Just one act of kindness can make an impact. Join the national movement to Choose Kind, inspired by R.J. Palacio’s debut novel, WONDER.
By Sundee T. Frazier
I had an instant connection to Auggie Pullman. A superficial one, but it got my attention. Pullman. That was the name of the small, rural town where I entered middle school as “the new kid.” Now, I have no idea what it feels like to be stared at or ostracized the way Auggie was, but I do know what it feels like to be at the receiving end of unwanted attention, and as a biracial person, I know what it feels like to be different.
That first day of middle school, I was alone and petrified. I entered homeroom and made a beeline for the first seat I could find. I was self-conscious in my brand-new white OshKosh overalls, even though I thought they were cool at the time. A boy behind me let out a catcall whistle and said something to his friend about my body. I radiated so much embarrassed heat I was sure the kids around me could feel it.
That began a year of harassment from boys that I wish I had had the courage to stand up to. Instead, I giggled, let boys take advantage of me in ways I didn’t like, and allowed my sense of worth to be defined by my physical appearance instead of my intelligence and personality. I wanted my frizzy hair to lay flat and “feather” like all the white girls around me, and I froze up when I heard boys make racist jokes about black people.
I often wish I could go back to that 12-year-old girl and let her know that how we look doesn’t define who we are. I would tell her to stand up to those boys. I can’t go back in time, but I can encourage young people not to give in to the pressure to measure ourselves or others by outward appearances. Hopefully, this is what my stories do.
SUNDEE T. FRAZIER is the author of The Other Half of My Heart, Brendan Buckley’s Sixth Grade Experiment, and Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything in It, for which she received the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award. Learn more about her and her books at www.sundeefrazier.com.