Dear Jodi Picoult,

 Just the other day I was pondering about my life and the decisions I have recently made. Every day I am faced with tough obstacles that bring me down. Diligently, I try to overcome them and be strong, but through the course of my life, I have learned that in order to succeed I have to dust myself off and keep going. I’ve spent too much time replaying my moments of weakness like a broken record in my head. I dwelled on those moments rather than fixing the problem until I read your book, Nineteen Minutes. 

 I, like Peter Houghton, have been teased and verbally provoked at school. In my sixth grade year, I remember going to my counselor’s office roughly over seven times to report racial harassment. I vividly remember being told that my skin was too dark, and being called a name that I never imagined I would ever be called. This impacted my self-confidence and image. I also started to view the world in a different perspective- you can only look one way to “fit-in” or be socially accepted. Being a female Afro-Latina and growing up in a community where there isn’t much diversity made it very difficult to make my way through a day without having an offensive comment being tossed in the air. I felt ashamed of the color of my skin. I would go home and cry into my pillow, wishing for the prejudice to stop. Alone and trapped having no way to turn to and nobody to talk to I continued my year miserably. My family, however, gave me tremendous support through the drama, but I didn’t have friends who took my situation seriously. They brushed off these occurrences and gave me annoyed looks when I turned to them for help. Cruelly, they remarked that racism happens everywhere, there was no way to stop it, and that I should just ignore it.  I was backed into a corner with my problem crumpled like a piece of paper and thrown aside like it didn’t matter. In this exact moment I felt like Josie Cormier. Josie throughout the story is pushed around and told how to feel, act, and what to look like.  Josie and I unfortunately didn’t do anything about the mistreatment. An average of over 3.2 million students are victims of racism and discrimination each year. All of these students are oppressed for something as simple as color. We are not given the choice to choose our race and ethnicity. We should all be proud of the blood running through our veins and our skin tone. At the end of the day our intelligence, ambition, kindness, and perseverance will be the components that define us.

Your book helped me realize this. The heartwarming wisdom written in bold text opened my eyes and unclogged my ears. I needed to fight for what I believe and put an end to the bullying. Children at school should be educated to treat others with respect. Daily, bystanders witness this torment and keep their lips sealed. Josie felt pressured to “fit-in”. Her social status was more important than Peter being picked apart each day for being different. This ruined her relationship between her mom and potential friendships with people who would actually care about her. Every time she turned her back on Peter and let the bullying happen, it pushed him into bringing a gun to school and doing what he did.

Nineteen Minutes, helped me make the right choice. Throughout the book several messages are conveyed that have shaped me into the person I am today. Such as, social statutes and stereotypical judgments ruin self-image, and that no matter how “small” the comment is if it makes you feel uncomfortable or upset, you should take it seriously and report it. I also learned that at the end of the day bullying always has its consequence. The weight on my shoulders was lifted, and I could finally breathe again. Thank you for writing such a powerful book that made me realize that the girl staring back in the mirror is beautiful- for helping me accept and love who I am- for giving me the opportunity to be able to discuss this with other children struggling- for helping me comprehend that I’m worth fighting for.



Cynthia Onyiorah

Page last modified: April 4, 2017