Mom of 4 kids: Mrs. Starr, do you plan to write a blog about 13 Reasons Why?
My funny friend since when we were 12 is calling me Mrs. Starr. She’s adorable.
Me: I wasn’t planning on it. There's tons online and my student newspaper is covering it. I don't think I have anything to add to the conversation. I'm not a fan of the book though. I discussed it with three of my classes and reviews were very mixed but passionate.
Mom of 4 kids: It reminded me of the overdose of [girl we went to school with]. Who remembers that? In middle school she took a ton of pain killers and went to the hospital.
Teen suicide is not a new issue. Teenagers feeling like adults aren’t listening isn’t new either. Neither is teenagers feeling alone, misunderstood and in pain.
Mom of 2 kids, middle school counselor: I am up to my eyeballs in 13 Reasons. These are topics that are close to my everyday job. All of our middle school kids are watching it and I would highly recommend they do not. It is not appropriate for that age. I think the show is a double edged sword. If you haven't watched it as a parent I think you should.
Reading what our kids are reading is one of the best ways I know to connect with our children. I wanted to discuss a book with my mom when I was in high school and she said she didn’t remember the details. I felt dismissed. I wanted to connect and she deflected. Teenagers talk to us so little – it is on us to seize any and all opportunities we are given.
Mom of 4 kids: Lots of kids are watching it alone when parents aren't around.
This is true. Pretty much every student I talked to has read it, seen the show, or knew enough to have opinions.
Me: I read the book last week. I need to watch the show but don't want to. I didn't like the book. What I'm hearing from my students is they think the issue of suicide needs much more attention. They feel like adults aren't teaching/listening/helping/talking about it. But lots of them think the story glamorizes and fetishizes suicide. My students also felt the adult writer had given very few options for teenagers to be. The broad, rough stereotypes do not adequately portray the complex nature of the teen mind and the roles they inhabit. Teenagers hate being oversimplified.
Mom of 2 kids, middle school counselor: I do not like the following messages that I got from it: glorified suicide; made it seem like no one does their job or cares about students (There are some sucky educators but I call pretty much every single parent of a kid I talk to as a heads up if concerned. We have strict protocols too); very intense scenes about rape (2) and well as graphic suicide; also my daughter was like, why didn't Hannah talk to anyone until the end? She talked to the tapes but that was too late; lack of discussion about mental illness. I do like: that conversations about these topics are being had; it shows kids that their actions impact others.
Me: I have all the same concerns. Plus as a work of literature I don't think it's well written. It’s manipulative to the reader, with heavy-handed imagery, and stilted syntax and diction even for a young adult text. I'm letting [daughter] read it at 14 but would not want [12-year-old daughter] to.
Mom of 2 kids, middle school counselor: [Daughter] is almost 16. I think that was a good age to read it but with me having conversations about it with her. One night we talked for three hours about it!! I think it will scare middle schoolers and actually I have had several 7th graders in my office recently discussing it.
Kids WANT to talk to us about this. Just because we are scared and don’t know what to say doesn’t mean we can abdicate this responsibility. If you don’t talk to you kids about it, know that they are talking about it already with their teachers and counselors and friends.
Mom of 2 kids, middle school counselor: The other issue that [daughter] was very responsive to was the amount of slut shaming that goes on now with boys. They want you to be pretty and easy but if you do you are a slut. If you don't you are a prude. Lots of comments about girls looks, their asses etc. she said that is commonplace.
Me: That's interesting. That issue didn't come up in my conversations with kids but maybe because groups were too big - whole class- so girls didn't feel comfortable about bringing it up.
Mom of 2 kids, middle school counselor: [Son] mentioned at [his all-boys school] that it is disgusting the way so many guys talk about girls’ looks and sex.
When the president talks about women in such objective terms, is it any surprise that others do too?
Mom of 3 teen girls: Meanwhile... some boy has been slut-shaming [daughter’s] BFF - who was dating her for nearly two years (they're 14), so [daughter] confessed to me last night that she approached him in the hall and told him that if he didn't stop, she was going to "beat his ass".
Me: Brave girl. You're raising them right.
Mom of 3 teen girls: So I told her to tell [husband] last night... and she voiced that she was telling us in case it got to the administrators and she got suspended for threatening him. [Husband] told her that if she's going to get suspended, make sure she makes it count. I'm raising thugs.
Me: Not thugs. Warriors
Mom of 3 teen girls: Yes. You're right. Warriors.
We must empower our daughters to defend themselves and those around them. If we don’t, no one else will. As my favorite toast says: To strong women – may be know them, may we raise them, may we be them.