Monday, April 05, 2010

Teen Bullying, Adult Hypocrisy, and Seeking Books that Slam Slander

"Bullying is so much worse now than when I was a kid."

"Must be because of the internet and cellphones."

I overhear parking lot conversations like these between parents, and my blood boils a bit. I don't like adult hypocrisy when we talk about teen culture. Yes, gossip and slander are endemic and brutal in high school, but it's no surprise given that our entire culture seems to bond by trash-talking and celebrity-bashing. There's something in us that relishes tearing down as a way to gain power. And that old saw about sticks and stones stinks, because words are so powerful they can make you want to break your own bones.

I'm being asked to emphasize this problem during author visits here in Massachusetts thanks to a recent tragedy in our state and my own experiences in school. In order to stand before students with any measure of integrity, I have to start by searching my own habits:  Do I tear someone down—be they celebrity, cousin, or colleague—in my speaking or writing (including tweets, retweets, sharing links, blog posts, and status updates) to get cozy with a crowd or sound "cool"? Even if it's funny. Especially if it's funny.

I'd like to offer a list of good children's and YA novels that reveal the destructive power of gossip and slander. Got suggestions? I'll compile.

12 comments:

  1. Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles
    Slam Book by Ann M. Martin (old school, but it was the first book I ever read dealing with a serious issue like that)
    Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
    Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

    ReplyDelete
  2. Not all of these are directly about slander, but in some way deal with bullying, teasing, name calling, etc.

    Sticks and Stones by Beth Goobie

    Names Will Never Hurt Me Jaimie Adoff

    The Earth, My Butt and Other Big, Round Things by Carolyn Mackler

    Hate List by Jennifer Brown

    Vintage Veronica by Erica Perl

    ReplyDelete
  3. SOME GIRLS ARE by Courtney Summers, for sure.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great post. I have been a little bit conflicted this past week - of course I agree with condemning bullying. But I think we also need to evaluate the extent to which we live in a bullying culture. Anyone who has watched the masses of American adults scream hatred at elected officials, or people trash teenaged "celebrities" for their outfits, weight and falls from grace, should by now know that we're not really, as a culture, sending an anti-bullying message to kids.

    As for books, I'd suggest STORY OF A GIRL by Sara Zarr - a book that asks some interesting questions about how we exert power over others by defining and judging them.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This is a great post! I was talking to someone about bullying this weekend and what we came to was that bullying isn't any worse now than it was ten or twenty years ago, what it is is more pervasive. Kids who were bullied at school could go home and get some reprieve, but with cell phones and internet, bullying is everywhere. There don't seem to be any safe spaces for kids to retreat to. Maybe that's one of the problems with being always connected to your peers.

    The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
    Blubber by Judy Blume

    ReplyDelete
  7. Just finished reading Girl on the Other Side by Deborah Kerbel. The two heroines broke my heart. Nominated for CLA award here in Canada.
    Nelsa

    ReplyDelete
  8. Some great suggestions so far. I'd also recommend:

    Shattering Glass by Gail Giles

    That's the second title that popped in my head (after Slam Book, of course), so I'll think about it more and then get back to you.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Jill Alexander5:32 PM

    THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY deals with the issue of bullying. (starred review from School Library Journal and 2010 Lonestar Reading List)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Anonymous8:58 PM

    13 Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
    Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood, by Eileen Cook

    ReplyDelete
  11. I have a hard time believing none of the teachers knew what was going on.

    All 5 MG titles deal with bullying not slander, hope thats okay.

    The Truth about the Truman School by Dori Hillestand Butler. Its about cyberbullying

    Bystander by James Preller

    Schooled by Gordan Korman

    The Skin I'm In by Sharon Flake

    The Smell of Old Lady Perfume by Claudia Guadalupe MArtinez

    Bad Apple by Laura Ruby.

    Burn by Suzanne Phillips

    ReplyDelete
  12. The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart

    ReplyDelete