Each of these books deals with different aspects of bullying. Bullying can be anything, including but not limited to social exclusion, verbal, mental and physical abuse. For each of these books, there is a different reason for the bullying, whether it be small-mindedness, jealousy or dislike for someone different. But for today, I'd like to talk about something different and share with you some of my own experiences with bullying growing up.
I don't know about you, but I went through quite a lot of bullying as a child. I am half Native-Alaskan, and together with my older brother, we were generally two of a very small handful of minority students in our school districts. So everywhere we went, we'd have to deal with some level of racist name-calling. We were usually mistaken for Mexican and would be called anything from 'Wetback' to 'Mexi-tot'(those tater tots that used to be sold at Taco Time). It always felt like a battlefield in the cafeteria, like there were only certain tables that I was allowed to sit at.
Later, in middle school, another student in my class decided to single me out and mutter the N word at me every chance he got, mixing the name-calling with the threat of physical violence. He used to follow me around, intimidating me at every opportunity and I dreaded going to school. (He was eventually expelled from the school for holding a younger student at knife-point in order to steal their lunch money.)
But the name-calling didn't stop with the racist abuse - anything from wearing glasses (Four-Eyes), my weight (Fatty), my hair style (Lesbian) - it always seemed that someone had something nasty to say to me, to make me feel worthless, ugly, stupid, and powerless. The mocking, the name-calling, the very subtle negative remarks had a huge impact on my self-esteem and my confidence. I was singled out, humiliated. It prevented me from doing certain activities, it made me feel scared and helpless and alone.
Because we often moved and changed schools frequently, during this time, I never felt as though I had a support network or someone to turn to for advice or help. Instead of standing up to my bullies, I sat in silence and let them get away with it. I wish things had been different. When I moved to a different school district where we were able to settle down and stay for awhile, I did fall into a wonderful group of friends and together we coped with things a lot better (it didn't go away, I just wasn't as isolated). I wish that the guidance counsellors and teachers were able to help more, that there was a better system in place for others, like me, who were bullied. In retrospect, while it may have felt differently at the time, my experiences were probably quite minor and there are many who did had it a lot worse.
But it isn't like it is is movies and TV, is it? There was never a concerned teacher asking me to stay after class because they'd noticed my grades dropping. If I was aware of the guidance counsellor in school (which I rarely was!), then his/her offices would always be hugely inaccessible, buried amongst the school reception and I wouldn't dare show up around there, not knowing where to go. It was easy to lie to my dad and saying things were 'fine' at school and nobody, not the teachers, the guidance counsellors, my parents, my friends seemed to notice me slip into depression, my loss of appetite or my attempts at shrinking into myself. I can't say that it was all down to the bullying at school, but it played a big part in my childhood.
If there was anything I could change or any advice that I'd like to give to myself or to anyone else suffering bullying - is that you really must speak up. Your parents, your friends, your teachers, your guidance councellor. They're all there to help you, but they can't do it alone and they aren't mind readers. If you've experienced any of these problems, do speak speak up and speak out against bullying. And it does get better. Don't lose hope.
I've decided in celebration of Anti-Bullying Week, to give away my copy of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. I love Speak and by extension, Laurie Halse Anderson. She writes really gritty and realistic books for teenagers. I'd have loved to have read her book in middle school and high school.
If you would like to read this wonderful book, or if you would like to donate it to your local library or give it to a friend who hasn't read it, please leave me a 'pick me' comment below together with an email address and I will choose one winner by Wednesday the 24 November. This giveaway is open internationally.
This post was written for Anti-Bully Week, being hosted over at Asamum Booktopia.