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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, What Youth Eats

What Youth Eats: Huevos Rancheros Your weekend mornings are now better

Huevos Rancheros hold a special place down deep in my gut. Growing up, when dad wasn’t at work on weekend mornings, we’d wake up early to surf the Cliffs, then he’d take me to Georges Mexican Food right by our house in Huntington Beach for breakfast. Every time the order was the same: two orders…

What Youth, Radical Class, Paul Brewer

WHAT YOUTH EATS: WITHOUT RECIPES Try this, then go rip into it

Learning to cook and make cocktails is a funny process. We read cookbooks, we watch TV shows, maybe we try a recipe or two from whatyouth.com. For the most part, we get set up with a list of instructions, and we’re expected to follow it closely or else it will be ruined. That’s a process that’s…

what youth eats our veggies

WHAT YOUTH EATS: OUR VEGGIES Skip the Meat with Grilled Mushroom Risotto

You’re eating your veggies, right? For those of you who just need meat with your meals, may I offer mushrooms instead. Here, the mushrooms are grilled to give a deeper, nuttier flavor, and combined with creamy rich risotto. Once you get the hang of risotto, it can be a quick dinner. Until you get the hang of…

what youth memorial day

Radical Class: On Memorial Day Celebrating and Remembering in Equal Parts

These days, Memorial Day is all about burgers and beers, beach days and maybe some deeply discounted retail shopping. But, of course, it isn’t. It’s about war and the people who fought in them — namely the Civil War, where 620,000 Americans died. Where today’s Memorial Day is little more than an excuse to party…

What Youth Eats: On a Trip Bridging the disconnect between great waves and crappy food on surf trips

I haven’t been lucky enough to be on a fancy boat trip with a private chef, but I have been on plenty of surf trips where we’re in the middle of nowhere without so much as a taco stand in sight. So what to eat? Usually it’s an early question on that road between the…

What Youth Eats, Tools

WHAT YOUTH EATS: TOOLS OF THE TRADE 10 Inexpensive and Essential Kitchen Tools to get you Cooking

Have we gotten ahead of ourselves? We’re here telling you how to sear scallops and make cioppino, but what if you don’t have a pot to cook in? How can you prep, sear, steam and eat without a couple of basic kitchen tools? While the internet is full of “must-buy” lists for the kitchen, most…

What youth Drinks: The Margarita How to order them this Cinco de Mayo and forever

Cinco de Mayo is around the corner (a week from today in fact!) and we need to get one thing straight:  Cinco de Mayo is NOT the celebration of Mexican Independence — as many have been led to believe. It is a celebration in remembrance of when the French were defeated in Puebla. And in Mexico, Puebla is…

What Youth Eats: The “Couchella” Menu Since we moved on from attending, here’s what we’re eating while we stream

I don’t have the time or the patience or the money to spend this weekend in the desert. (We actually officially moved on from Coachella last year). But I do have time and patience and the money to park it on my couch and watch it all weekend on my internet TV. And while my Coachella viewing…

What Youth Eats

What Youth Eats: Turkish Kebabs Now that we’ve graduated from our tour through Europe, let’s cook what we ate the whole time at home

Now that we finished up our three city tour through Berlin, Cologne and Amsterdam, its time to shine a light on the one common thread that has kept us alive for these past few weeks of travel and will through pretty much any trip you take to Europe. The “donner kebab.” This is a Turkish style kebab,…

what youth recommends building a beginner bar

WHAT YOUTH DRINKS: BUILD A BAR Home bars made easy. Let’s get the drinks flowing.

Don Draper would approve. Bar carts with gold rails, hand carved mixing gadgets, illuminated backlighting — home bars these days can be really amazing. Like, totally Instagram worthy. Also, really expensive. A fully-stocked home bar should be more a culmination of years of collecting bottles and drinking with friends, as opposed to something that’s set…

what youth eats

WHAT YOUTH EATS: WHAT YOU’RE GIVEN Make no substitutions, please.

Is your stomach closed-minded? Are you the picky one? Try to eat or drink what you’re given. And like it. It was like traveling with a 4 year old who only likes mac and cheese. Here we are in the Dominican Republic, first night, ready to find waves in the morning, and our gracious host…

what youth radical class europe

Radical Class: Going to Amsterdam Eat, drink and wander through Europe (Pt. 3 of 3)

Stepping off the train at the Amsterdam Central for the first time is overwhelming. You emerge from this historic building doubling as a train station and step right in to a beautiful array of chaos. Tourists everywhere, business people rushing, stag parties commencing and Heineken tours being planned. Its hard to figure out which way…