Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

21 December 2010

Book Review: Do it Anyway by Courtney E. Martin

Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists by Courtney E. Martin profiles eight amazing activists whose stories will touch you. But part of Martin's mission for this book was to show the world that her generation (she's Generation Y, I'm GenX) does care about the world and doing things to make it better.

In order to show that GenY isn't just a bunch of me-me-me individuals, but rather full of people creating positive changes in their community, Martin profiles eight people who are doing some amazing things. The shortcoming is is that Martin stuck to the coasts to find her people. Thankfully she acknowledges this right away. As a Midwesterner, I'm obviously miffed at that shortcoming. Sadly Martin even misses her home state of Colorado.

But the people she does profile will engage and suck you in. She opens the book with a profile of Rachel Corrie which is brilliant as Rachel is such a lightening rod for activists. I learned more about Rachel from this profile than my years of reading bits here and there in news pieces. On one hand, Rachel seemed too idealistic. On the other she seemed like a privileged white kid who got in too deep.

Martin's profiles are rich and will require some tissues here and there. Luckily she wrote in a way that keeps you turning the pages at the same time you stop to shake your head at some of the people's lives (Diaz and Guzman).

Her most troubling profile was of Tyrone Boucher, described as a radical philanthropist. A very rich kid rebels against his privilege and upon learning that he will gain access to $400,000 at the age of 21 decides he's going to give it all away. To this working class kid it made my stomach turn. Martin does try to get him to address this contradiction of life. Of a kid with access to the best schools scoffing at his educational opportunities when so many of us would cherish that access. But what really got my goat was that it wasn't clear where Boucher ends up giving his money away to. He takes the radical stance of being against foundations (disclaimer: my husband works for one & I support the Chicago Foundation for Women), but still ends up working with a foundation in New Orleans. Boucher is still working out all the issues of having a lot of money, not liking the weight of it and how to do the best one can with that kind of power. Martin does a brilliant job at showing us that struggle.

Ironically Martin & I seemed to have come full circle from when I read her first book. She now sees her generation as full of change agents and I think Do It Anyway could have used some stats sprinkled in between the stories or even within to give a larger context of how much good stuff her generation is doing. Because while the stories are moving and awesome, they are still just eight people. That said, this would be a great book for a twenty-something who is struggling with what to do with their lives that will make a difference.

Get yourself or a rabblerouser in your life a copy from an indie bookstore or Powells.com.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers.

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