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A Brief, Non-Spoiling Review of Homeland

My partner and I just finished reading Cory Doctorow's young adult novel Homeland, our copy of which he kindly autographed for us at Octavia Books back in February. I can recommend the book without reservation, for young and old alike, but I wanted to focus on one particular merit. If you haven't read the book, what I am about to say shouldn't spoil anything, but does require taking in the whole of the book to appreciate, so hopefully it form an incentive to pick up and give it a shot. Since Cory Doctorow is also committed to free culture, you can find free copies of his books on his website. Try it for free, then buy one for a friend.

Anyway, in talking over Homeland with Tara, I decided that what I like most about it as a young adult novel is this: among other lessons the main character learns, the central theme is that he needs to learn to take control. Many of the main character's conflicts involve his reactive posture; the world happens to him, and he doesn't know how to deal with it. By the end of the book, our main character resolves his conflicts by becoming proactive, making something happen to which other people must react.

From what I can tell, that lesson is the most important part about really growing up. Some people learn when they're a little too young, and that can be a problem because they don't know what to do and their elders don't know what to do with them. Some people never seem to learn it and become adults in response to events, never taking responsibility for crafting their own existence. If you just react, the world is something that happens to you. To put it another way, you create a distance between yourself and the things you experience. Life is out there, and you have to deal with it from in here. The reactor is at the business end of their own existence. When you begin to see that you can affect events, you can exert effort, you can define your situation and your next move, you have acknowledged yourself as really part of the world, immersed into the same dynamic flow of events, an agent of causation just like any other. In that immersion is the seed of really feeling free, the potential to recognize oneself as the cause and the result at once.

If you want to see what that transformation looks like, read Homeland, then reflect on yourself and your own development. When you did you realize that you are an agent and not merely a patient of events? Have you?

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