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Another What Youth Reading List This time with no dead white guys!

what youth radical class book review alison gibson

After checking out (and nodding along with) Travis’ recent fall syllabus featuring the literary heavy-hitters many of us have returned to again and again for inspiration, I had the urge to put together another reading list for you guys, made up of authors you maybe haven’t yet read or even heard of. With two Pulitzer Prize-winning books on it, this list is less like some kind of unearthing of obscure experimental writers (though there is one of those here, too) and more like an introduction to some contemporary voices who you might not have found your way to. And there’s not a single dead white dude among them! But just like the boys on Travis’s list, these authors also write the kind of raw, wild, darkly funny, and often weird stories that will leave you with a deeper understanding of what it is to be human in this messed up and beautiful world. Allison Gibson

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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

[Oscar] had none of the Higher Powers of your typical Dominican male, couldn’t have pulled a girl if his life depended on it. Couldn’t play sports for shit, or dominos, was beyond uncoordinated, threw a ball like a girl. Had no knack for music or business or dance, no hustle, no rap, no G. And most damning of all: no looks.

This groundbreaking, hilariously-heartbreaking, and Pulitzer-winning novel by Junot Diaz follows the—you guess it—brief life of an overweight, sexually frustrated and lovesick Dominican-American nerd growing up in New Jersey. But it’s also much more than that. Told for the most part through one narrator’s profanity- and Spanglish-laced brutally honest point-of-view, the story takes us from high to low culture (academic-style footnotes meet science fiction lingo meet every description of girls imaginable), and from decades-old war crimes in the Dominican Republic to modern day relationship drama in New York’s Washington Heights. Ultimately it’s a coming of age story, as much about a single person as about a collective family’s experience. It tests the limits of just how much shit anybody is willing or able to endure in the name of attaining a better life, a sense of belonging, and authentic love.

Grab it here.


 

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A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

“I’m done,” he said. “I’m old, I’m sad—that’s on a good day. I want out of this mess. But I don’t want to fade away, I want to flame away—I want my death to be an attraction, a spectacle, a mystery. A work of art.”

Another genre-bending book that won the Pulitzer, this is sometimes called a novel and sometimes described as a collection of linked short stories. Either way, it’s some of the sharpest, funniest, realest writing around. From the moment it starts, with a kleptomaniac music industry assistant stealing a stranger’s wallet while escaping a bad date in the bathroom of a New York City bar, this book is a cocktail of bad choices and faded rock star dreams, featuring a cast of characters whose wrongs may or may not end up being redeemed by the end of each one’s personal race against time.

Grab it here.


 

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The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia

You cannot kill or steal from a man while he is asleep and heartbroken. While it is said that everything is fair in love and war, the dictum is nullified when both love and war occur simultaneously; then the rules of battle become more stringent.

This book is weird. But when it comes to art, weird done right is good. The actual physical book itself is a work of art, challenging traditional perceptions with a layout that features columns in place of paragraphs, text running sideways in places, hand drawn diagrams, and even entire sections intentionally blacked out. In the same unconventional way, the story it tells weaves together an invented creation myth that originates in Mexico with a hallucinogenic tale of war waging in the L.A. County immigrant community of El Monte. There’s also the author’s own, seemingly true, bitter breakup story inserted right into his experimental work of fiction.

Grab it here.


 

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The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner

Making art was really about the problem of the soul, of losing it. It was a technique for inhabiting the world. For not dissolving into it.

A pulse-pounding story of motorcycle races, political violence, and art world egomania, Kushner’s award-winning novel is set in large part in the 1970s heyday of New York’s art scene. The sex, drugs, and faux-intellectualism of that scene seduce a young woman named Reno, who gets snared in its net while aspiring to her own goal of setting a speed record for racing a motorcycle and becoming a successful conceptual artist. A series of circumstances lead Reno from New York’s SoHo to Utah’s expansive salt flats to Rome’s riot-filled streets. And like its protagonist’s addiction to the speed of her bike, the book rarely pauses to take a breath.

Grab it here.

Radical Class: Some Weekend Reading A book about Australia (it’s that time again!) from an author we can’t get enough of

“Australia is mostly empty and a long way away. Its population is small and its role in the world consequently peripheral. It doesn’t have coups, recklessly overfish, arm disagreeable despots, grow coca in provocative quantities, or throw its weight around in a brash and unseemly manner. It is stable and peaceful and good. It doesn’t…

Five Songs For Your Next Surf Clip Here’s “Wonderwall” or something or other.

