Magazine article Radical Teacher

Feed vs. Little Brother. the Same, Only Different

Magazine article Radical Teacher

Feed vs. Little Brother. the Same, Only Different

Article excerpt

Selecting books to teach in a college level young adult literature class is always a negotiation. Required reading should be race, class, and gender equitable; represent the old and the new; and engender the kinds of critical, analytical discussions appropriate for a literature class. With this balance in mind, even smart, interesting pieces of young adult literature can miss the cut semester after semester. This was the case for me with Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, a teen-populated nod to Orwell's 1984.

The content and style of Little Brother would fit perfectly in a class like mine. It is a science fiction novel about a young man coming of age in a technologically saturated, panoptic society that no longer protects--or trusts--autonomy and individualism. The more the young man recognizes the control technology has on everything from emotions and opinions to life and death, the more he fights the system that works to confine him. The more he fights, the more he becomes disillusioned: Is it too late? Are we too invested in technology to think for ourselves? At its core, Doctorow's novel attends to the ways in which society itself creates the complicated narratives surrounding teens and it asks citizens to be more critical of and thoughtful about the world around them. Through the novel's implicit warning, the imagined reader--the savvy Generation Y'er, raised to accept technology as a natural part of life--is invited to re-evaluate the current moment through the framework of the protagonist's world.

But while these issues are important to include, I already have a go-to novel that does all of these things: M.T. Anderson's Feed, a science fiction novel about a young man coming of age in a technologically saturated, panoptic society that no longer protects ... you get the picture.

At first glance, the two books serve too similar ends to both be included in one class. …

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