This month, November, we are getting real. Often shedding light on true stories requires a remembrance of sorts, a search into the past for patterns, for longstanding prejudices, for the history behind the truth. Those who do now know their History are doomed to repeat it.
In September a Graphic Novel adaptation of the spoken word poem To This Day by Shane Koyczan was released by Annick Press.
In February 2013, Shane Koyczan’s passionate anti-bullying poem To This Day electrified the world in the form of an animated short video that went viral. I don’t think it’s fair that Koyczan be given sole credit for inspiring an international movement against bullying, it had been coming for a long time. In 2013 the Governor General’s Award for children’s fiction went to Susin Nielsen’s The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen, a story that pivots on bullying. Campaigns surrounding the recent suicides of teens at the hands of bullying we widespread. There is a history of bullying in schools around the world – there is never any questioning whether or not it’s happening, there is only doubts about how it can be caught, stymies or stopped. Shane Koyczan’s method is through his artform.
To This Day is born of Shane’s own experiences of being bullied as a child, and it expresses the profound and lasting effect of bullying on an individual, while affirming the strength and inner resources that allow people to move beyond the experience. A heartfelt preface and afterword, along with resources for kids affected by bullying, make this book an invaluable centerpiece of the anti-bullying movement. As much as I dislike the term “victim” when it comes to bullying, it is true that victimizing is basically the point of bullying, there doesn’t seem to be any better term. Bullying is incredibly hurtful, as Shane’s poem recounts, it is hurtful on so many levels and in so many ways that many times even the victim doesn’t realize how harmed they truly are.
Each page of the graphic novel is adorned with the art of thirty different international artists, as diverse as they are talented. The book is full of vibrant collages of images, colors and words that will resonate powerfully with anyone who has experienced bullying themselves, whether as a victim, observer, or participant.
The book also includes some additional content, including a history of the poem, resources and quotes from other bullied and beautiful people. It works well as a book – the meaning is just as strong in this medium and it allows for a different kind of circulation. What other way is there to stop bullying, or at least turn the finger back on the bullies than to ring the words “Bullying is bad and cruel” loud and clear. Books like To This Day are an incredibly important part of addressing this serious issue. This book, like the video, is beautiful and extremely important.
You may already know the poem, or have heard it performed – but if not I highly recommend that you go and listen to it here: