Last night was the book club meeting to discuss the novel Super Sad True Love Story (I mentioned my intense hatred of the book last week), and I was, almost, the only one that hated the book. Only one other woman disliked it.
Until my sole fellow hater arrived, there was some speculation in the group about a possible generational difference. Perhaps it was that the other women and I were simply of different generations and therefore had different perspectives on the characters and the action… or lack thereof. As an example, my biggest problem with the novel was the main character’s seeming inability to make and defend a decision. Most of the other women felt that the main character’s apathy was a sign that he was a regular, everyday Joe (so to speak). To me though, apathy isn’t ordinary.
You see, I am absolutely the youngest woman in my book club (I’m 28, in case you were wondering) and there is a 12 year age range covered in the group. After some discussion, I suggested that perhaps part of my dislike of the novel stemmed from a perception that the author was disparaging my generation. The apathy that seemed to define the main character (and which annoyed me beyond belief) seems to be how the author perceives my generation’s general attitude… or lack thereof. I argued that part of my problem with the book was that “apathetic” is one of the last words I would use to describe my generation.
I see my fellow Millennials as passionate and engaged. These are all generalizations, obviously, but all around me there are people in their twenties following their passions and making their dreams marketable. We’re carving new paths that work for us- changing (or attempting to change) the nature of work, career, family and community. Not all of us are rolling in dough, but most are doing a job they feel drawn to do. So many are starting non-profits or starting for-profit businesses with a social conscience. Most not only follow politics but feel strongly about their political convictions- and act on them! A poll done by the Pew Research Center says that Millenials both vote and volunteer at higher rates than previous generations (according to this article from USA Today). The same research suggests that we will be the most educated generation to date. Right before I left for book club, I read a NY Times article (brought to my attention by Lindsay, of Linz Loves You fame) about Millenials and our peculiar youth culture. Apparently we’re affable and entrepreneurial. Besides all of that, it is my generation that has born the brunt of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (small though the percentage of citizens serving in the military may be) and it is my generation that has come of age in a post 9-11 world. So far no signs point to apathy.
Obviously I’m biased because of my age, but I feel really strongly about this. I felt offended for my entire generation for the length of my car ride home and beyond. I’m still thinking about it now.
My guess is that every generation feels misinterpreted. And maybe I’m still young enough to be holding on to the idealism that goes hand-in-hand with being young. So I’m asking all of you:
Do you think of Generation Y/Millennials/whatever-you-want-to-call-current-20-somethings are apathetic? How would you describe this generation? Feel free to tell me that I’m wrong because I love a lively discussion. After all, as I mentioned last night, my 4th grade teacher didn’t nickname me “Ms. Righteous Indignation” for nothing.