We asked members of the YDS Coordinating Committee what novels they might give to a younger sibling this holiday season or what had influenced them. If you have a young adult on your gift list, you might want to check them out (or read or re-read them yourself). We encourage you to order from a local independent bookseller—Ed.
The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath is a unique coming-of-age novel. Protagonist Esther Greenwood gets an internship at an upscale magazine in New York City. Rather than being the bright-eyed college student drawn by the allure of the city, she begins questioning her path in life and slowly spirals into depression. Throughout her struggle with depression she questions the role of women in society and the pressure they have to take on domestic duties. Greenwood consistently questions the oppressive patriarchal society of America in the mid-20th century. Greenwood is a strong female character whom young women can look to when searching for their feminist identity. - Shelby Murphy
Capital—In Manga! Karl Marx’s ground-breaking work is as relevant today as when first published in 1867. Our current chaotic “boom and bust economy,” coupled with the mass exploitation of a truly international work force, makes Marx’s analysis of the laws of capitalist motion extremely useful to organizers. Introducing people, especially young readers, to Marx’s tome, however, is a difficult task given its length and denseness. Luckily, Capital—In Manga!, published in 2012 by Red Quill Press, provides a graphic, novelized introduction to key concepts of Capital. The story follows Robin, a young cheese-maker, who confronts moral dilemmas and class contradiction as his company grows. Capital—In Manga! is a must-have for young people who are interested in Marx but unsure of where to start.
- Andee Sunderland
Most people on the left have had that “aha!” moment, when radicalization began. Mine started in my early childhood with books, and with a few books in particular. One of them was Dune, by Frank Herbert. Dune is set in the arid desert of Arrakis, where the most valuable natural resource of them all can be found, spice. Spice is so valuable that wars are fought over it, lives are risked to mine it, and treaties have been made to stop one nation from monopolizing it. The protectors of this desert are called Fremen, who live in what I would call something very near the last stage of communism. This book is one of the greatest works of science fiction, and anyone who loves the genre should read it, many times if possible. - Femi Agbabiaka
Ray Bradbury paints a dismal, dystopian future in his classic novel Fahrenheit 451, where it has become a social norm for people to spend their time watching television and listening to the radio without engaging in critical thinking or even appreciation of the world around them. Books, in Bradbury’s dystopia, are not only banned, but actively sought out and burned by “firemen.” The story follows the awakening of fireman Guy Montag, as he realizes the value of books while recognizing how dangerously conformist society has become. Despite its simplistic story line, the novel presents a powerful reminder of the dangers of conformity and censorship. Fahrenheit 451 warns of the toll censorship and the resulting conformity will take on society. As socialists, we should heed this warning by challenging censorship as it appears. - Melody Yee
Persepolis is an autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi. It’s divided into two sections that tell the story of her life both before and after the Islamic revolution in Iran. The first part covers her childhood in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, with part two picking up with Marjane attending high school in Vienna and then carrying on through her return to Iran for college, her marriage, divorce, and leaving Iran to live in France. I recommend this novel because it does a fantastic job of showing that regardless of the differences among global leaders, the people aren’t all that different. - Jacob Curry