One Woman's Inspirational Story
While other kids were daydreaming about dances, first kisses and college, Jodee Blanco was just trying to figure out how to get from homeroom to study hall without being taunted or spit upon as she walked through the halls.
This powerful, unforgettable memoir chronicles how one child was shunned — and sometimes physically abused — by her classmates from elementary school through high school. It is an unflinching look at what it means to be the outcast, how even the most loving parents can get it all wrong, why schools are often unable to prevent disaster, and how bullying has been misunderstood and mishandled by the mental health community.
You will be shocked, moved, and ultimately inspired by this harrowing tale of survival against insurmountable odds. This vivid story will open your eyes to the harsh realities and long-term consequences of bullying — and how all of us can make a difference in the lives of teens today.
Since its release, this seminal New York Time’s best-seller, that established Jodee as the first voice of the anti-bullying movement, has sold over 250,000 copies and continues to save lives. Click here to review the current press release.
Other highlights include:
- Please Stop Laughing at Me… is required reading in middle and high schools, colleges, and universities coast to coast.
- Please Stop Laughing at Me… has been published in Japanese, Arabic, Danish, Lithuanian and Indonesian.
- Jodee’s life story was a featured exhibit at the Chicago National Historical Society. She was chosen as one of the most influential teens of her era.
- Please Stop Laughing at Me…was hand-selected by student members of the Mayor Daley Book Club in Chicago as one of their favorite reads and remains among the club’s most popular picks.
- Please Stop Laughing at Me… was the impetus and inspiration for a group of determined students in Iowa who used the book to change their school’s culture. They received the prestigious Governor’s Volunteer Reward for Outstanding Commitment and Service and were honored along with the book in a state-wide celebration.
- The Prime Minister of Trinadad/Tobago chose Please Stop Laughing at Me… as the cornerstone of her initiative to establish a new culture of tolerance and compassion in her country’s schools. She brought Jodee in to launch implementation of this landmark vision.
- The archdiocese of Curacao chose Please Stop Laughing at Me… as the focal point of a diocesan-wide program to inspire a more compassionate and sensitive student culture. They brought Jodee in for week-long series of specialized trainings for their entire educator population.
- Please Stop Laughing at Me… was selected by the Frontier Schools Division of the Canadian Government as the focus of an unprecedented effort to bring anti-bullying education into its aboriginal communities. They sent Jodee into First Nation territories where she worked with students, teachers, parents and tribe elders on curbing bullying in their schools.
- Dramatic interpretations of Please Stop Laughing at Me… are garnering state-winning awards in school competitions.
- Jodee receives hundreds of emails from troubled teens who consistently tell her that Please Stop Laughing at Me… saved their lives and gave them new hope.
- Please Stop Laughing at Me… is a standard among book clubs throughout the country – most especially among mother/daughter book clubs.
- There are more than 300,000 books currently in print.
More About the Book
A Letter to the Reader: iv
Chapter One: Old Ghosts Come Back to Haunt Me ….. 1
Chapter Two: Trying to Soar on Broken Wings …………. 5
Chapter Three: Rainbows Lost ……………………………….. 19
Chapter Four: Darkening Skies ……………………………….. 43
Chapter Five: Struggling for Air ………………………………… 73
Chapter Six: Fragile Hope ……………………………………….. 91
Chapter Seven: Glimpses of the Swan …………………… 121
Chapter Eight: High School Horrors ……………………….. 135
Chapter Nine: Discovering Atlantis …………………………. 169
Chapter Ten: Freak Show ……………………………………….. 187
Chapter Eleven: An Unexpected Haven ……………………. 211
Chapter Twelve: The Reconstructionist …………………… 223
Chapter Thirteen: The Turning Point ……………………….. 233
Chapter Fourteen: The Reunion ……………………………… 253
Author’s Note …………………………………………………………… 269
Reader’s Guide – Q & A with Author Jodee Blanco … 271
Professional Biography of Jodee Blanco ……………….. 276
Resources ………………………………………………………………… 279
Jodee Blanco’s Day-Long Anti-Bullying Program: ….. 281
It’s NOT Just Joking Around!
Chapter Eight: High School Horrors
I struggle to concentrate as Ms. Raine describes our first lab experiment for her biology class. Though I try to take notes, I cannot stop staring at the back of Tyler’s head. His thick, shoulder-length hair beckons to be touched. He sits so close to me that I can smell his shampoo. I close my eyes and imagine my face in the nape of his neck, breathing in the scent of his skin and the hint of cigarette smoke clinging to his T-shirt.
“The substance most important to sustaining life, Jodee, can you tell us what it is?” Ms. Raine asks, jolting me out of my romantic fog.
“What? Oh, yes… um, what was the question?”
