judging someone, ask what they’re going through. People would say mean things to me (because) they don’t really know what’s going on. In my advice, I would say, (you should) ask that person what’s going on so you can understand.”
In a press release, Riyani noted that 1 in 160 school-aged children are diagnosed with Tourette syndrome. The uncontrollable tics that characterize the disorder are “like a sneeze” that can’t be helped.
“We are not any different from other kids that want to have friends and hang out,” she added.
Riyani remains busy as an author. She started working on her third book this summer, though she isn’t ready to reveal details yet.
After she graduates high school, Riyani hopes to attend Chapman University and study screenwriting.
National Bullying Prevention Month was founded in 2006 by the nonprofit PACER Center. The campaign, which lasts throughout the month of October every year, “unites communities to educate and raise awareness of bullying prevention,” says the PACER Center’s website.