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Guest post: Patricia McCormick

May 31, 2011

I recently read and reviewed Cut by Patricia McCormick and feel it’s a very important book that should be read by parents and teens alike.   I’m thrilled to be able to feature this guest post by the author today and hope that everyone will take the time to really read it since I think it contains an important message.  I’d like to thank Patricia for taking the time to write it.

When I’d finally finished a first draft of Cut, my creative writing teacher said, “I’m glad you’ve gotten that out of your system. Now put it in a drawer and forget about it. No one is ever going to read something that dark.”

Well, more than ten years and thousands of reader letters later, I’d say she was wrong.

When I started researching and writing Cut, not much was known about self-injury. People mistook it for attempted suicide. Or they said girls were “just doing it to get attention.” When I explained that some people self-injure to express pain and others did it because they couldn’t feel pain otherwise, a lot of people recoiled. Or changed the subject.

Almost as soon as the book came out, though, I started getting letters and emails. “I thought I was the only one who did this,” said many. “I finally got help,” said others.  “Now I understand what my daughter is going through,” said some. And at every book-signing or talk I’ve given in the past ten years, at least one girl has stayed behind afterward to whisper, “You told my story.”

Teachers and librarians also responded enthusiastically and courageously. They put Cut in their collections despite complaints from parents who thought the book would encourage cutting. “The exact opposite is true,” one teacher told me, after buying an armload of books with her own money after her principal seized the library copies. “This book gives them a way to talk about what’s going on with them.”

It’s enormously gratifying as a writer to get those responses. But it’s sad for me, as a woman, as a mother, as someone who is involved with young people through my work, to hear that so many teenagers are still hurting themselves. That they still feel so much sadness, anger, fear, and alienation that they think the only way they can express it is by taking those feelings out on their bodies. With a razor blade. Or a lit cigarette. Or a shard of glass.

I wish I understood why the problem persists. I’m not an psychologist or sociologist, but I do think there are far too many messages from an image-obsessed culture that encourage self-loathing and all kinds of body modifications—from drastic dieting to plastic surgery. I’ve also learned that there is a statistical link between sexual abuse and self-injury. All of which means that the cruel and impossible standards of the media are causing the most fragile kids to do drastic things and that the sexual violation of some kids is still going on unnoticed.

That’s why I’m especially glad that this tenth anniversary edition of the book has a list of resources for readers. It also contains a new afterword about the reaction the book first got when I showed it to a group of self-injurers. Both of these additions, I hope, will pick up where the novel leaves off and offer avenues of help to those who are still hurting themselves.

This may sound strange coming from an author, but I’ll be happy when the book stops selling. Because it will mean that we have heard these cries for help and addressed the problem as a society who loves and values our young women and wants only to cherish and protect them from anyone who would do them harm—including themselves.

You can enter to win a copy of the book here.  The next stop on this tour will be on Thursday, June 2 on Galleysmith.  Be sure to check out the This Is Teen Facebook page.

24 Comments leave one →
  1. May 31, 2011 6:00 am

    Such an important book and I’m thankful Patricia has helped teens feel less alone. Society puts so much pressure on girls on women; it’s almost never okay to accept yourself just as you are.

  2. May 31, 2011 6:46 am

    Lovely post. I do hope the book helps people

  3. May 31, 2011 7:58 am

    Great guest post! Books like Cut must be read by more people.

  4. May 31, 2011 8:06 am

    It really is a subject that I don’t “get.” I was glad to read this book and get some insight.

  5. May 31, 2011 9:09 am

    The first time I heard about this practice was from the mother of girl who did this to herself. I will admit that I was shocked. I was also the mother of a teen then and I asked my daughter about it and if she had heard of it or seen it. She told me that she had heard of it, but didn’t know anyone who she thought had tried it. However, she also said that it’s sometimes hard to know about because it can be covered up with clothing. She did have more than one friend with eating disorders. So, so sad.

    I recommended this book many time when I worked at the library. I think it is important that librarians and teachers know about books like this one, as well as ones like SPEAK. Bad things happen to teens at times and I’m grateful that there are books out there that try to highlight the problems and also offer ways to find help.

  6. May 31, 2011 9:21 am

    This kind of reminds me of hearing Mariska Hargitay talk about all the women who contacted her after she started being on Law and Order – Special Victims Unit – and talking about their experiences and needing help or saying how the show mirrored their experiences, etc. It’s so valuable when the media spotlights some area that has been in the dark!

