Bermuda resident contributes to anthology on bullying in the US
An American writer living in Bermuda is included in an anthology, compiled by some of the top children’s and young adult writers, designed to flush bullying down the toilet.
‘Dear Bully’ includes personal essays, poetry and illustrations by 70 writers such as Mo Willems, author of ‘Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus’, R L Stein of the Goosebumps series, and Bermuda resident Debbie Rigaud, author of ‘Perfect Shot’.
‘Dear Bully’ is being published by Harper Teen, an imprint of Harper Collins.
Ms Rigaud’s story is called ‘Simple Hero’ and is about a time when she was in high school when she intervened during an incident of bullying. Ms Rigaud is originally from New Jersey, but moved to Bermuda in 2008 with her husband, Bernard Asirifi.
“It was my friend, Desiree who was being bullied,” said Ms Rigaud. “She and I are still friends to this day. Recently, she told me that it changed her life that myself and another girl stood up for her on a scary day in high school. She had to remind me that that was how we became friends. I was never a tough girl, but I did something simple. Stepping outside of your own box, to speak up a little bit can make a world of difference.”
Ms Rigaud said bystanders can help by letting the victim know that they don’t agree with the bullying. It shows the victim that they are not alone, and that the bullying is not invisible.
“Sometimes just not becoming another member of that chorus is huge,” said Ms Rigaud.
“I wanted to let other kids know that if this is happening around you, there are subtle things that you can do. We are telling our readers we have been there too.”
Some of the proceeds from the book are going to an American charity called Stomp Out Bullying, an anti-bullying and anti-cyber bullying campaign for children and teenagers. The book includes resources that can help young people who are experiencing bullying.
‘Dear Bully’ was the brainchild of writers Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones. The idea came about after 15-year-old Phoebe Prince of Massachusetts hanged herself in a stairwell in January 2010 after being bullied by her classmates. She and her family had recently moved to the United States from Ireland.
Writers Ms Hall and Ms Jones formed the group Young Adult Authors Against Bullying two months later, when they both coincidentally blogged about the Phoebe Prince case on the same day. Ms Hall reached out to Ms Jones expressing her frustration with the case and the fact that bullying seemed to be growing at a ridiculously fast rate. As a Massachusetts resident and having already spoken about bullying in schools, Ms Hall was also horrified.
The author of ‘Sisters of Misery’ and ‘The Lost Sister’ created a Facebook page as a platform and voice for those kids who could speak out or were too afraid to be heard.
Right away, a large number of authors joined the cause, wanting to be involved in any way possible. The Facebook group jumped from five to 1,500 members in one weekend and is now closing in on nearly 5,000. Ms Hall and Ms Jones were thrilled when HarperTeen offered to put all of the stories into an anthology. The goal of ‘Dear Bully’ is to help at least one person get through a difficult time, and hopefully make bullying a thing of the past.
“I remember reading about the Phoebe Prince case and was really upset about it as well,” said Ms Rigaud.
She has contributed to several different anthologies. One of her recent essays was featured in a Random House anthology called ‘It’s All Love’, and another called ‘TransCulturalism’. In this essay she wrote about what it was like to grow up in America and England with a Caribbean background. Her parents are originally from Haiti and the family moved around as Ms Rigaud was growing up. She is currently working on another book for young adults called ‘An Arranged Prom’, about a girl growing up in an overly protective immigrant family.
“Anyone with immigrant parents knows it is ripe with comedy,” she said.
For more information, go to the Facebook page www.facebook.com/dearbully, visit the website www.dearbully.com, or follow ‘Dear Bully’ on Twitter at www.twitter.com/dearbully. Also see Ms Rigaud’s website and blog, www.debbierigaud.com /blog. For information about bullying see the website www.stompoutbullying.org . The book is for sale in local bookstores.