Staff Picks

Fight the Power: Books to Inspire and Instruct Youth Activists

In an adult-dominated society, teens are often excluded from participation in politics. To add insult to injury, they are regularly stereotyped as being self-absorbed and apolitical. However, young people are also concerned citizens who can advocate for significant social change within their communities.

When teens are witness to implicit and overt forms of prejudice, discrimination, and inequality in the news, and in their own lives, it can be difficult for them to know what to do. They may respond with silence, sit in their anger, or feel demoralized and altogether powerless.  

As teens search for strategies to deal with the bias or injustice they see in the world, libraries are a perfect place for them to gain the knowledge and know-how to achieve their own social justice goals.

Books are one resource that can provide budding activists an entry point in broaching complex political topics. They can offer young readers a window into the rich legacy of the United States’ many youth-led movements that have brought about meaningful social change, as well as educate them about contemporary social justice struggles and activists, and how they can use their successes as blueprints for their own lives.

The Des Plaines Public Library has an assortment of current texts that can help teens get informed and get motivated to fight the good fight, whatever that may mean to them.

Cover of It's Your World--If You Don't Like It, Change It: Activism for Teenagers by Laura Scandiffio

It's Your World--If You Don't Like It, Change It: Activism for Teenagers 

By Laura Scandiffio

This book has everything teens need to know to get involved and make a difference at the local, national, or even global level. Each chapter is dedicated to a specific hot-button issue (free speech, women’s rights, racism, animal welfare, bullying and school safety, HIV and AIDS, etc.) and is accompanied by first-hand accounts of student experiences, including successes and challenges, in trying to change their school or community. These sections culminate with an annotated list of relevant books, films, and websites while the book ends with a seven-page resource list for general activism. Filled with practical advice, real-world examples, and hands-on activities, It's Your World--If You Don't Like It, Change It is sure to inspire young adults to get involved and make a difference.

Cover of Feminism: Reinventing the F-Word by Nadia Abushanab Higgins

Feminism: Reinventing the F-Word

By Nadia Abushanab Higgins

This book presents a lively history of feminist activism discussing the three waves of the movement and the issues that feminism addresses, including such topics as reproductive rights, domestic violence, income inequality, and body image. Higgins examines the history of US feminism through it foremothers such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Betty Friedan, Shirley Chisholm, and Gloria Steinem while giving voice to modern leaders who are fighting on the frontlines to ensure gender equality in both cultural and personal arenas in the 21st Century. Chock full of interviews with activists, scholars, pop stars, and average women, Feminism: Reinventing the F-Word is a worthy introduction to the struggle for women’s rights that should resonate with readers of any gender. After completing the book, readers will be able to respond “Am I a feminist?” with a confident, informed voice.

Cover of The Teen Guide To Global Action: How To Connect With Others (Near And Far) To Create Social Change by Barbara A. Lewis

The Teen Guide To Global Action: How To Connect With Others (Near And Far) To Create Social Change

By Barbara A. Lewis

The Teen Guide To Global Action: How To Connect With Others (Near And Far) To Create Social Change is an upbeat, easy-to-read book that provides youths with hands-on activities, user-friendly tools, and up-to-date resources on community service opportunities across the globe and how to create an action plan for service. It also features profiles of teen “difference makers” such as Zach Hunter, who started Loose Change to end modern slavery; Janine Licare, who is helping to stop the destruction of rainforests; and Zhura Bahman, who started a foundation in her native Afghanistan to help girls with education. In showcasing the important contributions of these passionate young agents of change, Lewis demonstrates how teens can put their own volunteer spirit into practice and lend their voices and constructive ideas to shaping their own futures.

Cover of Fight Like a Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World by Laura Barcella

Fight Like a Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World

By Laura Barcella

This snappy, profusely illustrated volume profiles fifty women who dared to change the world, from Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley to Beyoncé. Barcella introduces readers to her fierce female subjects via accessible biographical portraits, sidebars, and memorable quotes. What emerges from this compilation of sketches is a diverse historical representation of feminist activism in the United States that champions the brave souls that paved the way and highlights the contributions of those working hard to shift the political terrain for women today.

Cover of Yes You Can!: Your Guide to Becoming an Activist by Jane Drake and Ann Love

Yes You Can!: Your Guide to Becoming an Activist     

By Jane Drake and Ann Love

In Yes You Can!: Your Guide to Becoming an Activist, Lifelong environmental activists Jane Drake and Ann Love present teen readers with a sequence of nine steps to take to incite social change through grassroots activism. The book is jam-packed with useful advice including how to run meetings, write petitions, and lobby the government. Along with being a terrific how-to book for effecting change, it provides a great deal of historical perspective by recounting the founding of organizations like Amnesty International, Pollution Probe, and Greenpeace. Highly recommended for ambitious and driven teens who want to make a difference.

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