Are you a hyena?

I am reading a book (as member of a book-club) called “A Tale for the Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki. On reading the following extract it occurred to me that if I had a class where bullying was happening it would be quite interesting to get students to read the extract and answer these questions anonymously.

  1. Are you a hyena?
  2. Have you been attacked by a hyena?
  3. Are there hyenas in this class? Yes/No
  4. If Yes then what are their names? 

Would these questions be considered too confronting?


“A Tale for the Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki

“Have you ever seen those nature documentaries where they show a pack of wild hyenas moving in to kill a wildebeest or a baby gazelle? They come in from all sides and cut the most pathetic animal off from the herd and surround it, getting closer and closer and staying real tight, and if Dad had happened to turn around to wave to me, it would have looked like good-natured fun, like I had lots of fun friends, gathering around me, singing out greetings in terrible English—Guddo moningu, dear Transfer Student Yasutani! Hello! Hello!—and Dad would have been reassured to see me so popular and everyone making an effort to be nice to me. And it’s usually one hyena, not always the biggest one, but one that’s small and quick and mean, who lunges first, breaking flesh and drawing blood, which is the signal for the rest of the pack to attack, so that by the time we got through the doors of the school, I was usually covered with fresh cuts and pinching bruises, and my uniform was all un-tucked with new little tears in it made by the sharp points of nail scissors that the girls kept in their pencil cases to trim their split ends. Hyenas don’t kill their prey. They cripple them and then eat them alive. Basically, it went on like that all day. They would walk by my desk and pretend to gag or sniff the air and say Iyada! Gaijin kusai! 36 or Bimbo kusai! 37 Sometimes they practiced their idiomatic English on me, repeating stuff they learned from American rap lyrics: Yo, big fat-ass ho, puleezu show me some juicy coochie, ain’t you a slutto, you even take it in the butto, come lick on my nutto, oh hell yeah. Etc. You get the idea. My strategy was basically just to ignore them or play dead or pretend I didn’t exist. I thought that maybe if I just pretended hard enough it would actually come true, and I would either die or disappear. Or at least it would come true enough for my classmates to believe it and stop tormenting me, but they didn’t. They didn’t stop until they’d chased me home to our apartment, and I ran up the stairs and locked the door behind me, panting and bleeding from lots of little places like under my arms or between my legs where the cuts wouldn’t show.”

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