Take the Mic: Fictional Stories of Everyday Resistance Edited by Bethany C. Morrow, 272 pgs.

Feb 13, 2020

The Scholastic publishing and distribution company still exists, and an elementary teacher not long ago told me that kids get still get as excited when the company’s catalog arrives in the classroom as she and I did decades ago. And I recently read there are Scholastic books fairs now.

But whereas when I was ordering the Welcome Back, Kotter tie-in novel 10-4, Sweathogs! (in which Mr. Kotter’s students get a CB radio for the classroom), today’s kids can read Take the Mic: Fictional Stories of Everyday Resistance, a Scholastic-imprint collection of short fiction, poetry, and graphic art, including Ray Stoeve’s story in which a genderless student joins the occupation of the principal’s office to demand a genderless restroom. (The Sweathogs weren’t big on direct action, though they did smart off a lot.)

You know your mind’s constant hum of composing refusals to take shit from anyone (including rewrites of your failures to do so)? Editor Bethany C. Morrow has tapped into YA readers’ collective hum and connected it to the energy of aspirational narrative. A common theme throughout the collection is, You don’t have to put up with assholes.I’m not sure that ever occurred to me before graduating high school. Had I but known…. And a subtheme is, A friend who doesn’t know any better isn’t necessarily an asshole.

If you’re an adult, am I making this book sound appealing to you? The Harry Potter novels are filled with lessons (or so the movies suggest), and adults love those. Or if you don’t, a YA reader who’s actually a YA would be glad to get this as a gift. It has profanity, I should mention, though I don’t know whether that’s an issue anymore. (The Sweathogs never worked blue.)

It was Morrow’s editorship that got me to read Take the Mic—check out her 2018 speculative novel Mem—and she has a story in the book with a moment that made me sit up straight in my chair, then lean forward and look closer at the page—Did I read that right? Then, after rereading it, Yes… yes I did. It was very much like learning one of the secrets at the heart of Toni Morrison’s novel Tar BabyIsn’t this monstrous behavior a little over the top? Then, after pondering it, No… no, I guess it isn’t…. –Jim Woster (Arthur A. Levine Books, arthuralevinebooks.com)