Literature for a baby lefty?
January 29, 2017 10:36 PM   Subscribe

Books, television, albums, paintings, anything- I have a child somewhat in my life and I want to expose her to deep political thoughts that will not turn her into a nazi.

Not my kid. She's smart, but very, very lazy about reading.

In the past I've made a point to expose her to things ranging from tanzanian rock to norse myth to buddhism, but recently I was talking to one of her friends who specifically called out a thing as misogynist and I kind of want to steer her in a reasonable direction so she doesn't get into the 14-year-old-on-tumblr trap of having no idea what social justice words actually mean->using them wrongly->becoming so disillusioned with the strawman her dumb-because-all-teens-are-dumb teenage friends make up that she becomes Tomi Lahren.

Possible ideas:
a Ta-Nehisi Coates book
Capital in the 21st Century (Piketty)
Weapons of Math Destruction (Cathy O'Neil)

also, stuff like
Steven Universe
Adventure Time
Mass Effect
and other stuff with specific pro-gay/immigrant/etc themes.

The general theme I want to communicate is "listen primarily to older generations, not just 14 year olds on tumblr who just heard of sexism earlier today".
posted by fomhar to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Just occured to me: Casablanca and The Great Dictator, both filmed and released while France was occupied by Nazis and most people believed it would permanently stay under Nazi occupation.
posted by fomhar at 11:49 PM on January 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's dense gritty political sci fi about ragingly misandrist space cats, but the Chanur books of CJ Cherryh are actually very good puzzled out stories about smart people working through their prejudices.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:15 AM on January 30, 2017

Can you bring her to a protest or a town hall meeting or some such? That's not reading (except a couple signs maybe) and I think it'd have quite an impact.
posted by sacchan at 12:28 AM on January 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

14, eh? Chapo Trap House too "adult"? Dirtbag left.

Uh...Howard Zinn!
Woody Guthrie!
The Red and the Black!
The Rosa Luxemburg graphic novel
Seeing Like a State!
The Other Side!
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:44 AM on January 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Would graphic novels like Watchmen, V For Vendetta, Persepolis, and Maus appeal to her?
posted by Candleman at 7:36 AM on January 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

The new Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan) is a Muslim teenager and the comics are generally acknowledged to be charming. There are a couple different graphic novel collections out there now.
posted by praemunire at 8:14 AM on January 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

If it's feasible, could you take her to see the movie Hidden Figures? From what I've heard from reviews, it's an opportunity to understand intersectional discrimination faced by real people. If she's not interested in the movie, you can bribe her with popcorn...
posted by puddledork at 8:19 AM on January 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

I'm not sure about gifting a 704-page tome about the history of capitalism to a teenager who is "very, very lazy about reading," but maybe more than anything else, if you think she's ready for Ta-Nehisi Coates, you have to give her a copy of The New Jim Crow.

recently I was talking to one of her friends who specifically called out a thing as misogynist and I kind of want to steer her in a reasonable direction so she doesn't get into the 14-year-old-on-tumblr trap

Based on this phrasing, it seems like you disagreed with her friend's call-out, and would now like her to become familiar with more "reasonable" ideas about what constitutes a misogynist sentiment? This gives me the sense that you're a man, for no other reason than because I've never known a left-leaning woman to say, "These dumb teenagers, imagining misogyny where none exists; this wrongful appropriation of social justice terminology might just be the thing that leads them down a slippery slope to sympathizing with Nazis." So with respect, unless you're someone who regularly finds themselves on the receiving end of sexism, I would strongly recommend against trying to prove to a teenage girl that her and her friends' experience and awareness of it need to be reassessed: The patriarchy is already very busy trying to convince her that she is overreacting and hypersensitive.

Do send her over to Rookie, though, and to check out the non-fiction listings at Amelia Bloomer Project ("recommended feminist literature for birth through 18") to see if there's anything that touches on a historical figure or subject she's interested in.

As a former baby lefty, albeit one who grew up in the pre-internet age, the books that really blew my mind were Lorde's Sister Outsider, hooks' Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, Davis' Women, Race, and Class, Greer's The Female Eunuch, and Solanas' SCUM Manifesto. I read Firestone's The Dialectic of Sex as an adult but I have no doubt that I would have loved it as a teenage girl. These books are rife with revolutionary and deeply provocative ideas that helped me take to feminism like a duck to water -- YTGMMV (your teen girl's mileage may vary).

On a slightly less confrontational note, maybe Wolf's The Beauty Myth, Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me, Est├ęs' Women Who Run with the Wolves, or Adichie's We Should All Be Feminists?
posted by amnesia and magnets at 9:22 AM on January 30, 2017 [13 favorites]

I feel like classic speculative fiction - of which I have been a dedicated fan since my preteen years - has made me a better person by exploring the darker sides of human nature, the consequences of fascism, anti-intellectualism, class divisions, and many other things. Here's a very short list of classic novels that I feel are directly relevant to what's happening in America today.

Brave New World
A Wrinkle in Time
The Handmaid's Tale
Fahrenheit 451
A Canticle for Leibowitz
The Dispossessed

I'm not joking. I don't know who I'd be without those books. I've heard a number of them on audiobook, which is a great way for lazy readers to take in some quality literature. Maybe you should give her those titles on or something like that.
posted by Cygnet at 9:39 AM on January 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

"Based on this phrasing, it seems like you disagreed with her friend's call-out, and would now like her to become familiar with more "reasonable" ideas about what constitutes a misogynist sentiment?"
No, the callout was actually pretty warranted and I immediately told the friend she was right (it was about low female representation in some merchandise). Part of the reason I want more recommendations is that I'm not always so great at phrasing.

