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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

What Can We Say to Teenagers About Iran?

All Day While Working On My Own Projects, I Keep Checking for News from Iran, Don’t You?

We have had the Velvet Revolution in the Czech Republic, the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine, and while this is in some ways the Green protest (the leaders are careful to say it is not a revolution) in so many other ways it is obviously the 2.0 Turnaround. We’ve all seen how twitter, Facebook, and Google have played a part in opening small cracks in the government wall of censorship, and allowing the opposition in Iran to be in contact. Clearly both the struggle going on there, and the means used, are ideal subjects to share with American teenagers. When Obama quoted Dr. King he was making the analogy every teacher can use — either way, to allow our kids to identify, and to show how the Civil Rights model is still making change today. 

But what can we do? Any book on this will be out when we are in stage 3 or 5 of whatever is just starting now. The book will be fine, but will have none of the fire, the immediacy of this moment, of today, when every step is fraught, uncertain, dangerous, but also shot through with hope. I wish there were some means for us to write online quickbooks that would not be precisely journalism, not instant by instant, but rather a kind of in-depth magazine piece, with digital bells and whistles, links to sites with up-to-the-moment updates, that would allow teenagers to be caught up in the world changing events of their moment. The books would be digital packages, distributed digitally — no wait for printing, shipping, warehousing. No returns. And yet they would be books — edited, designed, copy-edited, formulated for young readers. Now: Edited. 

We are the translators — that is what nonfiction trade authors who write for young readers do all the time. We assimilate adult information and make it vivid to younger readers. But why can’t we be like the experts at the UN: simultaneous translators, people who make the now important, as it happens, as kids could get involved, as they could be motivated to care, as they could contemplate making changes in their own worlds. I realize there has to be a mechanism for publishers to charge and us to get paid. But can that be so difficult? Do we have to keep waiting for the bus while traffic whizes by, can’t we get on something, get moving, comment on the evolving present, as it happens.