cover image Letters from Young Activists: Today's Rebels Speak Out

Letters from Young Activists: Today's Rebels Speak Out

, . . Nation, $14.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-1-56025-747-9

Three young activists marshaled 44 others to their writing desks to pen letters to the world for this pedestrian collection. Their missives are addressed to ideas as well as people: parents, authorities, older activists, "the movement," tomorrow's youth and activists, and even to their own "future selves." Most of the letters are simple exercises in self-expression and self-examination. Common targets for indignation include racism, sexism, homophobia, prisons and imperialism. Often their analyses of the world are rooted in their own experiences with slights or discrimination, rather than in broader causes, a problem that the book itself addresses. "Neglecting vision leads to... detrimental effects.... Our goals include shifting folks from a personal analysis to an institutional critique," writes Stephanie Guilloud, who helped organize the Seattle WTO shutdown. The letters are heartfelt and passionate, but most lack the basic rhetorical skills essential to animate social or political movements. Sentences like "The legacy of activism is filled with successes and failures that we have inherited from those who were active before us" do little to stir the imagination. The collection does, however, highlight a lot of worthwhile volunteer work being done in the nonprofit sector by men and women under 30. (Nov.)