Teens, with an intense national election just days away, I’m in the mood to talk about democracy. And not just about the facts you learn in American Gov. Let’s talk about the nitty gritty messy stuff. The kind of stuff that threatens to undermine our representative government, subverting the will of the people and leaving our influence diluted.
Wait. Do you know about the nitty gritty messy stuff? Many of you probably do. I thought I did too, but I didn’t totally get it until I read Elizabeth Rusch’s “You Call This Democracy? How to Fix Our Government and Deliver Power to the People.”
While the first part of the title sounds cynical, the contents are anything but. Rusch systematically unpacks the reasons American democracy is in peril, including problematic issues with the electoral college, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and more, and instead of just pointing out problems, Rusch provides readers—specifically teen readers— starting points for actively working towards solutions.
You may find it hard to believe that a non-partisan book about politics is riveting, but this one is. Using real-life examples, easy-to-understand graphs and charts, and compelling data, Rusch helps readers develop a nuanced understanding of a complicated topic, sometimes getting our blood boiling as we realize the real sources of power in our current electoral system. You may walk away from reading this book vexed. But you will also be energized, informed, and well-positioned to take concrete steps towards activism if that is your thing.
After you put down “You Call This Democracy?,” you will more than likely be ready for some fiction, but your political juices will still be flowing. No problem. Your next read may have to be Brandy Colbert’s new YA novel “The Voting Booth.” When idealist, die-hard activist, and first-time voter Marva Sheridan sees fellow teen Duke Crenshaw turned away at the polls, she can’t let it go. What follows is a wild election day filled with mad dashes between precincts and a series of rejections, experiences that give Marva and Duke a civics lesson they may not have anticipated. Did I mention there’s also a splash of romance? You should have seen that coming. I mean, is there anything more passion-inducing than working together to realize your democratic duty?
I know in my last mullet-inspired article I promised you a literary man-bun next, but this time I delivered more of an 18th-century powdered wig (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s a long story…you may be better off not knowing). Before you go powder your own wig, I want to direct any first-time voters, or even second or third time voters, to the Teens page of the AKSPL website: www.akspl.org/teens/. There you will find a link to a Young Voter’s Guide to Social Media and the News compiled by Common Sense Media. This resource is designed to help you cut through the election hype and get to the facts. If you haven’t voted yet, be sure to check it out. And if you’re not old enough to vote yet, get a head start, check it out anyway, and turn yourself into an election fact-finding guru. And of course, if you’re 18 or older, VOTE.