July 13th, 2007

overalls and coffee

Classified: How to Stop Hiding Your Privilege and Use It for Social Change

Classified: How to Stop Hiding Your Privilege and Use It for Social Change 
Karen Pittelman

When I heard there was a book out about educating teens about privilege, I was very excited.  I find that few teens I work with have any clue about how to take into account all the immaterial gifts they have in their lives, but instead tend to focus on what material things they feel they lack.  That there might be a book to help them not only recognize their privileges, but also make good use of them sounded too good to be true.  Unfortunately, this is not the book I was hoping for, but for the right older teen or young adult I'm sure it would be very useful.

Published by Soft Skull Press, who always put forth a delightfully eclectic variety of books, Classified: How to Stop Hiding Your Privilege and Use It for Social Change was created to aid rich kids with good intentions succeed in making positive social changes.  It is specifically aimed at the top 10% wealthiest Americans, and while I think it is great that this book exists, as I don't know anyone in this category, so I found it a bit hard to relate to.

That said, I found this to be a very readable guide for its specific audience.  The book does an excellent job of breaking down how to approach a touchy subject.  Money is difficult enough for most families to talk about, but their are some tough questions that arise when wealth is involved.  Where did the money really come from?  Was it the hard work and ingenuity of one legendary person?  Was anyone exploited?  Is the system that enabled the family to gain wealth ultimately unfair and need changing?  Are current investments hurting the environment or other people?  The goal of the book is to get past the awkwardness of these questions and down to the root of the matter, so that real conversation can begin within both families and the community to start genuine positive changes.  Throughout the book are shared experiences of young adults who are struggling with social change, lots of great advice on how to examine one's perspective, and exercises to help get you on your way, plus an excellent resource section with tons of great additional reading.  Though I personally have trouble relating to the very rich, this book helped me gain some perspective.  I feel this is a brave book with much potential for making a very good impact on the world.
overalls and coffee

Flight

Flight
Sherman Alexie

To say Zits is a troubled kid is to make something of an understatement.  Half-Indian, half-Irish is an orphan adrift in the world, unclear on implications of his heritage and seriously hungry for role models.  As a young teen he begins running away from his foster homes to drink with the bums on the streets of Seattle.  In and out of juvie, he appears to have finally made what he feels is a real friend, but turns out the guy is a manipulative psychopath who sets him up for a killing spree.  As the big moment comes down, something strange happens, and Zits finds himself suddenly jumping through time to some of Native America's most important and terrible moments. 

Definitely not a kids book, this adult title would be excellent for mature high school readers.  Putting an innovative twist on the story of the abused foster kid, Alexie catches the reader off guard creating fresh angles for slipping emotional impact straight into the heart.  A moving story of anguish and hope, and ultimately of the need of all kids to get a fair chance at a good life.  Highly recommended for mature teens and adults.
overalls and coffee

Good as Lily

Good as Lily 
Derek Kirk Kim

On her 18th birthday Grace not only gets a surprise birthday picnic from her friends, she get an unexpected gift from the universe.  It is after she gets a pinata stuck on her head at the picnic, that things take a turn for the strange.  Nothing obvious at first, but when she returns to the park that night to retrieve a present left behind, she discovers a little girl crying in the dark.  As Grace tries to comfort the child, she hears the panic of someone drowning in the pond.   She is assisted in saving this second mysterious woman by an old lady.  As the four walk out of the park they stop under a streetlight and discover that they all seem very familiar.  In fact, it is just Grace...as a kid, teen, grown woman, and elderly lady.  How could this happen?  Who knows.  Why did it happen?  Obviously so that Grace can learn a lesson.  But while the book certainly does have all four Graces learning important things about their lives and how to live them better, it is not at all preachy.  Rather, it is a fresh, entertaining and engaging tale of true friendship, love, and valuing one self as much as the people in your life do.  Absolutely delightful and highly recommended.