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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
The Soul of Adolescence Aligns with the Heart of Democracy: Orphans, Rebels and Civic Lovers Unite by Alfred H. Kurland is a non-fiction memoir and study in which the author uses their personal and professional experiences to deliver a solid behaviorism analysis of youth, and the impact of such experiences with the world at large. Kurland breaks the book down into four distinct and interconnected parts to build up the text as a whole. Part one, Induction, is a profoundly honest deep dive into three key events that became the bedrock upon which Kurland's advocacy and empowerment work with teens is built. Part two, Forward/Backward and Inside/Out, details the four definitive phases in Kurland's journey and what each phase strengthened him with, and what he himself was able to give of himself to those he served at that time. Part three, Introductions, is Kurland's written revolution against the outdated, imprudently ascribed psychology that has been [mis]attributed to teens in the past, the sub-titular archetypes, and mentor/co-mentor relationships with true and meaningful influence. Finally, part four, Afterwards, embodies the movements, practices, recommendations, and change that should be employed to encourage participation and mold teens into the leaders they are capable of becoming, and that we need them to be.
There is so much to unpack after reading The Soul of Adolescence Aligns with the Heart of Democracy, and I daresay that even at its length I am likely to start reading it again almost immediately. I have never—ever—had as many bookmark tabs on my e-reader as I do now. Alfred H. Kurland is the person everyone dreams of having in their community. As a parent to a teenager who is not only a strong young woman of color but who is also passionate about some serious social issues, it has been heartbreaking to watch her get hamstrung by adults who either will not listen at all or who disregard her simply because of her age. Kurland speaks of the murder of a roommate, a shocking and horrific event that begins as the top layer of all that follows as each is peeled back. At the age of sixteen, I also lost a friend and classmate to murder, but in reading Kurland's account I am forced to admit that its impact was not something I addressed properly. I now look at my daughter and see what Kurland, via a leader named David, has put into my lap. It is important to be compassionate to myself, and equally compassionate to others. Is it possible that my internalizing of trauma leads to a cycle of the same with my daughter? Is it possible that she and others, “...after being subjected to negative stereotyping and, too often, dark expectations, learn to internalize these voices and to harshly criticize themselves...”? I can do better. We can do better. And we must. Very, very highly recommended.