Many current social issues have long histories, and many teens are expressing interest in understanding the historical context of contemporary politics. To become better informed, teens might want to revisit these issues as they played out in history to gain a deeper understanding of modern day events and attitudes. As teens learn more and judge for themselves how the past compares to attitudes today, it could also inspire a deeper understanding of human rights and our responsibilities as humans in today’s modern society.
In the last post I posted a video from Annie Elainey. Again, because she discusses so many great things. Here she discusses Disability Identity and Language:
As she discusses, individuals have their own preferences on how they want to be identified whether it is person-first (person with a disability) versus identity-first (disabled). She links to this article on the Autistic Self Advocacy Network that at the bottom has articles on both sides and some in between.
When we talk about social justice, one of the most often overlooked populations are people with disabilities. The 2014 Disability Status Report for the United States from Cornell University reported that, “In 2014, the overall percentage (prevalence rate) of people with a disability of all ages in the US was 12.6 percent.” The National Health Institute of Mental Health reported in 2015, “Fully 20 percent—1 in 5—of children ages 13-18 currently have and/or previously had a seriously debilitating mental disorder.” These percentages are not reflected in publishing trends.
Representation of any marginalized groups accurately and sympathetically can remove some of the prejudice surrounding them, so including books and media with these characters in our collections is essential. Everyone deserves to see their experiences reflected, as well as studies have shown that reading literary fiction improves empathy. People with disabilities experience some of the highest rates of discrimination and microaggressions. Intersect being disabled with also being a person of color, First/Native Nations, LGBTQ, and/or female and the transgressions can increase. Activist and Vlogger Annie Elainey discusses here in a video Why is Disability Representation So White? #DisabilityTooWhite the many issues that people are experiencing because of lack of representation. (Also, be sure to check out her sources.)
Accurate representation can be a tricky thing, especially if it is not a story or experience that is being written by a person with a similar disability. In January, Lee & Low Books reported results of a 2015 Diversity Baseline Survey about the social makeup of the publishing and book reviewing in North America. In the industry overall, 92% identified as nondisabled, so we can assess that a good portion of the writing, editing, and reviewing books with disabled characters are being done by nondisabled folks. Alaina Leary wrote a great piece for The Establishment titled Why The Publishing Industry Can’t Get Disability Right that is also a must read.
Current events sparked a conversation about the disenfranchised in America. Racism and sexism can be tough subjects to start with teens and a great way to begin is with fantasy and science fiction. These genres often approach these topics using witches or another class of people as metaphors for real life disenfranchised groups. If you are thinking about discussing our current political and social climate with your book club or classroom, consider the titles below.
Zen likes trains especially the rails in his alternate universe in space. When a mysterious man named The Raven pays Zen to steal a box from the train of the emperorer, Zen isn’t sure if The Raven is evil or if it’s the government that’s evil.
Elli is the Saadelah, next in line to be queen, and has accepted her duty to serve and protect the Kupari people with ice and fire magic. When her time to reign has suddenly begun, something goes tragically wrong and Elli is forced to hide in the Outlands with the thieves and murderers. Her time in the Outlands is full of family, love, and a new purpose.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them–JK Rowling
Disenfranchised-Witches and Wizards
On a brief stop in New York City, Newt Scamander accidentally releases some of his magical beasts onto the city. While trying to recapture his beasts, Newt; a nomaj; and two American witches find themselves on the hunt for an Obscurus who’s destroying the New York. Continue reading Equal Rights Through Fantasy and Science Fiction
As part of our month of posts around the topic of social justice, today we’re rounding up some tips and resources to help teens practice good self-care. I am using the term “self-care” to mean general actions that an individual can take to maintain or improve their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. Engaging with issues of social justice can bring up many difficult emotions, trigger or exacerbate mental health concerns, and otherwise prompt symptoms of distress. Stories and coverage of injustice, violence, and violations of civil and human rights are inherently troubling to encounter. Learning to acknowledge and manage this distress can help teens – and adults! – to not feel entirely overwhelmed when confronting issues of social justice. Learning to recognize our individual limits and needs, and developing ways to meet them, are critical tools against feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, or consumed by anger, despair, or helplessness. I am not a health care professional, and self-care strategies and choices are highly personal; your ideas and feedback are encouraged and appreciated in the comments!
One critical level of self-care is taking care of our immediate physical needs: eating nutritious foods, staying hydrated, and, in an era of constant access to the media and the ability to binge on screen-time, taking time away from devices to shower, get dressed, and make sure we’re spending time off the internet.
