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How I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generation

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"The Ultimate Resistance Guidebook." — Bustle

"This book will be a light in the darkness for some, and help guide them from despair."— Booklist

An all-star collection of essays about activism and hope, edited by bestselling YA author Maureen Johnson.

Now, more than ever, young people are motivated to make a difference in a world they're bound to inherit. They're ready to stand up and be heard - but with much to shout about, where they do they begin? What can I do? How can I help?

How I Resist is the response, and a way to start the conversation. To show readers that they are not helpless, and that anyone can be the change. A collection of essays, songs, illustrations, and interviews about activism and hope, How I Resist features an all-star group of contributors, including, John Paul Brammer, Libba Bray, Lauren Duca, Modern Family's Jesse Tyler Ferguson and his husband Justin Mikita, Alex Gino, Hebh Jamal, Malinda Lo, Dylan Marron, Hamilton star Javier Muñoz, Rosie O'Donnell, Junauda Petrus, Jodi Picoult, Jason Reynolds, Karuna Riazi, Maya Rupert, Dana Schwartz, Dan Sinker, Ali Stroker, Jonny Sun (aka @jonnysun), Sabaa Tahir, Shaina Taub, Daniel Watts, Jennifer Weiner, Jacqueline Woodson, and more, all edited and compiled by New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson.

In How I Resist, readers will find hope and support through voices that are at turns personal, funny, irreverent, and instructive. Not just for a young adult audience, this incredibly impactful collection will appeal to readers of all ages who are feeling adrift and looking for guidance.

How I Resist is the kind of book people will be discussing for years to come and a staple on bookshelves for generations.

ISBN-13: 9781250168368

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group

Publication Date: 05-15-2018

Pages: 224

Product Dimensions: 6.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

Age Range: 13 - 17 Years

Maureen Johnson is the New York Times bestselling author of over a dozen YA novels, including 13 Little Blue Envelopes, The Name of the Star, and Truly Devious. She is also the co-host of Says Who, a political podcast about the aftermath of the 2016 election. She lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt



When I told people I was working on a resistance guide for teens, occasionally someone would ask me, "Why? They can't vote."

I would just shake my head. Adults are so dumb sometimes. We forget that we were all teens — NO ONE HAS SKIPPED THIS STEP. We spent most of our time in school learning stuff like history, social studies, public speaking, composition. You know, stuff to make us better members of society. Adults forget that we knew stuff back then and had opinions and that there is no magic transformation that occurs when the clock ticks you over from age seventeen to eighteen. You, my teenage friends, are voters-in-training, the same as adults. Adults forget that we are all voters-in-training. The learning process never stops. We need to look to our younger citizens and non-citizens because you're the ones coming at subjects for the first time; your perspectives, as a result, are fresh and passionate. You practice learning every day. You know how the Internet works. You have not developed the often rigid ways of thinking that plague adults.

In short, you are often better at activism.

Tragically, it took the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, to make this point clear to everyone. When the students rose and made the Never Again movement, when you debated senators in a televised town hall a week later, when you led students across the country to take action on gun control ... everyone knew that you had changed the program.

This book came about because I had that strange, sucking feeling in my soul after the 2016 election — the one that made me (and almost everyone I know) ask, "But what can I do? WHAT CAN I DO?" The question haunted me day and night. "I only know how to make books," I said to myself.

So I decided to do that.

Here is a book about resistance for teens. (And anyone else who wants to read this book. ALL ARE WELCOME HERE. We are all in training, remember.)

On the most basic level, resistance means not accepting things the way they are. It means asking questions about how things get done, about how society, laws, and cultural norms have come to be. It can also mean actively taking part in the political process — going to marches, working for campaigns, posting, debating, creating. ...

It can mean a lot of things.

In these pages you're going to find different types of materials. There are essays. There are poems. There are songs. There are cartoons. There are lists. There are interviews. There are sample letters to help you contact your representatives. There is information about specific actions people under eighteen can take. There is advice on how to step out of your comfort zone and make something.

Read this book in any order you want — start at the beginning and read it through, or open at random. Whatever speaks to you ... wonderful. It's not a prescription; it's a way to get you going. Your acts of resistance will vary. Your ways of approaching issues will differ. Good. That's the way it should be. Resistance isn't a set of steps — it is an ecosystem in which all the different creations live and help one another grow.

