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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Nevertheless, We Persisted anthology | blog tour

Nevertheless, We Persisted: 48 Voices of Defiance, Strength, and Courage
Non-fiction anthology, 320 pages
Published September 4th 2018 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
A powerful collection of essays from actors, activists, athletes, politicians, musicians, writers, and teens, including Senator Amy Klobuchar, actress Alia Shawkat, actor Maulik Pancholy, poet Azure Antoinette, teen activist Gavin Grimm, and many, many more, each writing about a time in their youth when they were held back because of their race, gender, or sexual identity--but persisted.

"Aren't you a terrorist?" "There are no roles for people who look like you." "That's a sin." "No girls allowed." They've heard it all. Actress Alia Shawkat reflects on all the parts she was told she was too "ethnic" to play. Former NFL player Wade Davis recalls his bullying of gay classmates in an attempt to hide his own sexuality. Teen Gavin Grimm shares the story that led to the infamous "bathroom bill," and how he's fighting it. Holocaust survivor Fanny Starr tells of her harrowing time in Auschwitz, where she watched her family disappear, one by one.

What made them rise up through the hate? What made them overcome the obstacles of their childhood to achieve extraordinary success? How did they break out of society's limited view of who they are and find their way to the beautiful and hard-won lives they live today? With a foreword by Minnesota senator and up-and-coming Democratic party leader Amy Klobuchar, these essays share deeply personal stories of resilience, faith, love, and, yes, persistence.

There has been a spate of non-fiction anthologies coming out over the last year or so, all on the theme of activism, resistance and finding – and using – one’s voice. Call it the Trump Effect: if nothing else, the current political climate has taught people the importance of caring, of showing up, of paying attention, and of getting involved.
Of giving a shit, basically.

The voices featured in these anthologies (collections such as How I Resist, Being the Change, #NeverAgain, Hope Nation, You Are Mighty and the upcoming We Are Here to Stay) are defiant, resilient, fierce and hopeful, and encourage you to be the same. Neverthless, We Persisted is another such collection. Taking its name from the infamous Mitch McConnell quote, “Nevertheless, she persisted," Nevertheless features 48 voices from a broad spectrum, sharing their own stories of persistence and resilience in the face of adversity, racism, sexism, homophobia, and any other obstacle they’re fighting to overcome.  Nevertheless actually features one of the broader spectrums of voices I’ve seen collected in one of these anthologies, ranging from a 12-year-old female boxer to a 96-year-old Holocaust survivor, newly-graduated teenagers to established political representatives, activists to athletes to astronauts, actors, musicians, commentators, photojournalists, correspondents, comics writers, people of all colors and genders – it’s a breadth of people you don’t often see featured or get to hear from all in one go.

The pieces they’ve shared are comparatively bite-sized: nothing is over 10 pages, by my estimation (and a look at the TOC), and most are far shorter. Many are simple, straight-forward narratives, but each takes their own approach, including an interview, a screenplay, and a short comic. Some of these stories you may have heard before – or heard of their aftermath, like the infamous “bathroom bill,” or the creation of the Black Lives Matter movement – while some of these contributors and their stories you may never have heard of, but they’re all, for the most part, conversational and approachable in nature. Not every story will be for every person, but that is essentially the nature of an anthology — there's (hopefully) something for everybody, but not everything for all people.

Setting aside that the book as a whole will never be for everybody – there is a whole segment of the population, after all, who will immediately dismiss anything with the word “resistance” or “persistence” or probably anything that rhymes with such, as “liberal propaganda” – some readers may find the approach and the collection as self-indulgent. But I have long said that reading is the surest way to grow empathy, and nowhere is that more true than in non-fiction narratives, where people are sharing their lived experiences with you, directly, like two friends chatting. It’s hard not to connect and empathize with an issue that before, may have been faceless and thus easily dismissable, when you’re hearing about the actual circumstances and actual repercussions and actual impact things have on people’s lives. I think that’s a big part of why these anthologies are finding a market right now, and (hopefully) finding an audience. Besides allowing people who have long been kept from it to use their voice, books like these are a great tool for understanding and starting much-needed discussions – even (maybe especially) if you disagree with their viewpoint.

Long story short, Nevertheless, We Persisted, as well as the other books I’ve mentioned here*, would make a great, potentially edifying and eye-opening, addition to any person’s bookshelf, but would be an especially great addition in classrooms and school libraries. Saying that, though, I want to stress: books like this, while a good fit for the classroom, shouldn’t be relegated to the classroom. We often give up the work of learning and growing and listening when we’re no longer being forced to, and anthologies that collect other perspectives – whether they reaffirm or challenge our own – are good, and even vital, for helping us to get back into the habit of learning and growing and listening, which is the only way to create lasting, positive change.

Nevertheless, We Persisted hits stores today!

* Yes, I know it’s somewhat frowned upon to mention and recommend other books in a review of a particular one, but in these circumstances, I think there’s room – and a need – for all.

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