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Letters from Young Activists: Today's Rebels Speak Out Paperback – October 25, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

"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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books; First Edition edition (October 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560257474
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560257479
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,041,968 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Our society loves to gush about how 'pro-child' it is. Then it places youth in deplorable situations, and becomes surprised when those youth actually want a better deal out of their life. Even among some adult activists there might be a desire to 'protect' youth by doing community organizing for them as opposed to with them.

This is an anthology of writings by young activists trying to make the world a better place. I am impressed that this collection communicates with both other generations of activists and parents--letting them know that they are going to communicate their politics. Northwestern University Law Professor Bernadine Dohrn (a former member of the Weather Underground) provides an introduction giving her own experience with community organizing, but does not patronize the contributor perspectives.

It also acknowledges that inter-movement politics themselves are not as egalitarian as we sincerely want them to be. Because we have lived under the dominant society, activists also are prone to racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, and ableism despite our wanting to believe that we are automatically above it. Changing the world is impossible when the movement itself is not in order.

Reading their impassioned words took me back to my own burgeoning political consciousness and the frustration I felt at being the only one who 'saw' and cared about issues. A book like this is essential to inspiring youth and letting them know that they are not alone.

I've since found that my best activism comes from my first noticing problems in my own environment. Thus, it's not at all surprising that the youth are tackling the same issues which personally confront them.
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Format: Paperback
this book is well-written, well-organized, and very inspiring! it is crucial to bring forward the voice of young people in this day and age, the people who are so often unheard, but who are actually mobilizing to create radical change. i highly recommend that every parent, organizer, teacher, youth, and anyone who interacts with youth read this book.
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Format: Paperback
I don't understand why Publishers Weekly gave this book such a poor review. I thoroughly enjoyed it, though I do have a few minor criticisms of it that deter me from giving it the 5 stars that perhaps it really deserves. While the majority of the essays are insightful and well-written, a few smack of a wishy-washy liberalism, rather than providing a more radical social analysis. For example, some argue for more government spending for public education, rather than advocating for homeschooling or freeschooling. (To learn more about the homeschooling movement, check out Grace Llewellyn's wonderful book, "The Teenage Liberation Handbook.") Likewise, while there isn't consensus among the young writers about gay marriage, some support it, rather than critiquing marriage and monogamy as oppressive, patriarchal institutions of social control. Moreover, there were not any essays written by young environmentalists, which surprised me, given the enormity of the ecological crisis we are in. Nevertheless, it's encouraging to read essays by activist youth interrogating issues of gender, race, class, disabilty and sexuality. Despite some of its flaws, I highly recommend this book for kids, parents, young adults and progressive youth allies.
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Format: Paperback
The book starts off by telling you how the current government administration is deluding us with one sided facts. Fair enough, maybe they'll go on an prove this... nope. And thus, a major theme of the book has been unveiled: a one sided presentation of unsubstantiated opinion. Unfortunately, the perpetrators are the authors.

I couldn't say I read one convincing argument throughout the entire book. I realize these are informal letters, but it comes across more as whining than a plan of action, unified by a sense of need for change (which the editors purport it to be).

As an example:

"I believe it is the fault of the United States educational system that my mother has been on the streets since she was thirteen years old; that my parents and many other parents divorce; that I, and many other children, have been sexually molested; that incest continues to occur; that my mother, like many others, abandoned my siblings and me; that my mother, father, other parents, and youth have been in and out of prison, that my sisters and brother word at fast food restaurants; that my sisters get pregnant at a young age; that my cousins and friends are dying because of gangs; and that the cycle of violence continues."

-Jessica Vasquez

That's some belief. A lot of the letters, this one especially, ooze a total lack of self responsibility. Not to say that this isn't a bad state of affairs, and that schools can't be improved, but try to find any proof of the correlation in this article and you'll be wasting your time.

Don't let your children read this if you're worried about exposing them to poor ideals of self-responsibility, or if you're worried that their idea of what an argument (with facts...) might be negatively affected.
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