Monday, August 24, 2015

Review! Gifted, Bullied, Resilient: A Brief Guide for Smart Families by Pamela Price

The first thing to say is that I did receive a copy of this book for review purposes. However, given that the author is on my auto-buy list (which means I'd have been buying it as soon as I heard of its release), and the subject matter, it was going to end up in my hands sooner rather than later anyway.

Now. Given Skeeve's, my, and Mad Natter's struggles with bullying, this was a huge book for me. I've been anxiously awaiting its release for at least the last six to eight months, and that's all I can reasonably remember - it might have been a lot longer. The digital copy arrived in my
inbox this afternoon, and I promptly dropped everything, picked up paper and a pen, and immersed myself in the book.  Mad Natter was out playing with the neighborhood kids, I had some time...  I'm sad that I finished reading before I started dinner, and only partly because dinner's about half an hour late. Mostly because I want more.

I'm a reader. We all know this. And what I love best is when the books I enjoy continue on. This is why I trend toward series-reading - I finish the book I'm reading, and I may have to wait a while, but there will be more coming down the pike soon enough. Depressingly, this is not the case with this book, though if Pamela decided to write a follow-up that happened to be several hundred pages (I'd say thousand, but let's not scare her too badly!), I'd happily buy that and read it all up, too.

For further disclosure, Pamela is a friend of mine, a relationship that began when I was fortunate enough to win a seat in one of her Homeschool 101 workshops - gosh, over three years ago now. Much like I do with Jen at Laughing at Chaos, I tend to feel these friendships are a bit one-sided (after all, what can my impostor-syndrome-suffering-self have to offer these wonderful gifted-advocacy gurus?), but the relationship is there all the same.

I sought Pamela out all those years ago because I really appreciated what she had to say, as well as how she said it - and that hasn't changed. Her prologue is filled with stories from the gifted community, which, while not identical to my own life, are similar enough to be eerie. Throughout the book, she takes the reader through an overview of what will come, and then goes into more detail. Despite what I'd have loved to see (because I am so not the benchmark reader), this is a slim, nuts-and-bolts, "essentials guide" book, and it covers all the basics. It is helpful and easy to read, without being overwhelming with new information.

Through the course of the book, we see Pamela's own journey and the context from which this book is brought to us. The pervasive nature of bullying, the complexities of Gifted Cubed, and how these sorts of things track across generations are all covered, complete with a very interesting story from a woman who was so distressed by the bullying of a clearly gifted child that it stuck with her for decades. Definitely food for thought, and it made me think of the sorts of sociological conventions we're fighting against here, and how difficult this battle really is likely to be.

In the third chapter, Pamela relates the stories of the gifted community itself. How the crux of the issue itself is in a power imbalance, and how it isn't always kids bullying kids, but that there are teachers and parents who do it as well. The chapter would be spectacularly reaffirming (in a very "we're not alone" sense) and equally depressing, were it not for the closing vignettes of people who handled these sorts of situations incredibly well, thus lending hope to those who may be stuck in the situation now. She then moves on to a quick-and-dirty guide to dealing with bullying. If your child is in school, and is being bullied, these are clear, concise, easy-to-handle steps to take to navigate the situation - which is exactly what someone like me (who is very much a "NUKE IT FROM ORBIT!!!" type person) needs.

Pamela also covers the aftermath. When are counselors necessary? Can a child really develop PTSD from bullying? What can be done to alleviate the terrible feeling bullying leaves behind? What can be done before bullying starts to help bully-proof your child? Pamela has some great suggestions, and includes the websites and contact information for looking up these precise resources yourself. Even more importantly, she reminds us of the primary thing I am perpetually forgetting - parental self care. You can't look after your child's emotional needs if you haven't looked after your own - just like the air masks on a plane.

Lest the book close without a mention to homeschoolers, chapter six is dedicated to the myriad places homeschool families are likely to find bullies - and how to try to avoid them if you're thinking of getting involved in the more formal organization of a co-op.

In the end, this book was informative and succinct. It was exactly what it claimed to be - a slim volume of "what to do" for when you're just getting started, and need help right-this-now. Like I said above, I would be overjoyed if Pamela decided to write an in-depth follow-up to this book, as the need to know more, to learn more, to understand all the things just a little better takes over.  Unfortunately, that is exactly the opposite of the niche this book is meant to fill, so if I want that information, I'm going to have to go track it down myself. And you know what?  That's okay.

All in, Pamela took a very large and complex topic, and was able to boil it down to its most basic parts, then take on each part in an easy to read, easy to implement fashion. There are quite a few resources I'm already looking at bringing into the house, and I expect there to be many more as I go through the book on the reread and take in the things I missed the first time around. This is exactly the kind of primer that is needed - long enough to get the information out, and short enough to not alienate those of you who don't like to read lengthy tomes. In short (laughably, after the length of this post!), this book is exactly what it needs to be, and Pamela has done a wonderful job of not only presenting the information, but doing it without losing the easy feel of her writing, and without swamping her audience in the kinds of stories that these conversations bring about. Well done, and I'm still going to be buying the book when it comes out. Just sayin'.