These are hard times, but also times of great opportunity. So come on in and let's get to it!



Could we please give the police departments to the grandmothers? Give them the salaries and the pensions and the city vehicles, but make them a fleet of vintage Corvettes, Jaguars, and Cadillacs, with white leather interior. Diamond in the back, sunroof top, and digging the scene with the gangsta lean.

Let the cars be badass!

You would hear the old-school jams from Patti LaBelle, Anita Baker, and Al Green. You would hear Sweet Honey in the Rock harmonizing on "Ella's Song": We who believe in freedom cannot rest ... bumping out the speakers.

And they got the booming system.

If you're up to mischief, they will pick you up swiftly in their sweet ride and look at you until you catch shame and look down at your lap. She asks you if you are hungry and you say yes and of course you are. She's got a crown of dreadlocks and on the dashboard you see brown faces like yours, shea buttered and loved up.

And there are no precincts.

Just love temples that got spaces to meditate and eat delicious food. Mangoes, blueberries, nectarines, cornbread, peas and rice, fried plantain, fufu, yams, greens, okra, pecan pie, salad, and lemonade.

Things that make your mouth water and soul arrive.

All the hungry bellies know warmth, all the children expect love. The grandmas help you with homework, practice yoga with you, and teach you how to make jambalaya and coconut cake. From scratch.

When you're sleepy she will start humming and rub your back while you drift off. A song that she used to have the record of when she was your age. She remembers how it felt to be you and be young and not know the world that good. Grandma is a sacred child herself, who just circled the sun enough times into the ripeness of her cronehood.

She wants your life to be sweeter.

When you are wildin' out because your heart is broke or you don't have what you need, the grandmas take your hand and lead you to their gardens. You can lay down amongst the flowers. Her grasses, roses, dahlias, irises, lilies, collards, kale, eggplants, blackberries. She wants you to know that you are safe and protected, universal limitless, sacred, sensual, divine, and free.

Grandma is the original warrior, wild since birth, comfortable in loving fiercely. She has fought so that you don't have to, not in the same ways at least.

So give the police departments to the grandmas, they are fearless, classy, and actualized. Blossomed from love. They wear what they want and say what they please.

Believe that.

There wouldn't be noise citations when the grandmas ride through our streets, blasting Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Alice Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix, KRS-One. All that good music. The kids gonna hula hoop to it and sell her lemonade made from heirloom pink lemons and maple syrup. The car is solar powered and carbon footprint–free, the grandmas designed the technology themselves.

At night they park the cars in a circle so all can sit in them with the sunroofs open and look at the stars, talk about astrological signs, what to plant tomorrow based on the moon's mood, and help you memorize Audre Lorde and James Baldwin quotes. She always looks you in the eye and acknowledges the light in you with no hesitation or fear. And Grandma loves you fiercely forever.

She sees the pain in our bravado, the confusion in our anger, the depth behind our coldness. Grandma knows what oppression has done to our souls and is gonna change it one love temple at a time. She has no fear.


Dylan, you're known for many things, like playing Carlos on Welcome to Night Vale, Every Single Word,Sitting in Bathrooms with Trans People, and nowConversations with People Who Hate Me. I'd like to start with the last one. What made you decide to make Conversations with People Who Hate Me?

DYLAN: I feel like the through line that runs through most of my work is that I take what hurts me, sit with it, and then try and package it in an accessible way. So something like Every Single Word came from being told over and over again by talent agents that I was talented enough to deserve work but unlikely to get it. To explain this, they would say that I was too "specific," a euphemism that the industry likes to throw around when you don't fit into a box of the preapproved "types." At the intersection of two different identities — brown and queer — this posed too much specificity, apparently, for the entertainment industry to handle.

"Specific"? I'm kind of staggered by the implications of this term.

DYLAN: Oh yes. It's horrible. Ultimately the word hints at the larger idea that, as a member of a marginalized group — and, God forbid, two — you are not afforded the privilege of nuance in media. You're either "the Latino guy" or "the gay one." It's too much to ask to be just "you."

So I made the Every Single Word series as a way to talk about the lack of representation of people of color in film, but I wanted to present it in an accessible, empirical way that allowed people to consume it quickly yet it was an arrow to a larger problem.

