Published by Adams Media Corporation on August 17th, 2010
Source: complimentary review copy
An epidemic is happening in our schools. It seems like every day we hear of another teen or child who has been terrorized, beaten, or worse – murdered, at the hands of a peer. Bullying has become such an epidemic in the United States that sometimes I wonder – have we become de-sensitized to the damage being done to our children?
Yesterday a 10th-grade student held 24 students hostage in a Wisconsin school. The hostages were rescued, but tragically, the student turned the gun on himself taking his own life. According to FOX & CNN News, we may never know what led to the circumstances of yesterday’s horror.
Through the woods and down the mountain in my own backyard, Bobby Tillman was stomped, kicked and beaten to death at a party by four other much larger boys. The supposed reason? A party got out of hand. It was to be a small gathering of about 10 but grew to over 70 people. When some were asked to leave a fight broke out outside between two males and two females. When one of the females hit one of the males, he said he wouldn’t hit a woman BUT he would beat the next man who walked by. That young man was 18-year old Bobby Tillman. The male proceeded along with 3 of his buddies to beat, stomp and kick Bobby Tillman to death….and over 50 bystanders stood by and allowed it to happen.
It was terrible, and so many people watched it like it was a sport. I keep seeing it over and over,” she said. “The saddest part to me is that no one helped. I wish I could have gotten home earlier and that my lights would have scared them. Kizzy Powell, next door neighbor, The Associated Press
The four teenagers have been charged with murder.
If you’ve been hanging around for any length of time you know I have three teenagers. Helping to build an awareness and share information about bullying is of paramount concern to me.
That’s why when I was given the chance to review Please Stop Laughing at Me by Jodee Blanco, I welcomed the opportunity. When I began reading Please Stop Laughing at Me I thought I was reading a page out of my diary….had I gone to my 20 year high school reunion. (I was still not ready to face them after 20 years). These first lines read like dialogue I would have with myself:
This is crazy. Why am I afraid? I’m behaving as if this is my first black-tie affair. Hell, I’ve hosted parties for heads of state. Not only do I often mingle and make interesting conversation with some truly important people, but I am frequently in charge of those events and under pressure to ensure that every detail goes smoothly……Yet, here I am, sitting in a rental care in a hotel parking lot in suburban Chicago where I grew up, scared to go to a party in my own hometown. I’m being ridiculous. It’s just a high school reunion. They can’t hurt me anymore.
Ms. Blanco bares her childhood soul in this book; revealing the scars roughly healed left from years and years of being the victim of bullying. Ms. Blanco shares how she went from being one of the most popular children in her small grade school, having several friends and always someone to sit with at lunch to being shunned by her closest friends in fifth grade. This grows into a horrible, almost traumatic experience for the young Jodee as it continues until she has to change schools. As soon as the young Jodee makes a friend or appears to be doing a bit better socially in school another bully slaps her down either literally or figuratively. Please Stop Laughing at Me carries us through Ms. Blanco’s journey through her school career and what she has learned about bullying then and since.
Jodee’s grandmother moved in with them while she was growing up and became a treasured gem – when Jodee is deciding whether to continue trying to fit in her 9th grade year or trust her own instincts, values and beliefs she goes to her grandmother for advice. Her grandmother offers this sage advice:
Jodee, you can overcome sadness, loneliness, even terrible loss. But guilt goes with you to the grave. (p. 113)
Jodee shares some thoughts at the end of her 11th grade year:
I’ve been blessed. Despite getting knocked down so many times, God keeps putting people in my corner at just the right time who give me the courage and strength to come out for one more round. Often, the opponent isn’t another fighter, but my own self-doubt. (p. 212)
When you’re a victim of any kind of abuse, you can do one of two things. You can learn how to turn your pain into purpose and make a difference in the world, or you can allow it to extinguish the light inside you. (p. 213)
One of things Ms. Blanco credits her parents in helping her through the school-age years is they signed her up in a theater production group in a different city outside the circle of students who would bully Jodee.This helped build her self-esteem and allowed her to see that she was good at something.
Please Stop Laughing at Me reads with the ease of a fiction novel, but rather, it is filled with critical information about bullying. Parents should buy this book when their child enters grade school; teachers of all grades should definitely read it – anyone who works with youth, this is a must read. What would really be a beautiful thing is if every high school student read this book, heard Ms. Blanco speak, and had an entire class devoted to anti-bullying and leadership development.