By Grace Yamada
Youth-lead movements are on the rise globally, and non-fiction publishing is trying to meet the swell of teenagers who are passionate about advocating for themselves and their peers. When I visit schools or hold programs in the library, teens are always interested in materials that can educate and inform them about the world. Despite busy lives, teens are paying attention to the news and visiting the library for context, browsing the shelves, bringing research questions to homework labs, or talking with library staff. Teen activists like Greta Thunberg command the attention of world leaders and the press, as well as energize and inspire thousands of people to actively participate in society. Teens with first-hand experience of political and social issues are publishing memoirs with unprecedented frequency, which point towards an increase in political engagement. A few excellent examples of this genre include I Have the Right To by Chessy Prout, How Dare the Sun Rise by Sandra Uwiringiyimana, and Being Jazz by Jazz Jennings. Each of these books represent different, and sometimes difficult, perspectives of young people, weaving their personal narrative into the complicated tapestry of society. The authors, all under 22 years old when their books were published, navigate significant and dramatic moments in time, chronicling the strength they found to fight adversity.
Adults and teens may recognize themselves in these stories. They will certainly find examples of genuine conviction, personal growth and fierce attitudes, which will no doubt motivate readers to find their own strength and support those who may be overlooked, dismissed or ignored.
Grace Yamada is the young adult librarian at the Jefferson Market Library. She attended New York University and the Palmer School of Library Science. She works to involve teens in the library through technology, art and life skills. She currently serves on the NYPL Poetry Committee.