By: Rachel Bernstein
Gen-Zers and “Zillenials” are very politically active generations; there is no doubt that your local community organizer is young enough to know the lyrics to the Hannah Montana theme song.
I mean, it doesn’t come as a surprise to me and it shouldn’t to you either. Young people today are invested in politics not because they have more energy to rattle off the names of their local senators and city councilman and also grab the coffee for their internship boss. No; they are invested because of the constant exposure to and endless stream of media assertions that have surrounded them from an early age. It goes beyond the hijinks on tv shows, but rather is rooted in books.
If you grew up reading books about a young person saving the whole universe, you would want to help the world, too. Though I’ve never read Harry Potter (please don’t kill me, Gen-Z!) I do know that the “Golden Trio” does quite a bit to make life better for the older folks. So does Percy Jackson (I did read this one and loved it) when he literally saves the whole world from the secret door to Mount Olympus.
Of course, there was the year(s) that The Hunger Games took over the mainstream and changed the vantage point of young girls. When Katniss Everdeen was on screen and in print, she changed everything. She was the “girl on fire” and this empowered female protagonist started a revolution. The impact of Katniss and The Hunger Games trilogy went beyond trends of over-the-shoulder braids and seeped into the unconscious mind of tweens. The Hunger Games drew comparisons of censorship and fascism in history classes. Even Lord of the Flies--for all of its required-reading glory-- deserves an honorable mention. This novel shows how leadership can go wrong--something that teens today are all too familiar with.
If you grew up reading these books and watching their adaptions, there is no doubt that you would learn that confidence and determination can create change. Maybe you start with a simple bake sale for a cause you care about, and that progresses into engaging with the politics. By just having conversations with friends about social and political issues, the seed of social justice is planted. The job of the book is done.
Young people have led movements around the country and have demanded to be heard. We’ve seen it with mutual aid funds online and getting the word out about Black Lives Matter marches and speaking out against gun violence. Yes; it isn’t all a product of some words printed on dead trees, but the influence is undeniable. If you are told since you were old enough to read that young people can change the world, wouldn't you believe it?
I was recently asked about when I first had my political awakening. I thought about it for a second because surprisingly, I had never been asked that question before. But the themes from the The Hunger Games were in the back of my head and insistent. If a book sticks with you for so long, that means it did something right. Once you understand the power that your voice holds, you can’t forget it. For Katniss, her strength isn’t questioned, only pushed against. That means she did something right. In this story, the teenagers save themselves.