“The stuff of life dear, what is it?” she repeats.
“Water, it’s got to be water, right?”
“Good. And what’s the chemical symbol?”
“That’s easy,” I reply. “H20.”
Though I smile and pretend to be interested, my mind drifts once more, this time to my favorite movie that I saw over summer break, Grease with John Travolta and Olivia Newton John. I fantasize that I am Sandy, the character portrayed by Olivia Newton John. The new girl at school, Sandy is initially rejected by the cool crowd, who think she’s nothing but a goody two-shoes. Even more heartbreaking, she discovers that Danny, the kind, sweet boy who she fell in love with over the summer, is their leader. He turns his back on her when school starts because he doesn’t want his friends to know that he cares about someone they’ve deemed unacceptable. Eventually, Sandy not only wins the affection and respect of Danny’s clique, but some of the girls in her class give her a makeover that transforms her into the epitome of cool. In the end, she gets Danny back, and becomes the most popular girl in her graduating class.
As I drift deeper into my daydream, Ms. Raine begins to sound like the adults in those old Charlie Brown cartoons, as if she’s talking through a kazoo. Though I try to focus on biology, it’s no use. The pull of the fantasy is too strong. It also protects me from facing an unpleasant reality. A lot of the kids I went to junior high with have also matriculated to Samuels. I thought I could handle it. I was naïve. I underestimated the enemy. I didn’t realize that overcoming the bias of a handful of freshmen would be this tough. It also never occurred to me how much influence they could have on my new classmates.
Biology period is the worst, with A.J., Greg, Emily, and several others from Northwest sitting just a few feet away. Each afternoon, they gang up on me, riding me about what I’m wearing or how I’ve done my hair. They snicker behind my back, sharing jokes with the rest of the class about how I refused to dissect the pig in Mr. Blatt’s class, or how I went crying to the principal over a silly “snowball fight.” I feel as if I’m trapped inside a stereo that’s playing a broken record…
“Blanco, you suck.”
“Don’t be nice to her. She’s gross. We hated her so much in junior high.”
“Too bad you weren’t a miscarriage.”
If I don’t find a way to stop them from publicly belittling me, their disdain will become contagious. I’ll carry the stigma of being the class misfit again. At first, I make an effort to reason with them. “Come on, you guys, we’re not in junior high anymore. Let’s start fresh.”
“Fat chance,” they proclaim, rolling their eyes conspiratorially.
I know cruelty is currency in high school. It can buy power and popularity. My former classmates sense my desperation and amuse themselves by taking advantage of it. They need me. They’re just as scared as I am about making friends at Samuels. They have to prove to the in-crowd here that they’ve got what it takes. I’m their best hope. All they have to do is make everyone see me as the outcast. Then they can say to the popular group, “We have a mutual interest. None of us likes Jodee.” It confirms their social status. If I weren’t so furious about it, I’d laugh.
“Hey, Tyler, I bet Jodee’s never necked with anyone,” A.J. remarks, smirking. “Why don’t you give ugly little Ms. Priss a mercy kiss?”
“I’d rather suck on garbage,” he replies, proud of his clever comeback. Clark, the class jokester and Tyler’s best friend, turns around and gives his buddy a high-five.
I don’t understand. Tyler and I ride the same school bus. He’s never been unkind to me before. He ignores me if his friends are around, but that’s because he’s protecting his reputation. It wouldn’t be cool for him to be seen talking with someone who’s not a member of his clique. But when we’re alone, he’s really nice. I suppose I better get used to this. All the freshmen are jockeying for position now. This is especially true for people like Tyler, who have never known anything but popularity. The idea of going through high school without it is their greatest fear. If I can just keep my old classmates from Northwest at bay, I still stand a chance with the new kids.
“That’s enough, Tyler,” Ms. Raine declares, fixing him with an angry stare. “The next high-five I see, you’ll sit in detention.”
I sink into my desk. Here we go again. So much for believing I could make a fresh start at Samuels. The hardest thing about being an outcast isn’t the love you don’t receive. It’s the love you long to give that nobody wants. After a while, it backs up into your system like stagnate water and turns toxic, poisoning your spirit. When this happens, you don’t have many choices available. You can become a bitter loner who goes through life being pissed off at the world; you can fester with rage until one day you murder your classmates. Or, you can find another outlet for your love, where it will be appreciated and maybe even returned.
Samuels has a nationally recognized special education program. Most of these students are victims of Down’s syndrome and other developmental disorders. They often stop to chat with me in between classes, to show me a picture they’ve drawn, or to sing a new song they’ve learned. They sense my loneliness the way a blind person can hear sounds the rest of us can barely detect. They possess a grace of spirit and clarity of feeling, for they are unencumbered by petty desires and shallow concerns.
