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Time for Political Young Adult books

February 4, 2017

The first one hundred days of the Trump presidency has lead to protests not seen since the late 1960s. By signing arguably unconstitutional executive orders banning entry to people born in seven nations, regardless of their history, the new President has challenged the assumptions on which the post World War Two world order is founded.

These assumptions have always been:

1) America is a moral world leader, not just a selfish bully.

2) America's constitution is inviolable, even to a President

3) America is a good friend, but a bad enemy

4) America is consistent, honourable and reasonable.

If America hasn't always lived up to these aspirations, it has at least had the grace to be embarrassed by it. But now it seems the President wants America to abandon any pretense of honour and simply become an oafish bully who doesn't care who it offends so long as it get's its own way - a view that many around the world, Americans included, simply don't recognize as American.

For young people this sudden need to take a political stand must come as something of a shock. Under Obama politics was almost theatre. Obama was not threatening anybody with anything, and was, at worst, simply not living up to his advertising.

But Trump is threatening people, almost all of them, minorities. Be they immigrants, black or Hispanic citizens or women in general, Trump is threatening to reverse hard won gains. People who are not white males face increased street violence, police discrimination and bureaucratic harassment.

Young people who have ignored history, politics and civil rights in favour of entertainment and distraction are becoming uncomfortably aware that something serious  is changing under their feet. The myth of racial and gender equality isn't just being challenged by misadministration. It is in danger of becoming policy.

The distant and boring world of government is (like the Hunger Games) reaching out to grab their lives by the short and curlies, but it is not offering a chance to be glamourous on television as compensation. All it is offering only the scary options of compliance or resistance, and resistance is a lot more scary and a lot less glamourous than it looks in Rogue One.

Changels is a series about six teenagers who have all faced discrimination not because of what they have done, but because of what they inherited from their parents. Scott, the only white, grew up in Zimbabwe. Tarik is a Turkish Kurd. Ashley grew up in a family of black activists in Louisiana. Indeed the whole series offers a series of perspectives on inheritance and discrimination, up to and including genocide. It covers the sweep of history, from World War Two to the near present, and a range of scientific possibilities including genetic weapons and personal genetic engineering.

For teens or adults who are facing a political awakening as a result of the new world order Changels offers an introduction to the complex world we live in while at the same time remaining entertaining.

 

 

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