I have no idea what is happening with our sudden spate of We Recommends, but I am happy about it (even though I may have forgotten how to spell recommend, or at least, I've lost my confidence about it). If you know a kid who needs a book to read, send us (thediamondinthewindow (at) gmail (dot) com) his or her likes, dislikes, favorites, quirks, and any other reading information that might be helpful, and we will think on it, and pose it to our oh-so-helpful readers. And look in the comments—all the best recommendations are there.
For those of you who like a challenge, we are here for you! Here we go, with an email from a devoted aunt, whose niece is about to turn 17 and requests a book for her birthday:
She's read and loved Jacqueline Woodson's books, including, recently, Another Brooklyn.In life she cares about social justice. Recently said she she might want to go into politics which if she does, wow! She's also liked baking and seems to like shopping. Is going to be a peer leader at her school next year – something she worked hard to compete for.I think she wants novels now, which is great. She's an avid reader.And not to get too tedious and demographic, but, I think it'd actually be cool if she read a book with an Irish, or part Irish, female main character, or even character somewhere! And another with a Jewish, or part Jewish, female main character, or again, a character somewhere. The book doesn't have to be a social argument, that's not what I'm saying. Not sure how many of those titles have ever crossed her path. Or if they have, not for a very very very long time. Maybe for the first, Charming Billy? I've never read Allegra Goodman – one of hers?But maybe those are too old for her? I don't know. Hmm….
Sure, you're thinking, social justice for a teenage girl is a piece of cake. But then you add on all the things and you feel like: eek, does the right book exist anywhere? That elusive beast, the perfectly right book?
When I first wrote back to her, I thought about That Night by Alice McDermott, and also Allegra Goodman's sci-fi novel. Neither of these felt just right. Then I thought about The Poisonwood Bible, but again—close, but no cigar. Social justice, but not the demographic particularity (that while not essential, is still a fun challenge). I thought about A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but that might be too young? Ditto All of a Kind Family. Then I thought about the excellent story collection, Fools, by Joan Silber, but a story collection might not make sense?
Oh! OK, this is all over the news, and maybe she already read it, and it doesn't correspond to anything she's asking about, but here's my crazy left-field guess:
Anyway, I bet many of you have better ideas than I, and if any of you hit all these requirements? You win a prize.*
*Fair warning: It is possible that the prize will be the satisfaction of knowing you've done an amazing thing.
7 thoughts on “We Recommend: Social Justice for a Teenage Girl”
I actually don’t think that A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is too young. I read it as an adult recently out of college and really enjoyed it.
For social justice (but I don’t think any explicitly Irish or Jewish characters): The Cider House Rules.
For Jewish characters with good thought provoking themes about responsibility (though generally, I don’t love recommending books for “Jewish characters” when the book is set in WWII, but exception to every rule): The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. The main character is not Jewish, but I think it still hits enough elements.
It’s a story but written in verse about a Jewish immigrant- Audacity by Melanie Crowder.
“2015 National Jewish Book Award finalist.
The inspiring story of Clara Lemlich, whose fight for equal rights led to the largest strike by women in American history. A gorgeously told novel in verse written with intimacy and power, Audacity is inspired by the real-life story of Clara Lemlich, a spirited young woman who emigrated from Russia to New York at the turn of the twentieth century and fought tenaciously for equal rights. Bucking the norms of both her traditional Jewish family and societal conventions, Clara refuses to accept substandard working conditions in the factories on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. For years, Clara devotes herself to the labor fight, speaking up for those who suffer in silence. In time, Clara convinces the women in the factories to strike, organize, and unionize, culminating in the famous Uprising of the 20,000.”
Not exactly hitting your criteria, but also A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly.
Oh! What about Ragtime? It’s got Jewish characters, and lots of jumping off points for social justice discussions.
Ooh, Ragtime! Emma Goldman craziness! That is an excellent idea.
These are excellent and interesting options. I hope she gets all of them.
The NYT is copying you!
So what did she end up getting?