Taking a few deep breaths, perhaps in sync with this viral and effective GIF, is also a first-line self-care action. These could all be considered self-care strategies to implement right-this-minute in the face of feeling overwhelmed. It’s just a little easier to face the enormity of social justice issues when you’re freshly shampooed and you’ve got going-out-in-public clothes on. Some resources to encourage good habits for these immediate needs: basic health guides (especially those directly addressing the teen years), cookbooks, etc.
Just like the term literacy, social justice has many arms. And just like literacy, we can focus on pieces or the whole of the concept. In this post, we’re focused on narrative nonfiction and how people individually or collectively have pushed for equal rights. The books can be seen as a call to action or providing context for fights still happening abroad and at home.
People Who Said No: Courage Against Oppression by Laura Scandiffio (2012)
A collection of stories about revolutionaries from across the globe, Scandiffio explains why and how individuals or groups stood up for the oppressed and made changes. For The White Rose is was against Hitler, for Helen Suzman is was against apartheid, but there are more highlighted in these chapters. Their courage shows teens that revolutions have happened and continue to happen with the inclusion of the contemporary uprising in Egypt as its last entry.
I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick (2014)
Read in conjunction with the adult biography Yousafzai wrote in 2013 and the picture book For the Right To Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story by Rebecca Langston-George and Janna Bock (2015) these three texts at varying degrees of interest and reading level, do not focus on the shooting that maimed her but on her family’s encouragement to be educated and to speak out against the Taliban and its oppression of women. Continue reading Narrative Nonfiction with Social Justice Themes
2016 has been a year that has brought many important conversations about social justice to the forefront: Black Lives Matter, immigration, gender equality, the rights of indigenous people, poverty and economic inequality, LGBTQ rights.
Libraries across the United States have responded to these conversations in various ways, and within our profession, valid questions have been raised about the role of libraries in social discourse. How do we as library professionals preserves the objectivity of libraries as public institutions and ourselves as information professionals when the idea that free access of information to all is still a radical ideal? Continue reading Libraries and Social Justice
It’s no secret that my two great passions are science fiction and social justice. My love of both can be traced to my childhood, stemming from an early exposure to Star Wars (although I also owe a large debt to L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time but I’ll save that for another post). So when the Internet exploded recently over the newly released trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I took the opportunity to reflect on the lessons I learned from the original trilogy about social justice and revolution (and if you haven’t seen the new trailer, what are you waiting for??!!?) And since librarianship so often intersects with social justice, I figured I’d share them below:
1. You Can Change the World
I’ll start with the most obvious lesson: revolutions can and do succeed against a larger, more powerful institution when fought with conviction and faith. Margaret Mead’s famous quote says this better than I could: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Thanks Leia, Luke, and the entire ragtag team of revolutionaries for proving this to be true and inspiring legions of 7-year-olds to do the same!
2. Act Don’t React
Luke famously walks away from his Jedi training in order to save his friends, blatantly disregarding Yoda’s wise advice to keep to the task at hand. The end result is a poorly planned rescue mission that ends in Luke losing his hand and Leia rescuing him instead. Nice job, Luke! All sarcasm aside, this may be one of the most valuable lessons for any activists and revolutionaries out there. How often do we react rather than pausing to consider the best way to act? It’s always tempting to act in the heat of the moment but for any social movement to succeed, planning, patience, and perseverance are key to sustaining the fight and creating long-term solutions–even when this means drawing back or pausing in the midst of the struggle in order to gain more knowledge, power or perspective. Continue reading What Star Wars Taught Me About Social Justice
Right now its a beautiful summer day outside my door. The sun is shinning, a cool breeze is blowing, and it is hard to imagine a day more perfect. What isn’t hard is imagining a worse scene. News reports, documentaries, even Twitter all bring stories and images of a darker world. Sometimes it’s even as easy as opening a book.
For many teens, adolescence is when they start seeing the dark in the world, near and far. Many teens themselves live in dangerous areas where violence and crime are everyday occurrences that affect them. Teens are also used to having little or no voice when it comes to many important choices. They can’t vote yet and are subject to their parents’ and school rules. As a result many are very aware of social injustices, unfairness, or lack of equality in their own society and others. YA literature is full of books that look closer at social injustices that make you want to fight back.
Cat doesn’t have many friends anymore, but she’s shaken when one she was close to, Patrick, is severely beaten and left for dead. In her small, rural community, many people are willing to think and say he was asking for it by being gay. Cat doesn’t care why; she wants answers and she wants to know who.
Myracle creates more than just a story of homophobia and intolerance. She looks at deeper layers involved: poverty, abuse, drug use, and bullying. What could be preachy or after-school special is instead a complex and fully realized story. Myracle makes the effort to create a place where terrible things can happen but also shows that the violent cycle can be broken.