Monday, September 3, 2012

Book Review: "Bullied" by Carrie Goldman

Remember Katie, the Star Wars Girl?  She was bullied in the first grade (Nov 2010) because of her Star Wars water bottle.  Her mom, Carrie Goldman, blogged about the incident, the post went viral, and the geek community - filled with people who knew what Katie was feeling - came out in insane numbers to support this little girl. Our very own KC who wrote an open letter to Katie on this blog (here it is).  Nearly a year later (Oct 2011), I had the opportunity to interview Katie's mom, Carrie.  We talked about the initial incident and the response from both the online and local community, as well as how to deal with bullying.  (Show notes and streaming audio)  That's when Carrie shared that she was working on this book, Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know about Ending the Cycle of Fear, which was released on August 14 of this year.

On page 14, while recounting Katie's story - the impetus for this project - Goldman writes: "When people wrote comments to Katie, they were writing them to all children; they were writing comments to themselves in the past, to the teased and taunted geeky girls they had been decades ago."  I was one of those people, and I think that's why I connected to Katie's story so strongly back in 2010, and have continued to follow it. I saw in my own story in Katie's, so many years later.  And now, Carrie has done something wonderful and taken the attention and support that Katie's story received and is trying to help others in similar situations.

This book is not simply about punishing bullying behavior or "fixing" bullies.  Carrie has come at this topic from every angle.  She identifies early on what bullying really is - "a repetitive, unwanted attack in the context of a power imbalance" - and why it occurs - differences.  She talks about the concept of the bully-victim - a child who has been victimized who is now bullying others to boost self-confidence.  She addresses warning signs of a bully and the warning signs of a victim.  She examines what makes a child  seem different to her peers -  whether it be a physical or mental disability, interests, defiance of gender norms, socioeconomic status, sexuality, appearance - and tries to debunk many of our societal stereotypes while reminding us that kids tend to copy the behavior of their parents.

Carrie spoke to bullies and victims, as well as psychologists, parents, and school professionals.  She addresses many different schools of thought on dealing with bullying at different grade levels, including what actions victims themselves have said are the most and least helpful.  She even shares her own struggles with taking everything she has learned while working on this book and combining different schools of thought into her own parenting.  She gives advice for parents, educators, kids, and event adults on how best to handle a bullying situation.

I will warn you that some of the stories shared in this book are absolutely heartbreaking, and they left me wondering how people can be so cruel at times.  I was certainly bullied while growing up, but nothing to the extent of some of these stories.  And while my own experiences pale in comparison, I did find myself thinking about some incidents and people that hadn't even crossed my mind in over a decade.  So take caution if necessary. 

At this time in my life, I am not a parent, teacher, or kid.  But I think that subtitle could be a little misleading.  The information put forth is this book is something that everyone needs to know, because bullying is not just limited to schoolyards and people under the age of 18.  I would encourage everyone to pick this up and read it.  Everyone.  (Available online or at your local bookstore.)

Staff Writer for Anomaly
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