  7. May 31, 2011 9:31 am

    I have never understood cutting, and reading about it sometimes makes me uncomfortable. I think this book would really help me to understand just what it’s all about, and I am glad to hear that it is helping other teens who are having these urges and practice this behavior. I am glad to read that Patricia is able to reach out to so many through her words and story.

  8. May 31, 2011 10:33 am

    Cutting is one of those things I think people just don’t understand. This sounds like a very important book. Thank you so much for such a great post.

  9. May 31, 2011 1:02 pm

    I really want to read this one. I had discovered a few years back that this woman I know is a cutter. I did not understand this – mainly why would you do such a thing, so I researched it on line to get a better understanding of why this happens. I was amazed at what I found out about this.

  10. May 31, 2011 1:48 pm

    This was an excellent post. It was nice to get the background on the book and hear the author’s stories about the feedback she’s gotten from girls.

  11. May 31, 2011 2:31 pm

    What a beautiful post! I can’t wait to read this book, even if I’m no longer a teen nor have children.

  12. May 31, 2011 4:45 pm

    What a powerful book and guest post. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  13. May 31, 2011 4:52 pm

    I know that this is one of those tough must reads…

  14. May 31, 2011 5:04 pm

    I am very glad you did not listen to your CW teacher! This is an important book, that unfortunatley is still needed today. It is authors such as Patricia that shed light on things that need to come out of the darkness for healing to begin!

  15. May 31, 2011 6:40 pm

    I’m so glad that Ms. McCormick didn’t listen to that teacher. This is a subject that needs to be talked about. My daughter’s life would be much easier if people understood what she was going through better.

  16. May 31, 2011 8:56 pm

    This book is VERY important to have available to young people! I’ve lost track at how many times it gets checked out..suffice it to say that it always has a hold on it!! McCormick deals with this topic in a very sensitive way while never getting too graphic but just enough to let a kid know that they’re not alone and what they’re doing to themselves is hurtful and they need to look for help. If you enjoyed this one you must read SOLD!! That is another fantastic and important book as well.

  17. June 1, 2011 6:59 pm

    Another great author post and CUT will move parents to look at issues that need to be faced.

    Bravo!

  18. June 1, 2011 8:28 pm

    I am so glad that the publishers have re-released this one. Somehow I missed reading it all of those years ago. I’m definitely going to get a copy.

    Also, so glad to hear that the publishers put a list of resources for teens in the back of the book. These are issues that teens are (sadly) still dealing with today…

  19. stacybuckeye permalink
    June 1, 2011 10:05 pm

    Great guest post. And so honest. I find it refreshing that she’ll be happy when it stops selling.

  20. June 2, 2011 12:07 pm

    Great post! I really would like to read this novel.

  21. June 3, 2011 1:50 pm

    This is the first I’ve heard of Patricia McCormick’s book which I’m a little ashamed about. I think it’s frightening and horrifying that many teens cut themselves because it’s an indication of how much pain, sadness, loneliness, guilt they’re feeling as well as other emotions they don’t know what to do with and feel they cannot talk to anyone about. I think many adults don’t understand how observant and aware kids are, how much they see and realize and how much they are impacted by things that happen around them. I’m constantly amazed by stories both real and made up in which a parents tries to ignore or pretend soemthing awful or frightening never happened in a child’s life by never talking about or referring to it and not permitting the child to speak to someone.
    Thank goodness Patricia didn’t listen to her creative writing teacher and got Cut published. She performed a tremendous public service writing this book. Thank you & Thanks Kathy for this guest post!

  22. June 4, 2011 6:01 pm

    I’m glad I had the opportunity to read Cut and host Ms. McCormick as well. Hearing how much thought went into the development of the book makes me respect it even more.

  23. June 6, 2011 7:39 pm

    I hope to get a chance to read the book someday. I wonder if it’s sold here in my local bookstores. This is a wonderful guest post and I’m glad the author made an appearance here.

  24. June 9, 2011 8:51 pm

    What a wonderful guest post. It takes courage to write about something that is so important even after the author got discouraged from her CW teacher. Following your heart can be the right thing. I am so glad that this book has helped others. I will be looking for a copy!

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