Early praise for Bleeder:

“Shelby Smoak’s writing is penetrated with pain and loneliness that came into his life after contracting HIV from a blood transfusion. His hemophilia courses through his writing as a theme the way blood courses through veins. … [Bleeder is] a coming-of-age story that reminds us that growing up is part what happens to you and part what you decide to do with those circumstances.”
–Hannah Oliver, Politics & Prose bookstore

“That Shelby Smoak has chosen to relive all he has suffered in this vivid and honest memoir is amazing enough. That he is able to recount his most painful moments without self-pity, with humility, grace and even humor, is what makes Bleeder such a necessary and memorable book.” —Michael Parker, author of The Watery Part of the World.

“Raw and delicate, poignant and poetic, Shelby Smoak’s Bleeder exposes the sorrow and sometimes sweetness of coming to age with HIV. In a world of misunderstanding and stigmas, the young Smoak searches for love and acceptance, and his readers can’t help but find themselves becoming emotionally attached to him. His is an observant and encompassing story, noticing the brilliance of existence that others might take for granted. The sunsets written here are more lovely than in life.” —Jenny Boully, author of The Body

“Brave, unflinching, and utterly transfixing, Shelby Smoak’s Bleeder captivated me from its first lines. Like Lucy Grealy’s Autobiography of a Face, this memoir asks how one goes about living some semblance of a normal life–college, romance, job–while living with the most severe of illnesses, in Smoak’s case severe hemophilia and HIV, along with all the ensuing complications. That he does so with not just brutal honesty, but humor and grace, is testament to his strength and promise as a writer. I couldn’t put this book down.” —Joanna Smith Rakoff, author of A Fortunate Age

“Shelby Smoak’s Bleeder is a strongly written, mournful tale of a young man learning that the medicine he has taken to treat hemophilia has the disastrous side effect of giving him HIV. I have rarely read anything as moving or as deeply human as this memoir, and admire the clarity with which Smoak has shaped this painful narrative. As a hemophiliac myself, I have lived through much of what Smoak writes about, and can vouch for the depth of truth these pages contain. This is a superb book.” —Jim Grimsley, author of Winter Birds and Dream Boy

“Michigan State University Press will release the memoir “Bleeder” by former Wilmington resident Shelby Smoak on Feb. 1. It should be a whale of a story — and a publishing event. Smoak was a student at the University of North Carolina Wilmington in the 1990s and played in a number of area bands. His life made the average adolescent’s problems look trivial by comparison.”
Star News (Wilmington, NC)