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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: Layover in Paris A guide to 48 hours in an overwhelming city

A lot of times when we travel, we’ll try to tack on a bonus location. A quick layover somewhere just because it’s the right thing to do. And during a recent trip to Amsterdam we tacked on 48 hours in Paris, just because. We happened to be with Adam Warren who writes the What Youth food…

what youth mexico city scott chenoweth

How To Drink Mezcal in Mexico City “For every ill, mezcal — and for every good as well.”

When you go to Mexico City, don’t order tequila. Or a margarita for that matter. Order mezcal. It’s the drink of choice and will earn you immediate respect from the locals. Mezcal is smokier than tequila, but with similar effects, and it pairs nicely with the spicy food and the flavors Mexico City is known…

what youth radical class book review alison gibson

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

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…

What Youth Syllabus, Books

The What Youth Syllabus The books we’re assigning for the fall semester

If you go to school, or went to school or tell people you go to school, you’ve seen a syllabus. A paper full of shit you’re supposed to read. You get it the first day of class and when you do you feel jazzed and promise yourself to read them all. Get A’s. Participate. Get…

what youth playlist for back to school

When morning comes too soon A playlist for the final dawns of the summer

Maybe it’s on the hardwood floor of a living room in Santa Cruz. Or the front seat of a tour bus, a towering New York hotel with a view, or a log cabin surrounded by mountains covered in snow. Or maybe it’s the backseat of a Volkswagen van in Venice. Or in the sand covered in fog. Mornings like these…

8 Jazz Albums To Make It A Little Better For more inspired and relaxing times

The other day, I heard someone say something about how if you’re white, and you are just saying now, amidst what is perhaps one of the darkest points in American history, that “the world is on fire,” then you have been ignoring the racial problems in this country for way too long and you should…

what youth guide to airports dane reynolds

The WY Guide: Airports How to expertly navigate the world’s transportation hubs

A necessary evil of being a venerable youth on the run is the time spent in transit. The hopscotch between your destinations. It can be exciting, but mostly it is a pain. But it should not be time wasted. Because with a little guidance, these stopovers in purgatory can actually become some of the most memorable moments of…

WHAT YOUTH EATS AND DRINKS this weekend Your guide to a delicious and multi-cultural Fourth of July

The Fourth is meant for equal parts fireworks, food, drink, babes, waves, and bad decisions. Cases of beer, they appear. Food, it arrives at the right time. America at its best! Do we want to eat and drink well on the Fourth? Yes! But do we want to work hard for our food on the…

what youth the wedge radical class

WY Guide to Surfing the Wedge Local standout Spencer Pirdy and how to navigate social media’s favorite wave

​​​​​​The local news trucks have arrived. There are sharks everywhere. People are crashing Jet Skis into the rocks at the Wedge while on Tinder dates and all the signs of viral lunacy and chaos inspired by a California summer are here. And no wave finds itself more in the spotlight than the Wedge. It’s come back in…

WHAT YOUTH DRINKS: BITTERS Throw some stuff in a jar, walk away, and come back to a great cocktail

The makings of a great cocktail: good booze, ice, and not much else. It’s an equation that keeps the Martini going strong.  And it’s the reason why the Old Fashioned is a good thing. The “not much else” is where bitters come into play. Bitters alter the flavor profile of a cocktail in a subtle…

Music for wandering around Europe.

Music for Wandering Around Europe A Playlist for your jaunt in the Old World

Without music, life would be a mistake. Nietzsche once said that, and I back him all the way. Europe is a vast wonderland of adventures, with perpetual stimulation, culture, rosé and the casual comfort of being able to smoke a cigarette any damn place you feel. But even after all the expansive history and art…

Radical Class, cooking, eating in Mexico

Radical Class: Eat on the run in Mexico A life-changing marinade and a barbecue built of good vibes

Every year around April and May I start to get the itch to go south. For the past six or seven years my friends and I pile in a truck and spend a couple weeks living out of tents on Mexican beaches at the end of dusty Mexican roads to disappear while fishing, diving and…