The Soul of Adolescence Aligns with the Heart of Democracy

Orphans, Rebels and Civic Lovers Unite

Non-Fiction - Autobiography
778 Pages
Reviewed on 05/06/2022
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Author Biography

My journey began as a civic mentor to teens in the PIt, a neglected city park in Washington Heights during the heat of the crack epidemic in the 1980's. It concluded with leading a civic team including dozens of teens and 35 agencies who collaborated in obtaining passage of a bill allowing 16 and 17 year olds to serve on NYC Community Boards.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite

The Soul of Adolescence Aligns with the Heart of Democracy: Orphans, Rebels and Civic Lovers Unite by Alfred H. Kurland is a non-fiction memoir and study in which the author uses their personal and professional experiences to deliver a solid behaviorism analysis of youth, and the impact of such experiences with the world at large. Kurland breaks the book down into four distinct and interconnected parts to build up the text as a whole. Part one, Induction, is a profoundly honest deep dive into three key events that became the bedrock upon which Kurland's advocacy and empowerment work with teens is built. Part two, Forward/Backward and Inside/Out, details the four definitive phases in Kurland's journey and what each phase strengthened him with, and what he himself was able to give of himself to those he served at that time. Part three, Introductions, is Kurland's written revolution against the outdated, imprudently ascribed psychology that has been [mis]attributed to teens in the past, the sub-titular archetypes, and mentor/co-mentor relationships with true and meaningful influence. Finally, part four, Afterwards, embodies the movements, practices, recommendations, and change that should be employed to encourage participation and mold teens into the leaders they are capable of becoming, and that we need them to be.

There is so much to unpack after reading The Soul of Adolescence Aligns with the Heart of Democracy, and I daresay that even at its length I am likely to start reading it again almost immediately. I have never—ever—had as many bookmark tabs on my e-reader as I do now. Alfred H. Kurland is the person everyone dreams of having in their community. As a parent to a teenager who is not only a strong young woman of color but who is also passionate about some serious social issues, it has been heartbreaking to watch her get hamstrung by adults who either will not listen at all or who disregard her simply because of her age. Kurland speaks of the murder of a roommate, a shocking and horrific event that begins as the top layer of all that follows as each is peeled back. At the age of sixteen, I also lost a friend and classmate to murder, but in reading Kurland's account I am forced to admit that its impact was not something I addressed properly. I now look at my daughter and see what Kurland, via a leader named David, has put into my lap. It is important to be compassionate to myself, and equally compassionate to others. Is it possible that my internalizing of trauma leads to a cycle of the same with my daughter? Is it possible that she and others, “...after being subjected to negative stereotyping and, too often, dark expectations, learn to internalize these voices and to harshly criticize themselves...”? I can do better. We can do better. And we must. Very, very highly recommended.

Asher Syed

Part memoir and part social reform strategy, author Alfred H. Kurland raises questions and furnishes solutions in The Soul of Adolescence Aligns with the Heart of Democracy: Orphans, Rebels and Civic Lovers Unite. Tomorrow's leaders are today's youth and today's youth are not being included in the conversations that will shape the legal, social and civic infrastructure of what tomorrow will be for them. Since the mid-80s, Kurland has championed youth services and teen-enfranchisement, establishing proactive initiatives and programs strengthening teen leadership, empowerment, engagement, and reform. Kurland merges stages and stories of his own with others who have the same or similar goals, and/or teens who've had their lives transformed by advocacy programs. Yanel Cordero, a teen mentored by Kurland, thrived in a global leadership program, and Ayesha, a teen who successfully wrote a grant that was funded and set up sexual awareness classes at three high schools.

I am an immigrant to the West from a third-world country, setting my foot down on British soil, alone, as a teenager and an economic refugee. I am brown, a Muslim, and when I arrived my English was limited to the bare-bones basics. I am what Alfred H. Kurland would put into the archetype of 'orphan', and am convinced now having read The Soul of Adolescence Aligns with the Heart of Democracy that if a program with teen input had existed, the transition would have not left me with the emotional scars that will never heal. Kurland is an academic and the latter half of his book reflects this. It has the distinctive formula of a dissertation, counterbalanced with individual stories to elevate it beyond. Unlike a dissertation, it is highly unlikely Kurland would need to defend it. The facts and stories are a powerful combination and prove that “Adolescent development and civic efficacy each evolve successfully when subject to a full measure of attention.” This book is a must-read.

Foluso Falaye

The Soul of Adolescence Aligns with the Heart of Democracy: Orphans, Rebels and Civic Lovers Unite by Alfred H. Kurland looks into the concept of empowered teens, the untapped potential of teens, and the contributions that some teens he worked with brought to the city of New York. Alfred exposes some biases, which are based on negative stereotypes, about teens—in terms of their age, culture, sex, and national origin. The author advocates for the utilization of adolescent assets—social and emotional styles of intelligence—in community problem solving and at the municipal level of governance. The book is filled with diverse insights, including several profound ideas that the author gained while working with teens and while growing up and the different concepts he gleaned from other individuals.

With the detailed, logical references and discussions in the book, Alfred H. Kurland helped me to unlearn the different biases about teens and their level of maturity that I learned from the ill-informed opinions of teachers and elders while growing up. The Soul of Adolescence Aligns with the Heart of Democracy is quite comprehensive and packed with information about several subjects, including loss, archetypes, conscious civic work, chakras, narrative storytelling, the wisdom of the soul, bodily awareness and intuitive intelligence, trauma, and much more. I loved that the book includes enough references for further research purposes and several stories about inspiring individuals and deeds. Teachers, world leaders, lay leaders, parents, and youth workers around the world will learn a lot from this book; perhaps, considering the opinions of our youths would dissuade us from our destructive patterns and save the planet for the current and future generations.