November 17, 2017

Subscribe to SLJ

Adult Books 4 Teens: Titles to Galvanize a Call for Social Justice

SLJ1502_AB4T-justice-StripThe following are nonfiction titles reviewed on the “Adult Books 4 Teens” that feature young people whose lives are adversely affected by racism, gender discrimination, or violence. Teens will be galvanized by the call for social justice within these pages.—Angela Carstensen and Mark Flowers

Almond, Steve. Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto. 192p. Melville House. 2014. Tr $22.95. ISBN 9781612194158.

A longtime devoted football fan, Almond spends much of the first quarter of this book solidifying his football bona fides before beginning his onslaught of reasons that he feels he can no longer watch his favorite game. These arguments are familiar—concussions and sub-concussive hits; the game’s twisted monetary incentives; its cult of violence; racism; and its vexed relationship with the American capitalism and patriotism. But the sheer weight of the evidence is impressive and hard to ignore. Even when Almond’s arguments seem strained, he is able to put the burden of proof squarely on readers to disprove him with more than a simple dismissal. Particularly strong is his complete demolition of the argument that the mere popularity and fixity of the game somehow puts it above criticism. Many football fans will react with derision, and many non-fans will consider his points self-evident: both are wrong. These are arguments that deserve to be considered deeply and grappled with, and teens—who have not yet devoted their lives or opinions to or against the sport—are in a perfect position to take Almond’s manifesto seriously.—Mark Flowers, John F. Kennedy Library, Vallejo, CA

Bernstein, Nell. Burning Down the House: The End of Youth Prison. 319p. Free Pr. 2014. Tr $26.95. ISBN 9781595589569.

Bernstein outlines the history of juvenile “reform” schools, the rise and fall of the rehabilitative model, and the reality of what happens behind bars to already traumatized teens: further physical, sexual, and mental abuse. The author takes a look at solitary confinement practices, “therapeutic prisons,” and juvenile reentry. Using solid teen developmental theory and research, United Nations findings, and trauma-informed care, this title articulately sets forth the argument against the imprisonment of children. A passionate advocate for young people, Bernstein highlights teen voices and experiences throughout the book, adding humanity and insight to the statistics. Burning Down the House brings this issue to national attention. Readers meet influential adults such as Jerome Miller, who closed down the entire system in Massachusetts in the ‘70s, and Gladys Carrion, Chief Commissioner of New York, who not only closed down 18 state facilities by 2012 and halved the number of incarcerated kids, but also diverted $74 million to support community-based alternatives to incarceration. Teens interested in history, social sciences, and one of the biggest issues facing young adults in the U.S. will find lots to love in this book.—Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Juvenile Hall, CA

Nordberg, Jenny. The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan. 368p. index. notes. Crown. 2014. Tr $25. ISBN 9780307952493; ebk. ISBN 9780307952516.

The girls portrayed in this book are not resisting with weapons or spying: they are simply living their lives as boys. The reasons are varied. The family needs help in a store. Women need a “male” relative to walk them on errands. Many girls call their status as a “boy” a type of magic—by showing that the family is ready for a boy, a real male child may arrive. Often, members of the community know the child is really a girl, but accept this gender switch and go along with the ruse. Nordberg focuses her narrative on the adult Azita. Her father educated her, but once she reached her prime childbearing years, she was married off to a rural, illiterate cousin. Somehow, Azita manages to win a government seat in her new district. Western readers will root for Azita to find a way out of this fiercely patriarchal arrangement, but Nordberg is astounding in her ability to elicit sympathy and rage for the women portrayed, while also attempting to explain why more elaborate female resistance may not yet be possible. Teenagers will find a great deal to think about in this well-researched and readable piece of reporting.—Jamie Watson, Baltimore County Public Library, MD

redstarStevenson, Bryan. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. 352p. notes. Spiegel & Grau. 2014. Tr $28. ISBN 9780812994520; ebk. ISBN 9780812994537.

What is the one commonality of people on death row? If the victim is white, the perpetrator is 11 times more likely to be condemned to die than if the victim is black. When Stevenson was a 23-year-old Harvard law student, he started an internship in Georgia where his first assignment was to deliver a message to a man living on death row. This assignment became his calling: representing the innocent, the inadequately defended, the children, the domestic abuse survivors, the mentally ill—the imprisoned. This fast-paced book reads like a John Grisham novel. One of those profiled, Walter, was at a barbecue with over 100 people at the time of the murder he was accused of, and spent more than six years on death row. The stories include those of children, teens, and adults who have been in the system since they were teens. This is a title for the many young adults who have a parent or loved one in the prison system and the many others who are interested in social justice, the law, and the death penalty. A standout choice.—Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Juvenile Hall, CA

This article was published in School Library Journal's February 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Share