YA Wednesday: The Politics of Hate

Unlike 1969, dubbed the “summer of love,” I would label 2016 the “summer of hate.” Between gun violence, shootings of unarmed civilians and police, violent demonstrations against such incidents, and the Orlando massacre here in the U.S., and terrorist attacks in France, Germany, Syria and other places I’m probably forgetting (or repressing), has there been a more violent summer in recent history? The rhetoric of Donald Trump, with his talk of isolationism and keeping out immigrants, certainly doesn’t help restore peace and calm. People are expressing legitimate concerns about how much work it’s going to take to repair all the damage and hate that’s been unleashed. Well, where better to start than in YA fiction?

• Maybe the first step should be picking up the new YA novel, Waterwight. Instead of promoting walling ourselves up and keeping insular, this novel depicts the challenges and rewards that come from interacting with strangers and different groups of people. (Added bonus: the book will meet many English curricular requirements)

• Or perhaps what’s needed is more empathy. We always knew reading was good for kids, but who knew that reading fiction helps students develop empathy?

• Not only that, apparently reading makes you a better person!

• At a time with overheated rhetoric and scapegoating of “the other” by those feeling left behind economically, one group has been entirely left out of the discussion by both Trump and Clinton: the poor. Turns out this sector of society is also neglected in YA fiction.

• Many fear Trump’s rhetoric is inciting a return to facism. Maybe the trick is keeping the hate within fiction. Apparently facistic societies like Nazi Germany hold an intense fascination for YA readers.

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