OK, yeah, I'm out of the business, I don't do that anymore—but there's one last heist…and I'm going to need all of your incredible skills.
Here's what happened. A loved one, who is also a social worker, called with this situation. (I will condense and paraphrase.)
She works in a public elementary school where there has been a recent spate of 5th grade girl-on-girl emotional violence in the form of hacking each other's Instagram (and other social media, I imagine?) accounts, as well as emails sent that include unpleasant graphic sexual commentary. Yes, yes—this is terrible, but that's just the context.
Some of the perpetrators were caught, and brought to our friend the social worker (praise be!) to get straightened out. Conversations were had. One girl—a 5th grader, remember—is an extremely beautiful, smart, physically developed Latina. She looks, in the words of the social worker, like a gorgeous 16 year old. In the most recent meeting she wept. "No one ever talks about anything but my face and my body. The only thing the boys in the class talk about is my body. They talk about my body parts all the time."
Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh. All these things working together—children, rape culture, sexism, race (I have no doubt), social media, 5th grade, being a person. But for us the question is, what can we give this child to read? She feels alone, but she is not alone.
See why I had to take this one?
My thoughts on this are varied and possibly not all that helpful. First I thought of Speak, but that is too grown up, too much acting as though what people see when they look at her is the truth.
Then I thought of going in a whole other direction with an old favorite, First Test: Protector of the Small. This is the story of the first girl who trains as a page. It is about learning your own power.
Then I thought of—ok, don't laugh—the greatest of them all, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. Because who remembers Laura? The girl who they socially torture because she has big breasts? Whom no one will speak to? But yeah, she's not the center of the book.
OK, people, I know I'm quitting—we're all quitting!—but I need you now! Or really, this kid needs you. She needs a book to remind her that she is not alone, that she is who she thinks she is. Bonus points if you can offer her a Latinx author. Extra bonus points if you can think of a book to make the boys in her class shut up and learn something about other people's humanity.
You all remember how to do this, right? Put your ideas in the comments, social worker will look here, books will make their way to the girl—let's do this!
UPDATE: Chestnut strongly believes that a book should be gotten for the boys as well, the ones who are spending all their time talking about this girl's "body parts," something, perhaps, that might remind them of the humanity of others? She wants the teacher to be able to have them all read it. In a curriculum this might be hard to fit, but I do think it is an excellent idea.