Every day, the special ed kids endure abuse from many of the other students. They are mercilessly teased and called names such as “retard,” “spastic,” and “head case.” These children are so innocent that they often don’t understand the maliciousness of the insults. They smile in response, and offer their assailants a piece of chewing gum in return, thrilled that one of the “big kids” spoke to them. Many of the teachers turn a deaf ear. It reminds me of Holy Ascension and Marianne, only this is much worse. Holy Ascension is operated by nuns and priests who practice compassion. At Samuels, apathy is the norm. Most of the teachers here arrive when they have to and leave as soon as they can, doing the bare minimum. The special ed instructors seem to care more, but it doesn’t make them any braver. They watch as their students are degraded day after day, but they rarely fight back. Nobody at Samuels likes to make waves. Boy, am I ever in the wrong environment.
Ms. Raine is still going on about H20. I feel a little guilty. She puts so much effort into trying to excite her students. But let’s face it, water just isn’t a provocative subject. The entire class is bored stiff. I wish she would switch topics. If my classmates grow too restless, they will pick on me to pass the time. Come on, Ms. Raine. Pull something out of a hat. No luck. In her own mind, she’s on a roll. “There are a wide variety of pollutants in our water, as you can see from the photos on page one hundred of your textbooks… ”
I keep glancing at the clock on the wall. Only five more minutes before the day is over. Finally, the bell rings. As I gather my books, I hear Tyler and Clark playfully arguing about which one of them Jacklyn, the hottest girl in school, would rather go out with. Petite with dark brown eyes and beautiful auburn hair, Jacklyn tries to look and act older than she is. She wears mini-skirts, high-heeled shoes, and jeans so tight you wonder how she can breathe. Jacklyn’s not only popular with the boys because of how she looks. She has a reputation for liking the backseats of cars.
“I’ll bet you ten bucks that she won’t be able to resist me,” Tyler declares, pulling a comb out of his back pocket and running it through his hair.
“You’re on,” Clark replies, slapping Tyler on the back. I listen to their exchange, wishing it were me they were competing for.
“We’ve all seen the frightening results of school bullying. Please Stop Laughing at Me… can help us prevent other teens from being harmed”
Author of the New York Times bestsellers A Child Called “It” and A Man Named Dave
“This book could save your child’s life. It’s a must-read for parents, educators, and everyone concerned…”
Author of the New York Times bestseller Homecoming
“Will do for survivors of school bullying what Dave Pelzer’s book A Child Called ‘It’ did for child abuse.”
Co-author of the international bestselling series Chicken Soup for the Soul
“The often unheard victim of bullying now has a voice through this powerful book, which is a must read for every parent and teen.”
John A. Calhoun:
President and CEO, National Crime Prevention Council
“After reading Jodee Blanco’s story, I am more than willing to get involved with the teachers and parents to stop the bullying that still continues today. Her story was heart wrenching and made me want to reach out and help her any way I could. This story will truly stay with me for life.”
Crime analyst for the San Diego City School Police Department, CA
“Blanco’s book hit stores in March, but it’s already a bestseller. That may be because so many people share similar experiences.”
POIGNANT MEMOIR PUTS A FACE ON A BULLIED LIFE
“The bullies never remember, but the outcasts never forget.”
That telling line from a poignant new memoir best summarizes the hurt and frustration that results from bullying … hurt and frustration that can follow a child into adulthood.
In Please Stop Laughing at Me … One Woman’s Inspirational Story, Jodee Blanco tells it like it was … and it was horrible.
Using the backdrop of her 20th high school reunion, she chronicles the unrelenting verbal and physical abuse that followed her from the time she was a 10-year-old fourth-grader. Her story puts a face up for her principles, telling the truth and befriending children with disabilities. It was a life of contradictions between what adults would say and the reality of how she was treated by her peers.
“It seems that if you are mean or cruel to another kid, that was ‘okay’ because it was just a normal part of growing up,” writes Blanco If you are on the receiving end and allow it to bother you, you were the one who needs help. What kind of logic was that?”
From cover to cover, Blanco reasons through what happened to her, laying the groundwork for what may become an anti-bullying Bible. Within this 273-page, easy-reading, soft-cover book, she paints a stark picture of fear, hatred, loneliness, frustration and disillusionment – a picture many adults will recognize, either with empathy from having experienced similar traumatic events, or sheepishly from knowing they were the bullies. Putting the face on the problem of bullying as no other can: the face of experience.
Despite changes in schools and changes in communities, Blanco always seemed to be a target for bullies, mostly for doing what, by adult standards, would be the right thing: standing Blanco’s book has been described by other reviewers a “must read for parents, educators, and everyone concerned with the health and well-being of our children” (John Bradshaw, author of the New York Times bestseller Homecoming) and as a book that “will do for survivors of school bullying what Dave Pelzer’s book A Child Called ‘It’ did for child abuse” (Jack Canfield, coauthor of the international best-selling series Chicken Soup for the Soul).
