Title: Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy
Author: Emily Bazelon
Release Date: February 19, 2013
Publisher: Random House
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
In her book, Emily Bazelon examines the culture of bullying, why some are bullies and others are the bullied, and what can be done to change and stop this culture within America’s schools.
Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy has been a widely discussed, somewhat controversial book. Why? Because Bazelon approaches bullying from a new angle. She not only talks to the bullied, but the bullies, to look at the effects of not only being bullied, but what happens when you bully others. While she’s not trying to say it’s just as bad for the bully as for the bullied, she does make it clear that, often, bullies have their own issues that cause them to act out. While I can sympathize with people having issues with this approach, that’s the point of the book: to have a frank discussion of bullying while airing both popular and unpopular views to see if we can’t get somewhere by the time Bazelon is finished.
Whether you agree with Bazelon or not, Sticks and Stones is a fascinating, if heartbreaking, read from beginning to end. Whether you were a bully, the bullied, or somewhere in between, this book will take you back to the halls of middle and high school. Bazelon conducted extensive interviews for this book, interviewing the involved parties and the parents of both bullies and bullied children, as well as their friends, teachers, and peers. As a result, the reader gets a more comprehensive look at the problem, its roots, and what might work in terms of solutions.
Bazelon’s frank tone is refreshing in Sticks and Stones. Bullying is a topic that we often tiptoe around, and for good reason: as we’ve seen, it can lead to tragic consequences. But the fact is, someone simply being mean does not count as bullying. Bazelon explores what bullying is, and she also explores “bullycide”—the recent linking of bullying and suicide in the media and beyond. While she does believe that bullying and suicide can be connected, she doesn’t believe one directly leads to the other. It’s an unpopular view today, but she presents her case well, and it’s refreshing to hear her speak her views directly.
Sticks and Stones is a book that everyone should read, but it’s one that’s not for every audience, contradictory as that may sound. If you’re the parent of a bullied child (or are a bullied child), Bazelon’s portrayal of the bullies may anger you. And if you’re the parent of a bully (or, likewise, are a bully), then you may misread Bazelon’s point entirely and twist her words to say that you are actually the injured party. It’s a difficult, delicate subject, one that’s all too sensitive. Bazelon has some great ideas in this book, and while I don’t agree with everything she said, I appreciated her frank discussion, especially since she presents a convincing case for looking at bullying in a new light and makes it clear that this is a problem that needs good solutions now.