So last week was Anti-Bullying Week in the UK – a campaign that aims to shine a spotlight on bullying and encourages all children, teachers and parents to take action against bullying throughout the year.
The theme for this year was ‘Power for Good’, which aims to support and encourage people to understand how they powerful and capable to stop bullying and create the best world possible through individual and collective action.
The timing of this week couldn’t be more perfect because Jennifer Niven aka. The Queen of Love and Acceptance was on tour in the UK this week. For anyone who doesn’t already know (where the hell have you been?!), Jennifer Niven is the New York Times bestselling author of ‘All The Bright Places’ and the just released ‘Holding Up the Universe’.
‘Holding Up The Universe’ is a novel with bullying right at its core. It follows Libby who returns to school after being housebound for five years. Once known as America’s fattest teen, Libby is a strong, fiesty character who stands up for what she believes in. When a mean boy plays a horrible prank on a bigger girl, Libby literally chases him away like a freaking super hero! While it may have been easier and certainly less painful for Libby to keep her head down, she stands up for others in the most inspirational way. For anyone who’s read it already, two words… Purple. Bikini.
The other central character of the book is popular, cool kid Jack who has a condition called prosopagnosia, or face blindness. He cannot recognise the faces of anyone he knows, not his family or friends, not even his own face. He’s desperate to keep his condition a secret, worried people knowing will paint a target on his back. So he stays under the radar by acting like a total dick. Better to be the hunter than the hunted… until he meets Libby and she forces him to confront his actions and complicity in the bullying going on around him.
We caught up with Jennifer at her event in London this week and she shared this Anti-Bullying Week message for you all:
‘All readers in some way feel like they are outsiders. I know I certainly did when I was younger. I moved from Maryland to Indiana in 4th Grade and felt like never truly felt like I fit in. Also, when I was younger I had my own weight issues. I remember being teased by my peers, and once my grandmother said to me “You’re too pretty to be fat”. It’s shocking just how much was wrong with that statement. And though I love my grandmother deeply and she didn’t mean it maliciously, those kind of comments stay with you. Whether they’re from family, mean girls at school or strangers on the street, everyone has dealt or will deal with something like this in their lifetime.
This is why I read, to remind myself I’m not alone. And it’s why I write, to let readers know that you’re not alone either. One of the best things I’ve seen since becoming a writer is how readers come together and bond based on their love of books. Readers are finding communities, friends and creating support networks based on mutual love, and it’s the most beautiful thing in the world.
We’ve had a tough few weeks in America as I’m sure you all know. We’ve seen people suffering awful verbal abuse because of what makes them different. There will always be haters in the world, so it’s our job to counteract that hate with love. If I had one message to anyone out there currently dealing with bullying, or who still feels the effects of any bullying they suffered, or who just needs to know they’re not alone, it would be this:
And we totally agree with her. We find in general that bookish people have so much love and compassion to give. There’s even a study out there that shows reading Harry Potter makes you more tolerant and empathetic…
So we encourage you to spread the love, and to stand up for yourself and others this week and all the weeks to come! Let us know your thoughts about bullying and your experiences in the comments below. If you need, we’re here for a big cyber hug!
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