Three young activists marshaled 44 others to their writing desks to pen letters to the world for this pedestrian collection. Their missives are addressed to ideas as well as people: parents, authorities, older activists, "the movement," tomorrow's youth and activists, and even to their own "future selves." Most of the letters are simple exercises in self-expression and self-examination. Common targets for indignation include racism, sexism, homophobia, prisons and imperialism. Often their analyses of the world are rooted in their own experiences with slights or discrimination, rather than in broader causes, a problem that the book itself addresses. "Neglecting vision leads to... detrimental effects.... Our goals include shifting folks from a personal analysis to an institutional critique," writes Stephanie Guilloud, who helped organize the Seattle WTO shutdown. The letters are heartfelt and passionate, but most lack the basic rhetorical skills essential to animate social or political movements. Sentences like "The legacy of activism is filled with successes and failures that we have inherited from those who were active before us" do little to stir the imagination. The collection does, however, highlight a lot of worthwhile volunteer work being done in the nonprofit sector by men and women under 30. (Nov.)
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"Young people have historically played a major role in progressive social change, and our experiences in a variety of social movements are vital to understanding what the world has in store for it," write the editors, each a veteran social organizer, of this powerful collection of writing by accomplished activists between ages 10 and 31. Formatted as letters, the selections are divided into three groups--past, present, future--and address parents, authorities, fellow activists, and the movements (there are letters directed to "Hip Hop" and "Punk Rock Activism"), which are as diverse as the voices and backgrounds of the speakers. Raw, confessional, instructive, and urgent, the entries discuss the roots of the speakers' activism, their visions of the future, critiques ("We don't know how to deal with the nuances of our differences and the differences of our oppression," writes one contributor), and the expected and unexpected places they find hope sustained. Bernadine Dorn contributes a strong preface; a long list of related organizations closes. A Web site, organized by the editors, provides a forum for continuing the debates. Gillian Engberg
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