“And in between the Silence, Listen to the Voice that whispers,
You’re good. Overcome.”
Somber and bittersweet, LETTERS TO MY BULLY edited by Ifalade Ta’Shia Asanti and Azaan Kamau is an uplifting work.
It documents letters, essays and poetry written by authors to their tormentors, usually their peers or loved ones, with the purpose of showing teens and adults that they are not alone and with time, life does get better. The 35 authors featured in Letters, including CSI: Miami actor Robert LaSardo, have been beaten, humiliated, tortured, but in spite of what they endured, they still impart positive messages, and prove that the best revenge is living well.
As noted in Letters, their harassment was due to any number of reasons bullies chose to focus on: sexuality, skin color, weight, intelligence, socio-economic status, etc. It also paints abuse at the hands of family members and lovers, turning their homes into haunted houses in the one place that’s supposed to be safe.
Letters shows another side to bullying in that the abused, without an outlet for their pain, can as easily turn their hurts onto someone else, using their clenched hands and sharp words to give love and hate. It’s a vicious cycle that must stop.
One specific thing I took from Letters is that as the adults, we are the ones who can lessen or end bullying. How we treat others starts at home, and our children learn most from what we teach and what they see from us. Beyond saying it gets better, how about we make it better. Show them they are more than what some bully says or does to them. Most of the former victims felt helpless and wondered, why me, and at the same time, wanted love more just as much as being rescued. When 160,000 bullied children miss school every day and bullying is the number one cause of suicide for 11-16 year olds, something has to be done.
Letters is what editors Asanti (The Bones Do Talk) and Kamau (Stiletto), accomplished authors and poets both with numerous titles, wanted to contribute to this epidemic. Kamau is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Glover Lane Press, which also published the co-edited Tapestries of Faith: Black SGLBT Stories of Triumph, Family, Love & Healing. The book’s flow was nicely paced and included statistics about bullying. The only weak spot was that some of the poetry didn’t grab me as much as the personal essays.
I’d recommend Letters to teens and adults, especially to in need of healing from their pasts. The most powerful message sent from Letters is that each one survived. There’s a great energy and almost small appreciation to what they went through to prove that anyone can overcome.
YOU DID NOT WIN. I am a fat lesbian (albeit a slimming one as I lose the need for protection) who loves herself and doesn’t give a damn what anyone says about her state of being. I love my body and love my experience of love as a lesbian. I am no longer trapped in the coffin of your bullying and while I do not believe good comes because of evil, I believe good comes despite evil. The good that came for me despite your evil words and deeds is that I am stronger, more vocal, more attentive and more resistant than I used to be, or than I ever guessed I would be.
Reviewed October 2013