Conversations with People Who Hate Me sprouted from a similar seed. Throughout my years of making publicly consumable digital work, I found that I was getting a lot of hateful comments and messages. These hate messages would ruin my day, sometimes my week. But once I got over the initial pain of the comments, I wanted to know who was writing them. Why were they writing them? What's their story? So, the seeds of the podcast were planted.

Do you have one conversation that really stands out to you?

DYLAN: I don't like to play favorites with my guests! But there are two that stick out to me. In the second episode I speak to a soon-to-be graduating high school senior named Josh. Online he called me a "moron" and "the reason this country was dividing itself." Yet on the phone I learned that he is a sweet, good kid who is more nuanced than his initial message might suggest. In our conversation he revealed that he, himself, was bullied throughout high school, which was something I faced as well. And it was interesting because the kind of speech that was flung at him in school was echoed in what he wrote to me. And this is so human: when you're being hurt by someone you often hurt someone else. I know that's true for me, too. When I was in high school and bullied, I would often be a jerk to my parents, but it was only because I felt so tiny in high school and that was my release.

What has been your main takeaway so far?

DYLAN: I think it's what I turned into my sign-off line. "Remember, there's a human on the other side of the screen." Because that goes both ways, you know? It's important to remember that when you're typing a comment to someone, but by the same token it's also important to remember when you're seeing the comment. Like, a human wrote that comment. What are they going through that they wanted to type that?

To be very clear, I don't mean to suggest that people who are the victims of online harassment should just empathize with their harasser, but I feel like I was afforded the privilege of a platform where I could take a step back and kind of survey the harassment I was getting and start considering who is on the other side.

But speaking to people who have said these kinds of things about you, that must be hard. How do you emotionally prepare for these kinds of conversations?

DYLAN: Hmm. I think if I thought about it that way I'd never do the project. I think the more emotionally draining part is receiving these messages and comments, sometimes at a pace that feels so overwhelming. The calls themselves are actually therapeutic to me, they help me humanize someone who was previously a stranger.

So the art itself is the emotional process for you?

DYLAN: One hundred percent.

Going back in time a bit, where did your activism life start? Because you've been making activist art for some time. Did you start as a teen?

DYLAN: I think the seeds of activism were planted for me in my childhood when I first learned I was brown, which is to say, when I first understood that people were classified by their race. For me that was when I was in the third grade and went to an open casting call for Home Alone 3 and saw that the white kids were all moving on to the next round and the kids of color were immediately cut. Now, clearly, I didn't start protesting then but that was the first thing that tipped me off to the fact that an integral part of my identity, my brownness, was deemed as "other."

Similarly, when I started to realize I was queer, other seeds of activism were planted. Over time those seeds sprouted and, to continue the extended metaphor, they grew into a tree so big I couldn't ignore it.

I have to ask about Carlos. Carlos is a much-beloved character. I've seen the reactions of Night Vale fans when they watch Carlos and Cecil interact, and it's really moving. Night Vale itself, while entirely a story about a town in the desert in which all conspiracies are true, is also an act of activism. How do you feel about the fan reaction? What does it say to you?

DYLAN: I love the Night Vale fandom that I've gotten to meet over time and I love how immersed they are in the world of Night Vale. I definitely agree that Night Vale is an act of activism, but for some more behind-the-scenes reason. Joseph and Jeffrey are two artists who I have such immense respect for. They created this world before knowing what it was going to explode into. They did it because they loved it and didn't wait for anyone's permission to create. They just did it, and the world took notice. To me that's some radical activism.

Do you have any words of advice for teens who want to get into the political or activism process, but don't know where to start?

DYLAN: Yes. First, take your time. None of us come into the world fully aware of who we are or what cause we want to take up. Make mistakes, they are inevitable. And when you feel ready to get to that podium, literal or metaphorical, take what hurts you and try and make it hurt someone else less



The day after the election in 2016, I called my parents. I had been in a daze all day, head fuzzy, bleary-eyed. I'd only gotten a few hours of sleep. When I woke up that morning, I had to grab my phone immediately to see if what I thought had happened the night before had really happened. Yes, Trump had been elected president.

It felt like an unnatural disaster. It felt like I had to check in with my parents, who live half a continent away from me. Some part of me wanted them to tell me it was going to be okay.

