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CLA JOURNAL 125 124 CLA JOURNAL Book Reviews Stephanie Y. Evans. Black Passports: Travel Memoirs as a Tool for Youth Empowerment. Albany: SUNY Press, 2014. 310 pp. ISBN: 978-1-4384-5154-1. Paper ($31.95). Making meaningful contributions in the fields of autobiography, youth studies, education, and African American Studies, Stephanie Y. Evans’s Black Passports: Travel Memoirs as a Tool for Youth Empowerment (2014) is an important book that grapples with ways to inspire today’s young people. Evans identifies a serious issue that youth around the world face: a lack of role models to guide them in fulfilling their destiny. She desires to empower Black youth by providing them with tools—200 African American autobiographies with narrative explorations of international travel—that they can use as guides to help them in becoming wise citizens of the world. Overlooked no longer, young people can find an oasis within the pages of the travel memoirs or “narratives-within-texts” that Evans explores and adults can assist them along the journey. Unabashedly, she asserts in her prologue that she composed the book to help“those most‘at risk’ of being affected by debilitating conditions at home or abroad”(xxiii). The narratives, ranging from lesser-known individuals to popular figures, such as Muhammad Ali, Diana Ross, Harry Belafonte, Angela Davis, Ray Charles, and Tina Turner, will encourage and stimulate young minds. Pairing mentoring skills with curriculum development, Evans’s Black Passports ultimately furthers scholarship within higher education geared toward assisting youth with setting and achieving goals that will positively impact their lives as well as the local, national, and global communities to which they belong. Evans arranges Black Passports in a traditional fashion, with a prologue, introduction, four body chapters, conclusion, and epilogue. The body chapters are dedicated to a specific subject concerning youth, including “Life,” “School,” “Work,” and “Exchange.” Some may see the one-word chapter titles as too vague and the numerous subheadings within the chapters as distracting, but the book is purposely composed like a handbook, rather than a traditional academic monograph, to facilitate its usability. For such a purpose, the book is wellorganized . Evans designed her book for the young mentees as well as those who will aid them, whom she identifies as “high school teachers, university professors, agency directors, program staff and mentors who provide service to youth in their development”(xxiv).Additionally, the four appendices of the book will prove to be valuable resources for her multiple audiences. In her introductory chapter, “Literary Mentoring,” Evans immediately establishes herself as a reliable voice on the topic of mentoring. She accomplishes thisinseveralways,includingwalkingreadersthroughherdecade-longinvolvement with community service-learning classes, precollege youth summits, and Book Reviews community partnerships. She also disperses her own autobiographical vignettes connected to life, school, work, and exchange throughout the text, providing a thoughtful personal touch. Concerning literary mentoring, Evans defines it as “readers gaining insight, perspective, inspiration, and guidance from a text in a similar way they would from a personal mentoring relationship” (21). Still, she cautions that no mentor is perfect, as everyone has flaws. Her methodology, to find the literary mentors, is concise and straightforward. Searching various databases and bibliographies, she was able to find her group of 200 Black travel memoirs, which she notes are mostly by entertainers and athletes. She stresses the need for others to tell their stories as well as for youth to become aware of knowledge systems of Africa. Perhaps one of the most interesting features of her introduction is her outline of eight narrative styles, or what she calls autobiographical archetypes: Activist, Survivor, Seeker, Relation, Rebel, Icon, Messenger, and Professional. Each of the autobiographies fits into one or more of these styles, which facilitates further comprehension of the narratives. Among the many acronyms she develops to help navigate her curriculum, SWAG is the one that may stand out the most because of the common use of the term swag, a short form of the word swagger, among contemporary young people. It stands for “start with a guide,” and she ultimately intends for young people to use the autobiographies as an introductory guide toward self-efficacy. In the “Life” and “School” chapters, Evans delves more into...


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pp. 124-127
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