Book Review: A Different Kind of Giant by John Greaves III
A Different Kind of Giant by John Greaves III is certainly a different kind of book. It tells the story of Zac Matthews who has a tough time coming of age in Atlanta, Georgia after losing his family in Tennessee. One his greatest challenges is dealing with the fact that he’s a little person under 5’ tall. Despite being a competitive powerlifter and wrestler, Zac’s strongest muscle is his heart. He’s a young man trying to do good in a world that doesn’t want or accept him. Fortunately, Zac makes some fast friends in Atlanta who show him the love and acceptance he’s needed.
It was great to see a book written that touched on two different social aspects (1) little people and (2) powerlifting. There aren’t many books written about these subjects, and Greaves is to be commended for helping to promote awareness in the mainstream.
Perhaps the book speaks to me on a certain level since I was a kid from the “wrong side of the tracks.” In my youth, I remember carrying a chip on my shoulder, and just like Zac, I tuned to weight training as a means of proving my own self-worth. However, despite my own personal frame of reference, I believe many people would enjoy this uplifting story.
How did the story of A Different Kind of Giant originate? Three years ago when my son Marshal was fourteen, he and I were running errands in Atlanta traffic. He suddenly turned off the radio and asked me to tell him a story. Zac just sprang to life as I began talking. He really hasn’t changed too much in the three years since. Anyway, I paused the story whenever we got out the car and whenever we got back into the car, my Marshal would ask me to pick up where I’d left off. Eventually I typed up the manuscript as a birthday present for Marshal and he encouraged me to get it published. Then the hard part started.
What personal experiences did you draw from while writing the book? I worked in a gym for five years after college and I remember seeing a powerlifter who was a Little Person come in to bench press. He was stronger than many of the “average sized” people. Not pound for pound stronger, just stronger! He was about 125lbs and bench pressing close to 300lbs. That made a HUGE impression. I also happen to be a black person. So I have a good understanding of what it means to be judged based on appearance. Some people assume they know what sort of music I like, my political views, and they even have preconceived notions about how I should speak. I spoke to many Little People during the writing and publishing process, and I really empathize with their struggle.
Although this book is work of fiction, how many of the scenes came from real-life scenarios you have encountered or witnessed? Well, it was tough because at 5’9, 200lbs I’m obviously not a Little Person. However, I did train in mixed martial arts for several years and all of my four boys have wrestled competitively. Wrestling is another sport where being shorter is a huge advantage because the shorter guy is tough to turn and frequently has more muscle mass than a taller guy at the same weight class. So I used those experiences for the fight scenes. I’m a Masters level powerlifter, and I see guys at competitions who are under 5 feet all of the time. For example, I’ve seen Eric Head bench press, and he’s a 500lb bencher at 132lbs!
What did you learn by writing the book? My findings were both uplifting and sad. On the one hand, I met and read about many amazing athletes, a lot of whom compete and win against average sized people. My friend, MMA fighter, Tyler “Hulk Hands” Freeland is knocking average sized athletes out in his weight class regularly! But, I honestly was surprised that Little People are not more united. They’re all struggling for respect, but there seems to be a lot of division as they discuss who is and who is not a Little Person. By contrast, in the 70s, Blacks were excited whenever anyone who even looked Black did something great, I don’t see the same level of unification for Little People who accomplish things. I’m thinking of triathletes like my friend John Young who gets a ton of support from people of average size, but other Little People I’ve talked to don’t know who he is. Even if you don’t follow that activity, you should support those who look like you. I don’t follow baseball but I know who Hank Aaron is. The conflict in Rwanda a few years ago had Little People massacred and eaten, but many Little People in America would say that those victims weren’t Little People because although their average height is 4’8, they don’t have medically diagnosed dwarfism.
If readers take away just one message from the story, what message do you want that to be? One of my favorite quotes from the book is, “If LeBron James lived in a country where there was no basketball, everyone would feel sorry for him because would be the over-sized kid who got picked last to play soccer and could never get clothes and shoes that fit him. But he’s a star because he found his niche and developed his gifts in that area.” Everyone has a gift that is unique to them; sometimes we just don’t see it. Spend less time trying to be someone else and more time developing your own strengths.
You can order the book on your Kindle here: A Different Kind of Giant (Zac and Mya Book 1)
About the Author
John Greaves III is the head coach of The Iron Journey, a not for profit garage gym ministry. He has been writing since receiving his BA from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. A Different Kind Of Giant is his first novel, and is currently available on Amazon and wherever ebooks are sold. He’s a member of the Georgia Writer’s Association, Python Power League, USA Powerlifting, Southern Powerlifting Federation and the World United Amateur Powerlifting-USA. He most recently competed in squat, bench and deadlift in the USAPL Georgia Powerlifting For Pups, nine days post surgery on his right leg. His athletes include the current WUAP-USA champions in the teenage 75kg class and State Placers in youth wrestling. A Different Kind of Giant, has been reviewed by the Little People of America and added to their list of fiction featuring dwarf characters. You can contact John via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and please like his page at https://facebook.com/
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