Hip Deep, edited by Abe Louise Young (Next Generation Press, 2006)

The Big Picture

Hip Deep is a collection of essays written by American teenagers, told in their own voices and drawing on a wide variety of experiences. Alternately heartbreaking and inspirational, it’s a reflection on the matters and issues teens deal with on a daily basis. Editor Abe Louise Young, with the help of the Youth Editorial Board of Next Generation Press, has assembled a true-to-life cross-section of youth culture that’s bound to resonate with readers of all ages.

The Details

Hip Deep is separated into five major sections, each one covering broad themes and containing between seven and twelve different essays.

“Connected By Courage” addresses family issues, looking at how each author relates to family, or the lack thereof. Some cope with lost family, others explain how a specific relative influenced them, one explains the heartbreak of being in jail and away from those who live him.

“My Voice Is An Independent Song” explores the role of school and education. These essays tackle subjects like drunk driving, standardized tests, athletics, learning disabilities, race and more. One of the most powerful pieces addresses the sense of betrayal a gay student experienced when faced with homophobia and bigotry on the part of a teacher, and how it shaped his life.

“Because It’s Mine….” looks at body-related issues. Topics covered here include anorexia, gay pride, maintaining independence while disabled, and more.

“These Values I Take Home With Me” takes on topics dealing with race, culture and origin. Stories explore cross-ethnicity adoption, multiracial families, standing out as a visible Muslim, the constant battle against racism, coming of age in different cultures, and even the bias against skateboarders.

“My River Has A Bridge” collects essays addressing war, peace, and change, looking at how we relate on a global scale. From those who join military training programs like the JROTC, to those affected by the Israeli-Palestine conflicts, from lost friends to new friends, these stories aim straight for the heart.

An appendix lists a number of magazines, online and print, which accept teen material, and gives helpful guidelines for submissions. Of course, it’s always good to double-check things like this to make sure the information is up to date before sending anything out.

Final Thoughts

All essays contained within were originally published between 2001 and 2005, while Hip Deep was released in 2006. However, the experiences and viewpoints are universal, remaining relevant in 2010 and beyond.

Because these are authentic stories told in a variety of voices, there’s a wide range of quality and sophistication present. However, each essay, whether verse or prose, polished or raw, is accessible to the casual reader. Most are only a few pages long, some even shorter, making this a quick read on the surface and a much deeper read underneath. The editor even recommends multiple readings to get the full impact.

The simple honesty and emotion prevalent in these essays imbues them with strength and importance. The issues discussed are real, continuing, and unlikely to vanish anytime soon. This collection reads like letters from the battlefront, reminding us that racism, sexism, homophobia, culture clashes, religious issues, and so on are all everyday issues for today’s teens.

Who’s This For?

Hip Deep possesses a wide range of appeal. It’s perfect for parents trying to relate to their child’s experiences, teachers wanting to encourage tolerance and acceptance, and teenagers looking for someone who’s gone through the same things they have.

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