The #Resistance and Social Justice for Teens (#SJYALit: The Social Justic and YA Lit Project)
Today’s teens are very politically active, from the March for Our Lives to Pride and everything in between, teens are finding ways to be active, be engaged and be heard, even before they can vote. The Teen has participated in 3 political marches in the last two years, making her own signs for each. I had a group of teens visit the Teen MakerSpace in June who made a variety of flags, signs and buttons that they wanted to take to Pride. I am constantly hearing teenagers talk about the same issues that adults are talking about; they are informed, engaged and just as passionate as the adults around them.
Knowing that today’s teens are engaged, a lot of authors are working to put social justice themed books into the hands of teens. They’re sharing their personal stories or writing manuals that help highlight just what teens can do to help change the world. The books are out there, and they should be in our libraries.
Many teens today are also choosing to join what is being referred to as “the resistance” or adopting the theme of resist. Teens may be choosing to join for their own personal reasons, but the theme is often the same: they want to resist fascism, racism, sexism, homophobia, or the growing rise in white nationalism that they see in the news. It would be too easy to express the resistance as being anti-Trump or anti-GOP, because for many teens, is framed more as being pro: Pro Equal Rights, Pro Gay Rights, Pro Democracy. It’s just as much that they are fighting for something as they are fighting against something.
The Teen, for example, has grown up in a home where we talk openly and frequently about feminism and sexual violence. We talk about consent. We talk about healthy relationships. We talk about equality. So we choose to march in the Women’s March because we were personally appalled at the lack of concern that Donald Trump’s statements regarding his own admitted sexism and sexually predatory behavior garnered in the media. And on the one year anniversary of that march, we marched again. And having grown up in a system where she was taught armed intruder drills before she was taught her ABCs, The Teen also choose to march in the March for Our Lives march for more reasonable gun laws.
In the same vein, many of my LGBTQAI+ teens and their ally friends marched in Pride to not only celebrate themselves, but to keep fighting for LGBTQAI+ rights and equality. They came into the Teen MakerSpace and found creative ways to use the supplies provided to share their message of love and equality. We didn’t host or advertise a program, they just knew we were there and used the resources provided in their own creative ways. That’s exactly what we like to see happen in a Teen MakerSpace, spontaneous creativity and self expression that is teen inspired and teen led.
Today, I am sharing with you a Take 5 list of books for teens like these who desire to be active in social justice. Although fiction books like The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas and All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely take a realistic look at social justice in action via the narrative, this list looks specifically at nonfiction titles with inspiring true stories, real life tips, and everything a teen might need to be inspired and engaged in social justice.
From Amy Reed, Ellen Hopkins, Amber Smith, Sandhya Menon, and more of your favorite YA authors comes an anthology of essays that explore the diverse experiences of injustice, empowerment, and growing up female in America.
This collection of twenty-one essays from major YA authors—including award-winning and bestselling writers—touches on a powerful range of topics related to growing up female in today’s America, and the intersection with race, religion, and ethnicity. Sure to inspire hope and solidarity to anyone who reads it, Our Stories, Our Voices belongs on every young woman’s shelf.
This anthology features essays from Martha Brockenbrough, Jaye Robin Brown, Sona Charaipotra, Brandy Colbert, Somaiya Daud, Christine Day, Alexandra Duncan, Ilene Wong (I.W.) Gregorio, Maurene Goo. Ellen Hopkins, Stephanie Kuehnert, Nina LaCour, Anna-Marie McLemore, Sandhya Menon, Hannah Moskowitz, Julie Murphy, Aisha Saeed, Jenny Torres Sanchez, Amber Smith, and Tracy Walker.
This title releases on August 14th 2018 by Simon Pulse.
Other titles on this list include:
There are a lot of things libraries can do to promote teens and civic engagement. Hold mock elections. Have a button maker? Allow teens to make buttons that express themselves. Have a postcard or sign making party, or just make supplies available. Put up displays that feature both fiction and nonfiction titles about teens and civic engagement. If your library is worried about being seen as taking a side on a controversial issue like gun control, remember you can encourage teen engagement as a concept without taking a position one way or another on an issue. Empowering teens is about teaching them how to use their voice for the issues that they care about. Democracy survives only if citizens are engaged, and that engagement begins long before you can press a button in a voting booth.
Do you have more titles to recommend for our social justice book list? Please leave us a comment.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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