By Kevin Heffernan
Images Courtesy Timothy Lipps

While we continue to let baby boomers, their opinions, and their mistakes dominate our culture, media, and economy, it’s refreshing to dive into some storytelling that focuses on Gen Z.

Gen X seems to stand for nothing at all and Gen Y uses all the media at its disposal to articulate how furious they are at the situation handed to them by baby boomers, but Gen Z has already moved on. Ready to live as if it’s 2019, in 2019, Gen Z confidently moves forward with its own identity, and renewed energy. “That’s the way it is, and has always been” means nothing to this generation of teenagers graduating high school and entering colleges around the country.

In author (and new lead singer of Kurt & The Loders) Timothy Lipps’ new novel, The Book of Danzel, he draws upon his recent years teaching high schoolers inside Buffalo schools to draw up student and teacher characters navigating the new normal inside the Trump era of racism in the open, resistance in many forms, and hard conversations once swept under the carpet now coming to the table.

The Trump election looked different for everyone. So, how did it look at Anchor Academy? The navy-themed charter school at the heart of the city was already recovering from a shooting when the November 2016 election rolled around. Will the school survive these trying times?
Anchor Academy was always home to a culture war. The clash of strict military discipline and urban education created a microcosm of America and its issues. Now, tensions are at fever pitch and it’s making life hell for Danzel and Chana.
Danzel—a returning junior—has been dodging the wrath of Admiral and the MPs for two years. He’s done all he can to maintain his identity while attending an institution that demands conformity, but the time has come for him to face his opposition head-on.
Chana—a first-year English teacher—already has her hands full lesson planning and trying to fit in. How will she deal with the anger and confusion surrounding race, politics, and her own safety on top of learning to navigate her new career?
Welcome to the first of four marking periods at Anchor Academy!

Here’s an exert from the new teachers, including Chana, talking in the break room:

“You seriously know the dumbest shit,” Azalea said.

“I just read the news.” “I read the news, too.” “I spend a lot of time on the internet—my point is: that’s the kind of news that happens in Toronto. It’s not exactly Compton.”

“You don’t have to grow up in a tough area to be a legit rapper.”

“He was on Degrassi,” Thomas said. “It doesn’t change who he is now.” “So, it doesn’t bother you that he sold out in reverse?”

“That’s not a thing. No one thinks about it like that.”

“I also hear people calling him light-skinned,” Thomas said. “I don’t know why his skin tone matters, but it sounded like an insult in context.”

“Oh my God! Thomas! You are literally killing me. They’re calling him a puss.”

There was a pause in their conversation. “Where’s Chana?” Azalea asked. “I thought I saw her come in here.”

“I’m behind the pillar,” I called out. “Oh, Hi!” Azalea laughed. “We came in here looking for you. Do you think Black people like Drake?” “I don’t think I’m the best person to ask. I couldn’t name one of his songs.”

“What?!” Azalea put her hand over her heart and leaned backwards. “You’re not serious?”

“Yeah, I’m sorry.” “Where the funk am I? You guys want to work with children? You need to know the basic stuff about their culture!”

“We’re like, six years older than you, Azalea,” Thomas said.

“That’s not that much older,” Azalea said. “Tell me that again when you’re thirty,” he laughed.“Stop pretending you’re an old man!”

“I don’t feel old,” Thomas said. “I know who Drake is. I’m just saying, not everyone likes him.”

“Everyone loves him. He’s beautiful,” Azalea said.

I stood up and walked over to the closet doors. I wasn’t interested in Drake or in feeling old anymore. The closet doors were the only possible diversion in the otherwise empty room.

“Have either of you guys looked in here, yet?” I asked.“No,” Azalea answered. “That’s the real reason we came over. We want to find out what kinds of supplies we’re working with.”

I threw both doors open. I was nearly swept away by the flood that came out. Books, empty binders, plastic crates, miscellaneous copies of worksheets, all came tumbling out and surrounded my feet.

Pick it up via Amazon here.