My worry is more that she'll get information from, basically, green party types and/or those rightwing trolls who are all "islam exists so the proper way to be a feminist is to become a stay at home mom pumping out holy soldiers." She attended a march with her mother but from what I hear wasn't really all that into it, and her mother spent a few months of the election extremely negative on Hillary, muttering about both-sides, threatening to vote Stein. I want some complex, clear voices in this kid's media diet, people who can read and synthesize ideas that touch a lot of aspects of culture, people who don't get bogged down in day-to-day outrage but are able to focus on trends. Her friends seem solid and significantly less dumb than I was at that age but teens are still not always super well informed and learning almost everything she'll ever get about feminism and activism from facebook seems....bad.

Also, this kid's already a huge fan of Kamela Khan. I got the first couple of volumes of Ms Marvel (mostly for myself :P ) and she's read those and every subsequent issue the library can get. So as further clarification, she DOES read, just usually not anything I give her since I'm one of those dreaded boring olds.
posted by fomhar at 11:16 AM on January 30, 2017

I don't know if it's aged well, but I really loved the movie All Over Me when I was that age. It deals with friendship, loyalty and sexuality.

I wasn't a lazy reader, but I was a bit of a trashy or light material reader. I always had better luck absorbing more serious material through films or lectures. I do remember reading a lot of Francesca Lia Block books and while they are fictitious modern (er, i guess somewhat vintage now?) "fairytales" they were centered on overtly alternative characters.

On edit, see if she can get into the following PBS shows - Frontline, Independent Lens, and POV.

I don't think the strategy to counteract the stupids is to inundate her with something depicting one philosophy, but rather broad exposures to worldviews, so that they can stew together and bubble out reason.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:23 AM on January 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Subscription to Teen Vogue, which has been doing some knockout political coverage lately. See if she shows any interest at all in any Star Trek TV series -- they all have their problems, but they're not subtle in their leanings. For a current show, Brooklyn 99 is terrific on the issues you mentioned, while being terrifically funny.
posted by furtive_jackanapes at 11:59 AM on January 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

TV: One Day At A Time (also Autostraddle will have more great feminist/queer recommendations, and is itself pretty great, though you may not want to send her to a website that includes sex toy reviews, depending on what you mean by "kid.")

Literature: Alison Bechdel, Jamaica Kincaid, maybe some early Jeanette Winterson, depending on her taste, Virginia Woolf (especially A Room of One's Own and Orlando), Zadie Smith, Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, maybe Patricia Highsmith's The Price of Salt (on which Carol is based).

Essays, Etc: Anything by Audre Lorde, Ellen Willis, maybe Sara Ahmed's blog.

Also when I was 16 my mom gave me her battered old copy of Sisterhood is Powerful, and that was pretty rad. I don't know how well it has aged, but it looks like there's a new version.
posted by dizziest at 2:31 PM on January 30, 2017

I haven't read it myself, because it just came out, but I believe Here We Are is aimed at her age.

I respectfully say that books written before she was born might not appeal to a "very, very lazy" reader. A lot of the books people are suggesting maybe were great when we were in high school, but they haven't aged well. That said: a 14-year-old I know just read Fahrenheit 451 (with the great new cover) and he liked it a lot.

"listen primarily to older generations, not just 14 year olds on tumblr who just heard of sexism earlier today".

Many 14-year-olds are much more clueful than their earlier generations. I'm thinking specifically of gay rights, and acceptance of a range of gender identities.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:38 PM on January 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's quite old, but Black Beauty was written to highlight cruelty to horses. I first read it a very long time ago, but it stuck with me.

The Pullman trilogy His Dark Materials, may be appealing. I think promoting critical thinking is the most lasting approach.
posted by theora55 at 7:07 PM on January 30, 2017

Teen Vogue is actually a good magazine these days. Buy it for the eyeliner tips, stay for the thinkpieces about complex political issues.
posted by decathecting at 7:35 PM on January 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Please don't do this. I've had various people try to push me into the far left or proselytize me heavily on their religion and just to let you know, I hate all those people now. A child is not just a sponge for you to personally mold into the person you want them to be. Be gentle and let her find her own interests-- she'll make up her own mind whether you want her to or not. And your endless prodding will only push her into libertarianism. Well, that's what happened to me.
posted by winterportage at 5:41 AM on January 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Those books I came up with were bad ideas, and I was drunk when I posted this question, but I came to you all because I knew my old person tastes wouldn't appeal and you came through! That teen vogue suggestion is great.

Winterportage: acknowledged. She's already interested in some of this on her own, and a few of her friends are to a much greater degree. I mostly want to make sure that this sort of material is within arms reach.
One thing that's happened a few times is I got her to read a single article or a chapter of a book without any fuss, or stopped a movie to talk about how the holocaust relates to the X-men, then later tied the discussion on legal discrimination into jim crow while playing some blues or apartheid protests when she asked about south africa. She thought the Woody Guthrie song on 30days30songs was kind of cool. General context of modern history discussions while driving her to her friend's house or watching her beat a boss in zelda.

Many 14-year-olds are much more clueful than their earlier generations.

I can't say I've seen any evidence against that, but we earlier generations are so fucking dumb sometimes, and every bit of discussion helps.
posted by fomhar at 10:48 PM on February 1, 2017

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