[One of 50 articles written and published for Demand Media in 2013]
Morality is fundamentally about the choices we make and the behavior that follows. Stories can expose different moral dimensions, circumstances that present contrasts, and give teen readers perspective on their lives and their choices. Given all the media and entertainment options available, books must be compelling to compete. By exploring the age-old questions of family, peer pressure, temptations, personal appearance, sexuality and health, books can challenge teens.
‘Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey From Homeless to Harvard’
Finding the path to responsibility and maturity amid irresponsible adults would be tough for anyone. Finding a way from being homeless and alone at 15 years of age to becoming a Harvard graduate would be Herculean. Liz Murray’s story winds from a roach-infested Bronx apartment with drug-addicted parents to the bridges she slept under and the parade of losers she encountered. She is faced with an array of pitfalls that many never imagine, much less encounter.
‘Am I Blue? Coming Out from the Silence’
Years of high-profile stories about bullying, murders and suicides of gays and lesbians, the effect of the television series “Will and Grace,” and the legalization of gay marriage in several states has prompted a cultural conversation about love that once dared not speak its name. In this anthology, gay and straight authors speak out with short stories that explore the moral dilemmas faced by people coming to terms with themselves and the reactions of their peers, families and communities. The passage from tolerance to acceptance to respect is often rocky, but the journey can make better persons of us all.
‘The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible’
Author A.J. Jacobs takes up the challenge of living in literal accordance with the Bible, a centuries-old standard of moral guidance. He prays regularly, lets his beard grow, tells the truth at all times, keeps the 10 Commandments and herds sheep. Along the way, he discovers that keeping some biblical injunctions are nearly impossible, and others are downright illegal. Jacobs takes the reader through his year like a tour guide, explaining ambiguous interpretations of some rules, the rationale behind others, and how he choose to follow them. It’s funny, respectful and educational for believers, agnostics and atheists alike.
‘The Pregnancy Project: A Memoir’
Gaby Rodriguez took up an unusual challenge during her senior year in high school. Coming from a family with a history of teen pregnancies, she knew people assumed it would happen to her, too. Rather than fight the expectation, she rolled with it — by faking a pregnancy for six months as her senior class project. Her sociological study triggered whispers among her peers, fears from her boyfriend’s family, and discrimination from many directions. Teen pregnancy is all too common, but Rodriguez’s story provides uncommon insight into the consequences and problems that result.