() Grade school bullying can be more than just scary, it can be traumatic and life-changing. Blanco illustrates this all too well in this memoir of her student days. She was beaten and tortured by her classmates, and even had signs of PTSD from the events.
Contributing to her repeated designation as a “social failure” was her unshakable willingness to stand up for what she thought was right. She acted above her age in other ways as well. She gladly volunteered her time with disabled children, and she would refuse to strike back at the kids that had hurt her. In addition to her demeanor, she also developed a puberty-related deformity that gathered her more negative attention, and further decreased her confidence. These differences unhinged the other students, who would tolerate nothing but conformity and similarity. Furthermore, they saw her non-combativeness as a weakness – as “just taking it.”
Blanco would grow up to be significantly more successful in her career than the majority of her classmates. And at her school reunions, most everyone tried to make their peace with her. As adults, they had matured and moved past their youthful cruelty.
A story like this is engrossing, dramatic, and easy to relate to. It gives hope to anyone who has been bullied, or even experienced malice from others.
“My world had turned into a circus, and I was the freak.” (pg. 82)
“I hated myself. It was my strength that made my classmates pick on me in the first place, but it was my weakness that allowed their viciousness to flourish. What a mess.” (pg. 124)
“Despite his appearance and tough demeanor, this is a guy who could be a great man if he could learn to be vulnerable again. And then it strikes me. That’s what being an outcast can cost you: your vulnerability. People tend to consider being vulnerable a bad thing. It’s not. Vulnerability reminds us that we’re human. It keeps us open to giving and receiving love. Without at least a little, we can become what Dave is trying so hard to be – someone living in a prison of our own making, where the walls are so thick that no one can get in or out.” (pg. 247)