Harvard Educational Review
  1. Peace

    By Tucker Shaw

    New York: Alloy Books, 2002. 142 pp. $9.99.

    As I sorted through what seemed mostly unimpressive literature in the Young Adults section of a bookstore chain, Tucker Shaw’s Peace attracted me with the peace logo on its cover. This book may be of interest to teachers in high schools, adults working with youth in other alternative settings, parents, and, most importantly, the youth to whom the book is explicitly directed.

    The impetus for Peace was September 11, 2001. Shaw states that, since that day,
    things have changed. We now have new priorities, new challenges, new questions, new knowledge, new fears, new concerns, new heroes. We are, around the world, new people. Peace really means something now. And it’s something we are all responsible for. Each one of us. Working toward peace is within our control. (p. 3)
    Shaw seeks to encourage young people to think about what peace means to them, to highlight the heroic acts of people throughout the world who have fought for peace peacefully, and to incite young readers to fight proactively for peace.

    Shaw divides the book into five sections. Part One, What Is Peace? asks teenagers what peace is, what it is not, and in what kinds of places young people seek peace. An array of responses from youth, mostly from the United States, follows. This section offers readers a glimpse of how some young people understand the concept of peace through their own words. For instance, an 18-year-old man from New York defines peace as “more than just the absence of war. It is equality and justice. It can be applied to the world, or to one’s own personal peace of mind” (p. 10). Unfortunately, it is unclear how the author elicited or sorted through the responses from youth, since some of the same youth voices, especially those from outside the United States, appear often in the book.

    In Part Two, a historical section entitled Peace Then, Shaw opens by describing the twentieth century as the most violent in history. He offers highlights of inspirational leaders who have fought for peace and justice, offering brief biographies of historical figures or “Peace Greats,” such as Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Steven Biko, and Nelson Mandela, which are meant to inspire and inform readers about leaders who have fought for peace through nonviolent resistance. This chapter also lists the last twenty-five winners of the Nobel Peace Prize and briefly describes the reasons for the awards. The section ends with a brief recounting of moments that Shaw believes contributed to peace in the twentieth century. However, he tends to summarize complicated historical events in just a few lines, thus reducing their impact, and he also offers a number of questionable generalizations. For instance, Shaw states that populations soared in poor nations, and that people “were dissatisfied with their lives, making them more likely to support violent changes” (p. 21). The book would stimulate deeper understanding of world situations if the author delved into more historical details.

    Part Three, Peace Now, focuses mostly on the September 11 events. According to Shaw, “On that day everything changed. Suddenly we woke up” and had to live in a new world (p. 50). Like Part One, this section elicits the voices of young people describing where they were on that day, what they were thinking, what they did to help out after 9/11, and how their lives have changed since. Included are two U.S. Muslim youth’s responses (originally from Tanzania and Pakistan) to the mistreatment and harassment they suffered due to their classmates’ ignorance. Theirs are stories of dignity and resilience. For example, a schoolmate told a young Pakistani man that he must be the son of Bin Laden. In response, he wrote an article in which he stated that “the man behind the terrorist attack is just as ignorant as the man who torched the car shop [of a Pakistani in Houston], who is just as ignorant as the student that saw me as the son of a terrorist” (p. 89). Another story is of a high school student who was suspended from school for wearing a T-shirt that sarcastically criticized the U.S. bombing in Afghanistan. This young woman was willing to stand her ground in opposing the war overseas because she felt that “what we’re doing to them is just as bad as what they did to us, and I think it needs to be stopped” (p. 92). These stories show youth at their most courageous.

    In Part Four, Peace Tomorrow, Shaw again reminds his readers that “we can’t wait for anyone else to bring us peace. . . . If we want peace, we have to work for it together . . . and we’ll have to keep working for it forever” (p. 110). Again, Shaw includes youth responses to questions about how they are making a difference now and how they will contribute in the future. Shaw also presents more “Peace Greats,” including Rigoberta Menchú and the Dalai Lama. The strength of this section lies in its quick portraits of young people pursing peace in organized ways — from websites to organizations such as Seeds for Peace. Shaw also discusses the Peace Corps. His explicit message is that Peace Corps volunteers have changed the lives of people in other countries; however, he does not mention how the lives of the volunteers have changed. This stance reflects a tacit ideology that may dangerously imply that Americans are the imparters of knowledge to the “less developed” people.

    The book ends with suggestions of actions youth can take. Shaw profiles an 18-year-old who has been proactive in trying to bring about change by creating a website where teens can discuss topics such as racism, violence, and discrimination, and where other young people can learn about important resources. Shaw also provides a list of website resources that young people may consult in order to see how they may be more active players in bringing about change.

    The overall message of Peace is positive and the book is worth reading. The targeted readers — young people — have an opportunity to read their peers’ opinions. However, one significant shortcoming of the book is that its content seems too brief and simplified, almost as if to make the book a quick and entertaining read. Although this book only provides one layer in a discussion, Peace may provide the hook for some youth to begin to explore this crucial topic.

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