Because of its easy style and riveting storyline, this book is appropriate for middle school and high school students, as well as parents, teachers and administrators. If any child can be given hope of surviving being bullied … if any child can see the bully within themselves and stop … if any parent or teacher can see a better way to handle bullying situations before they escalate, then Blanco’s years of mistreatment will have an element of triumph.
Linda Dawson, The Illinois School Board Journal
…Blanco was once a troubled child, tormented by her school mates. In this moving account, Blanco describes how she was first victimized in a Roman Catholic grammar school because she defended some deaf children when they were picked on by hearing students. She gave the names of the ringleaders of this cruel activity to one of the nuns, and was subsequently ostracized by former friends for being a tattletale. After Blanco transferred to another school, she continued a pattern of reporting bad behavior to authority figures and became a true outsider. According to the author, her parents were sympathetic, but they made things worse by forcing her to see a therapist. He prescribed medication that made her sleepy and told her that “kids will be kids.” In high school, she was physically abused by students who also objected to her “goody two shoes” attitude. During her teen years, Blanco’s emotional problems were compounded by a physical problem that caused her breasts to grow at different rates (later corrected by surgery). Blanco does feel, however, that those painful early years gave her the strength to become a successful adult. Although the text is overwritten in parts, the author’s courageous and honest memoir of the years she spent as the victim of her contemporaries points smartly to the inability of adults to deal with issues of serious bullying.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Blanco relates her hellish experience, which began back in grade school. Unable to maintain her friendships with the “cool” group because she befriended a younger deaf student, Blanco was ostracized and, worse, tormented. Her parents sent her to a different school, but after an initial promising start, Blanco was again ostracized after she called her mom to pick her up from a party that got out of control. Another school switch and a psychiatrist did nothing to better Blanco’s situation. She hoped high school would improve upon junior high, but the kids continued to torment her, even going so far as to beat her up. Blanco chronicles in detail her feelings of depression and how difficult it was for her to face her cruel classmates on a daily basis. Blanco’s story is often painful to read, but her eventual success and triumph over the past are inspiring.
Kristine Huntley, Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
MAPC Library, Winnipeg, Manitoba – Canada
Reading this book gave me the opportunity to experience life in the shoes of someone who had a school lifetime of being bullied. Definitely an easy read book and a book that I found very hard to put down because I wanted to see if it resulted in hopefully a happy ending or the type of ending that no one wished for any child. I was not only moved by this book, but it gave me a deeper awareness of why children and teenagers (especially teenagers) can be so cruel to others at times and how many barriers there are for the bullied to go to through to solve their situation.
This new addition to our resource library explains the characteristics of bullies, bystanders and the bullied through the eyes of a bullied female.
What amazed me the most was how the educators, parents and medical professions handled the barriers this girl expressed to them.
If you have concerns about your child/teenager being hurt and tormented by others, have an interest in the topic of bullies or would like to gain an awareness about this topic I would recommend that you read this book.
“My name is Lori and I’m the parent of a child that is being bullied…he is only twelve years old and has suffered a life-time of pain….it breaks my heart everyday that I know all the kids at school are picking on him…thank you for sharing your experience…it has given my whole family hope.”
“I have never written an author before but I had to today to say…WOW and WOW! My son has been bullied physically and emotionally all through school…as a mother this has been absolute hell and everything you wrote registered in so many ways…I couldn’t put your book down… you’ve given me SO MUCH hope..I had no business walking down that book aisle today but thank GOD that I did…thanks again for the honesty and the hope that my child is going to be ok.”
“I’ve never felt like I could relate to someone the way I feel I can relate to you…your book has helped me a lot Jodee…even though we’ve never met, I’ll never forget you or this book…you’ve put so much hope and determination in my heart…thank you.”
“I just turned fourteen…your book touched me in a way I never have been before…everyone at school is mean to me…I refuse to let it get me down…because of you I finally have hope and I no longer second guess myself…I know now I’m not worthless, that I do have a future.”
“I think EVERY child in America should hear your story and know how their behavior affects others…I’m sorry you had to have those tragic experiences at school but feel blessed that they brought forth this book.”
“I am having every single student in my classroom read your book.”
From Adult Survivors of Peer Abuse:
“No other book has touched me the way yours did. I suffered in silence for years and your book has encouraged me to finally speak up. I just graduated high school and now I have the strength to talk to my parents about what I’ve been through…”
“I was horribly teased and abused all through school…your book means so much to me… so many thanks for your courage and inspiration… you are truly making a difference.”