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Do It Anyway
The New Generation of Activists

How can one person save the world? According to Courtney E. Martin, that is exactly what young people today have been asked to do. In her new book, Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists, Martin profiles the lives and motivations of eight activists under the age of thirty-five. The result is portrait of activism in the twenty-first century and a rallying cry for young people to rethink the good they can do in the world.

Martin is one of the country’s most widely read young writers on social change. In Do It Anyway she explores the challenges of working in communities and on issues that are often ignored. She discusses her own activist roots and writes honestly about the complexities of trying to enact positive change in the world. “It turns out that there is no surefire way to ‘do good’ in the twenty-first century,” she writes. “There are only occasional triumphs, and more often, good failures.”

Activists from the 1950s 60s and 70s, have often criticized the social justice work being done today as lazy and ineffective – believing that the majority of efforts have moved online to social networking sites. Martin disagrees and writes that older activists simply do not recognize what today’s activism, or today’s activists, looks like. “We are not, on the whole, entitled, self-absorbed, and apathetic,” she writes. “We’re overwhelmed, empathetic, and paralyzed. The privileged among us are told over and over that it is our charge to ‘save the world,’ but once in it, we realize that it’s not so simple.”

Do It Anyway urges readers to abandon the “save the world” rhetoric. The book explores the real, necessary work being done every day, off-line, out of the spotlight, and away from the 24-hour news cycle. Martintakes a psychological lens to activists and explores what drives them to keep working for what they believe in, even when disappointment seems inevitable. What she uncovers is not glamorous. The eight young people featured are not superhuman. They are, instead, “breathtakingly ordinary,” but also, “courageous and flawed and visionary.”


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Page Updated 06.17.2015