When I was a teenager, I had a couple of survival manuals. We were trying to survive a racist, sexist, war-mongering, repressive society that seemingly couldn’t wait to ship us off to die in Vietnam. One was Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book and the other was Dance the Eagle to Sleep by Marge Piercy. Both gave ideas about how to survive, but, more importantly, how to stay strong and fight to change the world. But the book that I wish we had was only published in 2012. Every young person around the world should run to their nearest radical bookstore and buy a copy. Stay Solid! A Radical Handbook for Youth is dynamite.
From the very beginning it sets out a revolutionary vision of both the book itself and the world that it hopes will come to be one day, after the revolution. The editor says, “This book is a collection of ideas and stories, information, advice, and encouragement to stay solid and build a good life in a crazy world. We’re pretty confident that what you’ll find in here is an argument for a different, better kind of world.” What is the goal of the book? It is for readers to “stay radical, keep asking hard questions, keep resisting, keep fighting the good fight and keep trying to be a good person leading a thoughtful, generous, fun life.”
Stay Solid is divided into 21 sections, each one vital for young people. The topics range from the family—with a radical redefinition of what it means to be part of a family—to school, community, relationships, and drugs. But for revolutionary organizers the best parts are found in the discussions on race and gender, media, class and class struggle.
Every section is set up the same way. There is an introduction by the editor or editorial collective, a short but valuable resource guide, and then lots of pages where young people and their elders write about, reflect on, explain and discuss the particular topic. One writer provides a step-by-step guide to setting up a pirate TV or radio station. Another reflects on what it means, through her poetry, to be a Third World person constantly being studied by academics and other jerks of their ilk. One writer explains what the idea of class and class struggle is really about and offers a two-page analysis and critique of liberalism. There is a powerful section on ecocide and there is a Zapatista cartoon book.
Many of the authors are ingenious, bold and eloquent. For example, in the section on community, one writer said, “we must tell our story in a new language, a language of passion and purpose, vision and creativity. Solidarity and direct action. And when we truly find our voice, we should use it to shout, finally and deafeningly: Of course there is an alternative. It is us.” The book also features sections on mental and physical wellness and the battle for both in an increasingly insane society and concludes with some words for the new generation of young revolutionaries from older revolutionaries who also began their time as a revolutionary teen. So, as we say in the streets and in the ‘hoods: “Great revolutionary book. C’mon and check it out.”