"It's terrible," my mom said, sounding as if she hadn't gotten much sleep either. She didn't say it was going to be okay. She told me she had given money to Hillary Clinton's campaign; it was the first time in her life she had given money to a politician.

"What are we supposed to do?" I asked, as if I were a kid again.

"Just keep doing what you're doing," my dad said. He also didn't say it was going to be okay.

This was not what I'd hoped for. My parents grew up in Communist China. They saw firsthand the way a government can lie to its people, the actions it can take to silence dissent, the shameless manner in which it can erase history. I thought my parents would tell me that America is not China, that democracy would prevail.

They didn't. They told me to just keep doing what I was doing.

I didn't understand what they meant. After the election I was glued to the news, watching Rachel Maddow, reading The Washington Post, listening to every politics podcast I could find. I was astonished — I was aghast — I was digging myself deeper and deeper into a hole of political despair.

For weeks after the election, I couldn't work. I had a short story due around that time, and I was dealing with the last edits on a novel, but when I sat down to work, the news continued to ceaselessly unspool in my mind. I'd tap out some words, but they were all wrong. I couldn't focus. It seemed pointless. I felt like I needed to protest, to call my representatives.

So I went to the Women's March. I called my representatives — even though they were Democrats. I gave money to the ACLU and tiny Democratic campaigns and Planned Parenthood. I spoke up online, adding my voice to the millions of other voices shouting in protest. Our voices together made a glorious roar, but as the months went by I began to wonder if it did anything besides prompt the Republicans to put in earplugs. It began to feel like screaming into a void.

I kept thinking about what my parents had said. It started to make sense.

Even before the Trump administration officially began, the news cycle had become an avalanche of shocking revelations, tantalizing leaks, and disturbing lies. Every day — sometimes every hour — a new twist blasted across the media. Paying attention to each new development made my head pound. And it was stripping me of my ability to do what I had worked my entire life to do: write fiction.

Writing fiction seemed incredibly frivolous in light of what was happening in our country. Sure, I was writing fiction about people that Trump would hate — queer teens and people of color — but I wasn't advocating for better health care, protesting the Muslim ban at airports, or running for office. Shouldn't I be doing more? Shouldn't I be doing something else? Those were the guilt-inducing questions cycling through my mind.

I had to shut off the news. I had to take some time away from the political trashfire that was burning out of control, and in the quiet space I cleared for myself, I remembered something important. Every human being here on earth has a specific purpose in life. That purpose might be running for office; it might be raising a child; it might be studying physics; it might be writing novels. Finding your purpose can be a difficult thing to do, but once you've found it, your job is to fulfill that purpose.


Excerpted from "How I Resist"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Maureen Johnson.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

What is Resistance?

"Could We Please Give the Police Departments to the Grandmothers?" — Junauda Petrus

Interview — Dylan Marron

"Keep Doing What You're Doing" — Malinda Lo

"Why We ALL Need to Be Activists Right Now" — Lauren Duca

"Thoughts on Resistance" — Rebecca Roanhorse

Interview — Jason Reynolds

"5 Things We Can Do to Engage in Politics Before Turning 18" — Carolyn DeWitt

Essay — Hebh Jamal

Interview — Javier Muñoz

"The Lucky Ones" — Jennifer Weiner

"Letter to a Sensitive Brown Queer" — John Paul Brammer

"The Clap Back" — Daniel J. Watts

Interview — Ali Stroker

"When" — Shaina Taub

"Part of the Problem" — KC Green

"Making Stuff That Matters" — Dan Sinker

"I, Wonder: Imagining a Black Wonder Woman" — Maya Rupert

"Rosie O'Donnell's Five Resistance Steps" — Rosie O'Donnell

Interview — Jacqueline Woodson

"An Announcement From Muffy Higginbottom, President of Delta Sigma Tau Sorority Resistance Committee" — Libba Bray

"Media-Consciousness as Part of Resistance!" — Jonny Sun

Essay — Jodi Picoult

"Three Easy Steps to Contact Your Reps" — Kate Linnea Welsh

Essay — Alex Gino

Interview — Justin Mikita and Jesse Taylor Ferguson

Poem — Sabaa Tahir

"The Jewish We" — Dana Schwartz

Cartoon — Jeffrey Rowland

"Refilling the Well" — Karuna Riazi

The Bigness Trap

The Beginners Guide to Books on Resistance