I can't remember a time when America has not been ageist, a
place where generations are reduced to shallow stereotypes. I don't
know if the actual amount is increasing or if I'm just rebelling
against the limited expectations for over 50's mindset that seems to
prevail. But reducing beings as complex as humans to lowest common
denoinator is never a good thing. For this reason I was delighted
when I picked Robin Bowman's It's Complicated: The American Teenager
up at the Orono Public Library.
Over the course of four years Bowman traveled 21,731 miles
around the country photographing and interviewing teens. (The
comprehensive 26 question interview script is included). Although she
connected with some subjects through traditional means, she met most
of them as strangers on the street. Through a several step process
she would photograph, collaboratively choose which image to use, and
then ask the questions. All the four-hundred nineteen young people
she interviewed were included--and what a beautiful diversity they
represent: debutant to homeless; atheist to fundamentalist; student,
worker, parent; wide ranges of color, ethnicity, gender and sexual
Here are just a few you will meet:
*Elizabeth (17) lived (at the time she was interviewed) on a
small island off the coast of Maine. There were only fifty students
in her high school. Rather than going on to college, she planned to
join her family business: lobstering.
"For work I'm up at five and I'm usually going by five thirty,
six o'clock. We're [she and her father] usually in by two or three.
We have, like, six hundred traps...I usually make like, a hundred
bucks a day. I've been doing this for probably ten years."
Said  had fled war torn Somalia. He had to walk for months
to get to Kenya. He arrived in America (Minnesota) during winter with
only shorts, a tee shirt, and sandals.
"But here, when I go to school I see black kids cursing at
Somalians. I see white people hating Native Americans. People hate
you and then you have to hate them back...I don't want to do that. I
want to be friend with everybody. We should all get along."
Aramitha  had to raise herself the best she could because
her mother was a drug addict. When she was sixteen she learned that
her boyfriend was cheating on her. She went to the girl's house to
talk to her and ended up shooting her. She lost the baby she was
carrying in prison.
"Killing that girl bothers me a lot. I feel bad and that's
something I'm gonna have to live with every day of my life. I ask God
every day for forgiveness. It's not nothing that I'm proud of, but I
can't change it."
Menucha (19) was born to parents who grew up nonreligious and
returned to their faith after marriage. She fantasized about getting
a law degree and becoming a detective but considered motherhood more
likely. She said that being a Hasidic Jew fulfills her need to find
meaningfulness in life.
"To be Hasidic means basically someone who does more than what
is required from them. The whole religion is geared to keep yourself
separate from non-Jews. Not in a bad way, but simply to protect, to
keep yourself Jewish. You have requirements to fulfill, and you have
things to do, and you can't forget that..."
If you have the good sense to read the book you will learn more
about them and meet four hundred fifteen more unforgettable teens. I
highly recommend it.
On a personal note, I had a great Labor Day weekend. Saturday I met
up with my Real Food Challenge chums at UMaine near the steam plant.
The farmers market people were having their annual customer day. They
put on a feast! Fruits, veggies, salads, shortbread, lobster
rolls...my favorite was the chicken wings. I lost track of how many I
ate. Great food, great company, a perfect day...who could ask for more?
A great big shout out goes to local, ethical, and sustainable farmers.
Sent from my iPod