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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.

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…

what youth radical class cologne germany

Radical Class: Wintering in Cologne Eat, drink and be blown away by the countries that like it cold. (Pt. 2 of 3)

You’ll remember we started this frozen journey through Europe in Berlin. Today, we’re taking a ride to Cologne. A quick hour flight from Berlin will take you to Cologne, in northwest Germany. A couple days in Cologne is a perfect amount of time to see the city. Like Berlin, Cologne is chalked full of history, but…

Mount gay Rum for breakfast, what youth eats, french toast

What Youth Eats: Rum for Breakfast, Please Weekend French Toast with Mount Gay Rum Bananas Foster

As a rule, French toast on the weekend is a good call. If you can pile some layers of decadence on top, all the better. Berries, whipped cream, bananas. Here, bananas foster goes on top, making it slightly over-the-top, but that’s what weekend breakfast is for. Then there’s the rum. This is special because it…

what youth drinks radical class craig anderson chippa wilson kai neville

What Youth Drinks: All Day! In it for the long haul? We’re here to help.

There’s not a lot better than when the daytime festivities bleed right into some nighttime fun. Some sun, some drinks, some bros, some babes, some waves — it don’t get no better, except when all that rolls into dinner and drinks and beyond. But making that marathon till midnight doesn’t come easy. It takes stamina…

WHAT YOUTH DRINKS: THE BROWN DERBY Three ingredients to make a perfect blend of sweet and sour.

It’s a drink that throws back to LA’s golden age (though, as we showed you in issue 2, LA is pretty damn golden these days). The Brown Derby, a nice blend of bourbon, citrus, and something sweet, was named after the famous Brown Derby restaurant, and invented in the `30s at the see-and-be-seen Vendome Club….

what youth radical class berlin

Radical Class: Wandering in Berlin Eat, drink and be blown away by the countries that like it cold (Pt. 1 of 3)

Travis told me to tell people about all of the cool shit we get to do (Editor’s Note: Yes, I did). Cool shit like going to visit Europe in the dead of winter. And trust me, visiting cities in Europe in winter is very underrated, because there are several countries that are very good at being…

Cilantro Margarita, What Youth Drinks, Paul Brewer, Herbs

WY Drinks: Herbs in our cocktails Herbs plus booze to raise your cocktail game

When you think of herbs, you generally think of food. And when you think of cocktails, you generally think of booze. That is, the spirit: gin, vodka, tequila, and so on. But combining the two, we don’t see that a lot. I heard of herbs in drinks long ago, but wrote off the idea. (Except…

the what youth guide to cuba

The WY GUIDE: Cuba Now that the red tape is mostly gone, should you go? Well, we did, here’s what we found.

It’s hard to have a conversation about traveling without someone bringing up Cuba. It’s long been the Holy Grail of American travel because, well, we couldn’t go there. But before heading out on his global kite surfing mission with Richard Branson, President Obama restored diplomatic relations with the Cuban government for the first time in over 50 years. A very…