Allison's Book Bag

Dear Bully, Edited by Megan Hall and Carrie Jones

Posted on: July 18, 2014

My greatest fear before reading Dear Bully was that the approach would be one-sided. To a lesser extent, I also worried about its subtitle: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories. What if the anthology’s appeal lay only in the fact the essays within were written by authors? I’m happy to report that both of my concerns were quickly allayed. In fact, I ended up less than halfway in checking the price on the back to see how much it would cost to purchase Dear Bully.

Why does it matter if the approach is one-sided? When 19,000 bullied children attempt to commit suicide over the course of one year, isn’t it vitally important that we all share one voice on this issue? Don’t we simply want to say bullying is bad? The problem with this approach as one author correctly noted is that in reality we all have good and bad in us, meaning that most everyone has been on both sides of the fence at some point or another. Then there’s the fact that some people become bullies because of suffering abuse in their own lives. Not that this is an excuse for their wrong choices, but it’s still a factor to consider before we label all bullies as Satan in human form. So I felt it proper that some authors wrote not about how they were bullied, but how they moved past being bullies.

Okay then, don’t we at least want to encourage that bullying can be survived? Ah, but how should bullying be survived? Is it enough to ignore the bully? The problem with this approach as one author aptly noted is that it’s darn difficult to ignore a person who is knocking books out of your hands, hauling on one’s hair, or even going so far as to hit and punch one. Of course not all bullying is physical; some of it is verbal. And as the old adage goes, “sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me”. As such, at least this type of bullying can be ignored. Except as some of the contributors pointed out, even for them today as adults there is a part of them that cringes at certain phrases. In addition, many of the authors had their personalities formed not by the compliments bestowed on them by their friends, but instead by the insults hurled at them by their enemies. Finally, more than one author ended his essay with the wry sentiment that bullying gave him his best material or ended her essay by saying that turning to writing is what enabled them to survive. With these comments, they indirectly proved the point that bullying has long-term effects, and so ignoring it isn’t necessarily the best option.

As you can see by now, bullying is a complex issue. That’s why I appreciate how multi-faceted Dear Bully is. Through the medley of many different voices, the message comes across loud and clear that bullying comes in all shapes and forms. It can be as subtle as rumors which ruins one’s reputation, take the more blatant form of insults, be as innocuous as being pushed out of line, or prove as life-threatening as being physically beaten up. Bullying also happens for all kinds of reasons. One author compiled a list, which included these contradictions: “Having less money than some of my classmates, Having more money than some of my classmates, Being taller than everyone else, Being shorter than everyone else, Being a prude, Being a slut, Hating my parents, Loving my parents….” In a succinct way, he expressed the idea that the anthology as a whole showed, which is that being different (even in the littlest way) makes one a potential victim. And so if there is a simple solution to bullying, it is to value everyone for who they are, not in spite of their differences but because of them. Unfortunately, that lesson can’t be taught with a brochure or a lecture, but is something that must be lived out daily by everyone throughout all our lives.

I’ve ended up writing far more than I intended and so let me end by addressing my second concern about Dear Bully. What does it matter who wrote the essays? To me, in that I’ll devour anything about authors, I thought it might bias my perspective of Dear Bully. Perhaps it did, but then again, the editors had hoped that young people might feel inspired by reading the experiences of those authors whom they follow. So Dear Bully will obviously best cater to those teens who like to read. Yet the substance of the essays is what impacted most me, not who wrote them. Over all, Dear Bully should have high appeal to anyone who wants to be part of the solution.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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