How I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generation

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
How I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generation Book Poster Image
30 creative voices inspire teens to shape a better world.

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Educational Value

Discusses responsibilities, opportunities for civic engagement in America, including developing news literacy. Provides actionable ways teens can participate in their communities, beyond. Demonstrates different forms of political expression, from songs to poetry to satire. Civil rights history and athletic icons. Includes suggestions for further reading on resistance.

Positive Messages

Despair is the enemy of hope and progress. Pick something you care about and act on it. Teens can build political power before they're old enough to vote. Voting and taking action connects you with community. Be active consumers of media, not passive -- clicks and retweets are a form of voting. Resistance isn't always a conscious act. Lucky people should stand for the unlucky. Be comfortable with failure, learn through mistakes. Taking risks is how you bridge gaps. It's OK to feel uncomfortable and weird -- be authentic and you'll find your people. Everyone deserves relationships built on mutual respect. Be a decent person. Be kind to yourself, don't empty your own well to replenish others. Don't let anyone steal your joy.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Many of the contributors work in politics and social justice, but many incorporate activism into their work as creative artists -- showing how activism can take many forms. Several share their own struggles to maintain energy and enthusiasm for activism, along with other challenges they face. They're open about how they grapple with racism, homophobia, pressure to conform, stereotyping, bullying, fear, social media, and more.


References to masturbation and diaphragms.


Profanity includes "ass," "a--hole," "badass," "bitchin'," "bulls--t," "damned," "f---ing," "hell," "pissed," "s--t," and "screwed."


Mentions of stores (Walmart, Starbucks, Winn-Dixie), cars (Corvette, Jaguar, Cadillac), social media and digital games (Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, Pokémon), and a few other brands (Uggs, Doritos, Crest).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Jokes about someone "huffing" fabric softener and spiking a relative's drink with Xanax.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that How I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generation is a diverse collection of liberal voices offering inspiration and concrete advice on how teens can make their voices heard -- and their presence felt -- both close to home and on a broader platform. Though solidly planted in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, it promotes resistance as a means of questioning the status quo and helping to make the world a better place. The contributors bring a broad range of experience and perspective in terms of sexual orientation, ethnicities, and forms of political engagement, and include artists, academics, and leading activists. Some of the familiar names include Jacqueline Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family), and Jason Reynolds (For Every One). There's some strong language peppered through some of the pieces (including "f---ing," "a--hole," and "p---y").

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What's the story?

HOW I RESIST features 30 diverse voices talking about how teens can influence the world around them, from just being decent people to creating art, calling political representatives, and lobbying for change. The pieces include essays, interviews, poetry, artwork, and music, each with a brief bio. Some pieces are concrete and specific, such as Rock the Vote president Carolyn DeWitt's five suggestions for ways teens can be politically active before they can vote. Others explore how activists find their voices and learn to use them, such as Dylan Marrow (of the podcast Conversations with People Who Hate Me) and actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, or offer heartfelt perspective and support, such as writers Rebecca Roanhorse and Alex Gino (George).

Is it any good?

There's no one right way to engage in democracy, and this passionate collection celebrates the many forms political activism can take -- from being authentic in your relationships to leading a march. How I Resist is an unabashedly liberal bundle of inspiring ideas. Edited by Maureen Johnson (Truly Devious), it offers refreshing creative breadth: Javier Muñoz discusses his experience performing in Hamilton, Jason Reynolds talks about how he finds hope, Karuna Riazi (The Gauntlet) writes poetically about caring for yourself so you can care for others. Other contributors teens may recognize include Rosie O'Donnell, actor Ali Stroker (Glee), and writers Sabaa Tahir, Jennifer Weiner, and Jodi Picoult.

Conservative readers may struggle to connect with some themes, but there's something for everyone. The mix of to-do lists, academic explorations, music, artwork, personal essays steeped in memory, and advice offers teens diverse ways to explore their political power.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the many forms of resistance in How I Resist. Did any surprise you? Has your understanding of resistance or political participation changed?

  • Which voices in this collection resonated most with you? Which could you relate to? Which inspired you?

  • What do you want to change in the world? How are you helping to make that change?

Book details

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