Revolutionary Suicide and Other Desperate Measures: Narratives of Youth and Violence from Japan and the United States

By Palacios, Lena Carla | McGill Journal of Education (Online), Winter 2012 | Go to article overview

Revolutionary Suicide and Other Desperate Measures: Narratives of Youth and Violence from Japan and the United States


Palacios, Lena Carla, McGill Journal of Education (Online)


Adrienne Care y Hurley. Revolutionary Suicide and Other Desperate Measures: Narratives of Youth and Violence from Japan and the United States. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. (2011). 259 pp. $24.92 (Paperback). (ISBN 978-0822349617).

In Revolutionary Suicide and Other Desperate Measures, Adrienne Hurley renders hyper-visible the often disavowed "culture of child abuse" in Japan and the United States. Through analysis of autobiographical fiction, tabloid journalism, film, clinical case studies and her personal experiences serving as a court-appointed special advocate for abused children, Hurley exposes how child abuse and youth violence are popularly understood as aberrant, manufactured for commercial profit, and represented as a mass mediated "freak" spectacle. In these late-capitalist societies where parental rights have eclipsed children's rights, and where teenagers are disproportionately incarcerated, it has become common sense to blame youth for their own vulnerability. Hurley effectively shifts the terms of the debate to argue that adults and the institutions that purport to "protect" children (child protective services and juvenile "correctional" facilities) are complicit in creating the conditions that engender violence. Instead of alluding to youth violence as "inexplicable," she urges readers to provide youth with opportunities to identify why they are angry, disaffected, and suicidal, and to create strategies to challenge the conditions that fuel their hopelessness.

Bridging the gap between academia and action, Hurley undertakes close readings as a form of advocacy. She speaks to those readers, critical educators and scholar-activists who can position themselves as "ally-advocates" (p. 45) in the service of children's and youth's liberation. She calls on them to disrupt both the "adult optic" (p. 11) and "unilateral adult caretaker-child relationship" (p. 33) that maintain differential power relations that structure acts of violence. Successful strategies offered from Hurley's own experiences as a youth empowerment program coordinator for criminalized youth validate her call.

Hurley (de)naturalizes violence as it is experienced by youth. She successfully counters many of the racial and class biases that blame "identity instead of institutions" and challenges "the prevailing myths that obscure the violent conditions many youth face and offer alternative models for reading and interpreting young people's rage" (p. 4). Violence against children is, according to Hurley a daily occurrence that cuts across class and racial lines often times with impunity for the perpetuator. To prove her point, Hurley overwhelms her readers with statistics of widespread child abuse and abduction crimes throughout the United States and Japan; figures which are inaccurate due to underreporting (see p. 42; 118-119). She also documents the growing body of professional literature and comparative research about violence against children and underscores the profound cultural shiftin the "abuse and recovery industries" (p. 174) marked by a popular proliferation of disclosures of trauma (such as those by adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse). Hurley underscores that "the very material and real power of storytelling to save lives is written into fiction by young women who themselves survived repeated and violent sexual assault by writing" (p. 38). The importance of storytelling for survival is demonstrated by Hurley in her extensive analysis of two autobiographical works of fiction written from the vantage point of the abused girls themselves: Fazaa Fakkaa/Father Fucker (1993) by Uchida Shungiku and Dorothy Allison's Bastard out of Carolina (1993). From the perspective of these two novelists, "fiction" can communicate that which has been suppressed and continues to be buried in nonfiction, formal discourse, and everyday conversation. …

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