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Related Topics
More Than a LabelReview - More Than a Label
Why What You Wear or Who You're With Doesn't Define Who You Are
by Aisha Muharrar
Free Spirit Publishing, 2003
Review by Judith Carlson
Apr 16th 2004 (Volume 8, Issue 16)

Although I understood and appreciated what author Aisha Muharrar was trying to accomplish in her book More Than a Label, I came away disappointed. It felt too much like I was reading a required text for a middle school class rather than the enjoyable call to action I think it was intended to be. 

More often than not I felt like I was being hit over the head with the same information rather than being stimulated into deeper thought. She talked about learning in debate class that there are two sides to everything and then almost entirely focuses on all of the negative aspects of labels. I wish she would have spent more time on things we can control, and less on trying to change other people. History is littered with examples of people beating their collective heads against the wall trying to change other people without success. The Middle East is an obvious example of this futility.  

That is why I enjoyed the section in the book on negative self-talk as she really nailed it. We may not be able to control how we are viewed by outsiders and cliques or have much power to change how they see us, but we have complete control over how we view ourselves. Developing this skill is invaluable and well worth the time spent. I suffer from anxiety and have learned to reduce the amount of anxiety I experience by changing the way I think about things. I have learned that how I process what people say to me is what matters not what they say or think about me and it is very liberating.

 Aisha uses the sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me saying in the book and completely missed the point, when she follows with the assertion "But the truth is some words do hurt." The point of that saying is that only the power you attach to the words or the way you think about them can hurt you if you allow them to. By saying some words do hurt you are giving all the power to others and that could be used as a metaphor for what I disliked about her approach in this book.... Too much focus outside of yourself and not enough focused inside.

 I always wanted to be more popular with the "in crowd" at my schools, but finally realized I was wasting my time and energy chasing the end of a rainbow. Although Aisha has a noble agenda, I think she would have helped more of her peers by focusing on exercises to help them feel better about themselves, while still advocating the same things she focused on without beating the reader over the head like a textbook.

 Personally I wish she would have focused on cliques more than labels. I do think a lot of the exercises in the book are useful and would work well in middle school classes and that Aisha’s heart is in the right place.

 

© 2004 Judith Carlson

Judith Carlson writes about herself:

I'm a junior in high school. I'm on the soccer team at my school and take several honors courses. I have lived with my foster family since I turned nine. I plan on attending a good college after I graduate and would love to continue playing soccer in college (but I need to improve some more first). I have battled anxiety since I was very young and did not even realize it for a couple of years but I think I have it under control now. Everyone thinks I'm shy but I think I'm just naturally quiet.


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