(© 2021 Doug Goodkin)
I’m sure I’m being foolishly naïve to freely share writings that I intend to publish that I haven’t yet. (Hence the copyright above) But it was exciting to try to talk directly to 10-14 year olds in print and so I share it here. Read it to anyone you know that age and see if it entices them!
Welcome to this book! I have taught young people like you my whole life and have loved every minute of it. I’ve loved teaching you, talking with you, listening to you, watching what you can do and how you can sometimes surprise yourself and everyone around you. When the news in the paper is difficult—and isn’t it always?— the adults around me wonder how I can be so optimistic. And I tell them that it’s because of you. Young people who care about so much, who want their own world and the big world outside to be more fair. You know what it’s like to feel left out when the party invitations don't come, what it’s like to be misunderstood when your parents or teachers don’t know you the way you think they should or even try to get to know you. You understand in a personal way what many people in our country feel in a big way when they sing “I wish I knew how it would feel to be free.” And that means you’re ripe and ready to consider how to help make the world more fair, more kind, more understanding.
I have written nine books for grown-ups, but this is the first one written directly to you. I hope it doesn’t feel either too easy or too hard to read—and I hope you’ll forgive me if it does! This is a book that tries to share with you the music, people and stories that I care so much about that I hope will entice you to enjoy them as well. Though the stories will be difficult, I hope you feel both the sorrow and the joy and the inspiration from the people who triumphed over their suffering with their art. I hope you are fascinated by the stories and uplifted by the music.
But don’t stop there! At the end of each lesson, I ask you to think about what you can do with this information. “Saving the world” is a big weight to put on any one’s shoulders, but especially you busy young people who probably have a math test to study for and a school dance to get ready for. The kinds of things you can do once you know these stories is simply to share them with others—friends, cousins, parents. To think about them when you read the news and see a similar pattern. To remember them when something comes up in your own life that asks you to step forward courageously, to speak out even when it's uncomfortable. All these little things can make big differences if enough of us do them and you can get in the habit of a lifetime of caring for others and standing up for what’s right.
As the title suggests, jazz, joy and justice are all wonderful things that can make your life—and all our lives—richer, more meaningful, more beautiful and more fun. Enjoy the journey!