A convincing case against media hype and a premature rush to judgment.

STICKS AND STONES

DEFEATING THE CULTURE OF BULLYING AND REDISCOVERING THE POWER OF CHARACTER AND EMPATHY

A nuanced approach to the epidemic of bullying in American schools.

In 2009, Slate senior editor Bazelon began writing articles about cyberbullying. She shared in the growing concern about how social media can amplify the effects of bullying. After writing the first few articles, her focus shifted.  While cyberbullying is “changing the nature of teenage bullying,” it is still “a new incarnation of an old phenomenon.” Probing further, the author realized that bullying is more complex than she originally thought. She explores the part normally played by aggression (when teens jockey for social position) and contrasts this to occasions when a disparity in power exists (and could signify bullying). Failure by both parents and schools to intervene in order to protect victims on the one hand, and overreaction on the other, can lead to bullying. In extreme situations, complex legal issues involving the responsibility of school authorities may arise (including potential criminal charges when violence occurs). Bazelon also considers the way that the prejudices of school personnel or the broader community against people who defy conventional gender roles can tacitly encourage victimization. The author uses three major case studies to exemplify issues. The first illustrates how overreaction by a mother when her daughter was mocked led to an escalating situation. In the second, school authorities tacitly countenanced the abuse of gay teens, who successfully sued for violation of their constitutional rights. Lastly, a tragic suicide involved a girl whose detractors were charged with murder, even though they had no direct involvement in her death. In the concluding section, Bazelon surveys promising new approaches to dealing with bullying, and the appendix includes fact sheets and a resource guide.

A convincing case against media hype and a premature rush to judgment.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9280-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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A vivid sequel that strains credulity.

THE ESCAPE ARTIST

Fremont (After Long Silence, 1999) continues—and alters—her story of how memories of the Holocaust affected her family.

At the age of 44, the author learned that her father had disowned her, declaring her “predeceased”—or dead in his eyes—in his will. It was his final insult: Her parents had stopped speaking to her after she’d published After Long Silence, which exposed them as Jewish Holocaust survivors who had posed as Catholics in Europe and America in order to hide multilayered secrets. Here, Fremont delves further into her tortured family dynamics and shows how the rift developed. One thread centers on her life after her harrowing childhood: her education at Wellesley and Boston University, the loss of her virginity to a college boyfriend before accepting her lesbianism, her stint with the Peace Corps in Lesotho, and her decades of work as a lawyer in Boston. Another strand involves her fraught relationship with her sister, Lara, and how their difficulties relate to their father, a doctor embittered after years in the Siberian gulag; and their mother, deeply enmeshed with her own sister, Zosia, who had married an Italian count and stayed in Rome to raise a child. Fremont tells these stories with novelistic flair, ending with a surprising theory about why her parents hid their Judaism. Yet she often appears insensitive to the serious problems she says Lara once faced, including suicidal depression. “The whole point of suicide, I thought, was to succeed at it,” she writes. “My sister’s completion rate was pathetic.” Key facts also differ from those in her earlier work. After Long Silence says, for example, that the author grew up “in a small city in the Midwest” while she writes here that she grew up in “upstate New York,” changes Fremont says she made for “consistency” in the new book but that muddy its narrative waters. The discrepancies may not bother readers seeking psychological insights rather than factual accuracy, but others will wonder if this book should have been labeled a fictionalized autobiography rather than a memoir.

A vivid sequel that strains credulity.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982113-60-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

COLUMBINE

Comprehensive, myth-busting examination of the Colorado high-school massacre.

“We remember Columbine as a pair of outcast Goths from the Trench Coat Mafia snapping and tearing through their high school hunting down jocks to settle a long-running feud. Almost none of that happened,” writes Cullen, a Denver-based journalist who has spent the past ten years investigating the 1999 attack. In fact, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold conceived of their act not as a targeted school shooting but as an elaborate three-part act of terrorism. First, propane bombs planted in the cafeteria would erupt during lunchtime, indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of students. The killers, positioned outside the school’s main entrance, would then mow down fleeing survivors. Finally, after the media and rescue workers had arrived, timed bombs in the killers’ cars would explode, wiping out hundreds more. It was only when the bombs in the cafeteria failed to detonate that the killers entered the high school with sawed-off shotguns blazing. Drawing on a wealth of journals, videotapes, police reports and personal interviews, Cullen sketches multifaceted portraits of the killers and the surviving community. He portrays Harris as a calculating, egocentric psychopath, someone who labeled his journal “The Book of God” and harbored fantasies of exterminating the entire human race. In contrast, Klebold was a suicidal depressive, prone to fits of rage and extreme self-loathing. Together they forged a combustible and unequal alliance, with Harris channeling Klebold’s frustration and anger into his sadistic plans. The unnerving narrative is too often undermined by the author’s distracting tendency to weave the killers’ expressions into his sentences—for example, “The boys were shooting off their pipe bombs by then, and, man, were those things badass.” Cullen is better at depicting the attack’s aftermath. Poignant sections devoted to the survivors probe the myriad ways that individuals cope with grief and struggle to interpret and make sense of tragedy.

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

Pub Date: April 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-54693-5

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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