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The Courage to Be Yourself: True Stories by Teens About Cliques, Conflicts, and Overcoming Peer Pressure


Cassandra is hassled by her friends for sitting with the ?wrong? kids at lunch. Jennifer gets harassed because she?s overweight. Dwan?s own family taunts her for not being ?black enough.? Yen is teased for being Chinese; Jamel for not smoking marijuana. Yet all find the strength to face their conflicts and the courage to be themselves. In 26 first-person stories, real teens write about their lives with searing honesty. They will inspire young readers to reflect on their own lives, work through their problems, ...
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Cassandra is hassled by her friends for sitting with the “wrong” kids at lunch. Jennifer gets harassed because she’s overweight. Dwan’s own family taunts her for not being “black enough.” Yen is teased for being Chinese; Jamel for not smoking marijuana. Yet all find the strength to face their conflicts and the courage to be themselves. In 26 first-person stories, real teens write about their lives with searing honesty. They will inspire young readers to reflect on their own lives, work through their problems, and learn who they really are.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

ForeWord Book of the Year Awards, Finalist

Children's Literature
These twenty-six true stories by contemporary teens reflect the complex and often contrary experiences and emotions experienced by teens of today. Compiled by a nationally recognized writing program for teens, these very personal stories are published in the hopes that other teens who read them will find they are not alone in feeling rejected, misunderstood, or alone in their journey toward adulthood. The titles alone give some hint to the complexity of emotions as teens try to fit into society while maintaining their individuality. "In Defense of Misfits," "A Stranger in a Strange School," "Nasty Girls," and "Losing My Friends to Weed" are a few of the essays covering topics such as body image, clothes, conflict resolution, family, foster care, friendship, gangs, race, ethnicity, and so on. Each essay features a follow up "Think About It," posing questions ideal for group discussion or just personal reflection, perhaps through writing. Additional resources as well as a subject area index are included. 2005, Free Spirit Publishing/Educators for Social Responsibility, Ages 11 to 18.
—Meredith Kiger, Ph.D.
These twenty-six stories are sometimes heartwarming, sometimes heartbreaking, but always gripping, first-person accounts of the pressures that teens face in a world where being different can mean getting teased, getting beaten up, or even having one's life threatened. Youth Communication, a New York organization dedicated to teaching writing, journalism, and leadership skills adds these essays to previous collections including Fighting the Monster: Teens Write About Confronting Emotional Challenges and Getting Help (Youth Communication, 2004) and The Heart Knows Something Different: Teenage Voices From the Foster Care System (Persea, 1996/VOYA August 1996). Educators for Social Responsibility, a group that teaches teens to resolve conflicts peacefully, helped choose the stories. Questions following each chapter provide direction for discussion or journaling but otherwise add little to the work as a whole. The value lies in reading what real teens write about learning to respect themselves and others who are different, learning to respond nonviolently in conflicts, and being willing to share their own mistakes and flaws. Author blurbs accompany each essay, revealing some college and career choices; Youth Communication has lost touch with other authors. An index and topical guide to the essays make finding specific themes a snap, and a wealth of further reading and information is good but lacks the Internet resources that many teens might turn to. An available leader's guide might make this book a valuable tool for group work in conflict resolution, but teens wanting the comfort of shared experiences will find the book alone a compelling read. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P J S (Readable withoutserious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2005, Free Spirit, 160p.; Glossary. Index. Further Reading., Trade pb. Ages 12 to 18.
—Catherine Gilmore-Clough
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-It's a challenge to remain true to one's self in a world that encourages conformity to a narrowly prescribed norm. It is especially difficult when the individual is a teen. Here, Desetta presents 26 short essays from young people who have faced this challenge head-on and found ways to survive if not happily, at least tolerably. From a gay teen who is harassed by peers to overweight and unfashionable girls who are ridiculed because of their physical appearance; from an African-American teen who isn't "black enough" to an Arab American who is a target of hate after September 11, the selections cover the spectrum of being different or "other." What the essays have in common is the willingness on the part of the contributors to accept that they cannot control how others view them but only how they perceive themselves. These young people demonstrate that by having the courage to be themselves, they are equipped to live without compromising their ideals. Though not all the stories have happy endings, readers who are struggling with similar issues will be comforted and perhaps inspired by the honesty and poignancy of these narratives.-Elaine Baran Black, Gwinnett County Public Library, Lawrenceville, GA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781575421858
  • Publisher: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/15/2005
  • Series: A Leader's Guide Series
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 449,360
  • Age range: 13 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.06 (h) x 0.34 (d)

Meet the Author

Al Desetta, M.A., is an editor at Youth Communication, a New York-based nonprofit organization that teaches writing, journalism, and leadership skills to inner-city teens.

Educators for Social Responsibility (ESR) is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to make teaching social responsibility a core practice in education so that young people develop the convictions and skills to shape a safe, sustainable, democratic, and just world.

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