You ever sit down to enjoy the latest web clip and start off thinking, “Hey, the surfing here isn’t terrible.” But then, oh let’s say thirty-seconds into everything, you change your tone. Something’s not quite right. Tilting your head to the side, you raise your eyebrows a bit and say to yourself, “But the music…

What Youth Eats: Open Fire Soup When the thermometer drops, cook outside! Here’s how.

When you get close to Christmas and New Years it’s too easy to sink in to the hole of your living room, stuffed from eating and drinking heavily since Thanksgiving and let the anxieties of 12-hour family days and new year’s expectations to start creeping in. So if that is what actually ended up happening…

What Youth Drinks: Tropical Eggnog Happy Holidays, But First Drink this Punch     

To quote maybe every other person right now, “it’s been quite a year, right?” So much emotion! So much drama! Never the less we’re here, hopefully gathering around a table with a bunch of family to reconnect, catch up, etc.. But as beautiful as the idea of family togetherness is, 10-12 extended family members sitting…

what youth recommends top 5 books holiday break

Books we recommend for holiday break Spark up a fire and put some words through your mind for the holidays.

The next two weeks are an opportunity. A break. A moment to find clarity and inspiration. For most of us, in between the family gatherings and trips and travel and chaos there is a year wrapping up, and an opportunity to squeak in one or two more books to our count for the year. And believe…

what youth radical class cocktails with paul brewer

What Youth Drinks Building Blocks to a Great Cocktail

Did you know making cocktails is as easy as 1-2-3? Well, it can be with Booze-Acid-Sugar. In this brave new world of crazy ass cocktails, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all these circus dick concoctions. Artisanal aperitifs, flavored vodkas, and flair-full garnishes are all real fancy, but sometimes they cloud the basics. Because, when…

Radical Class: What Youth Reads Homage to Catalonia: a book seven decades young and still topical!

The Spaniards are good at many things, but not at making war. All foreigners are alike appalled by their inefficiency, above all their maddening unpunctuality. The one word that no foreigner can avoid learning is mañana.—George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia I bring books with me when I go on vacation for two reasons. One, I struggle…

Radical Class: “The Center Will Not Hold” Definitely watch the new Netflix documentary on writer Joan Didion

In a world full of chaos, absurdity, tragedy and Stranger Things, it’s always nice to find some larger perspective in a good old fashioned documentary. And the latest on writer Joan Didion is that. Few names have encouraged an entire generation of people and writers the way she has. And just a few minutes into the…

Radical Class, What Youth Drinks, Paul Brewer

WHAT YOUTH DRINKS: COCCI AMERICANO An Easy, Inexpensive way to Live that Riviera High Life

I snagged a bottle of this Cocci Americano stuff after seeing it on the shelf at a cocktail bar in Long Beach, CA. It was an impromptu buy — I didn’t know what it was or what to do with it, but thought I’d figure it out. Experiment! Cocktail jazz improvisation! While I’ll save the…

Radical Class, Berlin, Adam Warren

Radical Class: Hope from the Road Just when you thought it was all over: there is Berlin  

Turns out there is still hope out there. Out there, beyond your day-to-day, somewhere out on the road its not all politics, hurricanes, bad vibes and bad memes. In fact, the other day I found myself way outside the bad lands somewhere in Berlin. Just off the plane I walked around the Mitte District. I meandered…

WHAT YOUTH EATS: AGUACHILE Another Raw One: Sinaloa Spicy Shrimp

If you’ve been following along, you know that we’ve gone raw at WhatYouth.com for the last few weeks. We’ve played with raw tuna a couple different ways (here and here), and got fancy and fresh with a raw beef tartare last week. It’s been fun, delicious, and the whole experiment has opened up our late…

what youth eats, raw, radical class, paul brewer

WHAT YOUTH EATS: RAW BEEF The latest in our Raw Series: Steak tartare is the primest of the prime.

For the last few weeks we’ve gone raw. We’re doing it all for the flavor — an exercise to experience great ingredients at their root essence, with a secondary win of less time cooking and more time having summertime fun outside (making raw things takes less time, duh). So far we’ve focused on fish and…

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