At a time when much of the national conversation revolves around leaning in, finding some sort of work–life balance, getting it all, and living a life with purpose, people of every generation are finding that activism—getting involved in something meaningful—pays myriad dividends. Not only does activism help fulfill a sense of purpose and, ideally, help others in some way, but some studies suggest that “people with a sense of purpose had a 15 percent lower risk of death, compared with those who said they were more or less aimless.”*
Author Rae Luskin, who calls Chicago home, has benefitted firsthand from activism, noting in her new book The Creative Activist that living a life of service can “ease the pain of isolation and depression,” among other things.
Activism, of course, can take many forms. Luskin urges her readers to consider what she calls “creative activism,” which she believes helps people “use their imagination, creative thinking, and unique expression to make a positive difference in people’s lives, communities, and the world.”
This is no short order, but it seems to be one that is catching on. Among Millennials in particular, activism seems to be on the rise. It’s certainly one that, as a community activist for more than forty years, Luskin strongly believes in. It’s also something she believes anyone can participate in, regardless of whether they believe themselves to be creative or artsy or talented.
Luskin provides inspiration and ideas for readers in The Creative Activist, which includes real-world examples of people who are working to make a difference. Luskin reports having interviewed more than 150 people while preparing the book (several of whom hail from Chicago and the Midwest). A number of the individuals profiled in short vignettes run their own nonprofits, some are activists for victims of abuse or domestic violence, some are leading change in hot spots around the world. Their stories are revealed through short Q&As, much of which focus on their inspiration, their take on leadership, and their vision for a better future.
Divided into six sections covering such topics as cultivating courage to change, connecting and networking with people who can help you fulfill your goals, and tapping into various forms of creativity, Luskin prompts readers to consider creativity and activism—and the marriage of the two—from a variety of viewpoints, not limiting themselves to thinking of either or both as a certain method or formula for achieving success.
Highly designed, this four-color paperback is full of prompts and questions designed to get the reader thinking and, it is hoped, acting—on whatever cause is important to them. Although this is not a hands-on workbook, Luskin encourages readers to journal about key issues, writing down thoughts and ideas for how they might tackle concerns that are important to them. Poems and quotes are sprinkled throughout in order to provide further inspiration. A few typos and some copy-editing mishaps (e.g., “a key tenant” instead of “a key tenet”) are distracting, but not so much as to spoil Luskin’s message.
The Creative Activist is thought-provoking, encouraging readers to think about the causes that are important to them and to develop a plan for addressing those causes, whether on a small scale or large. Of course, as with any such book, Luskin can only lead a horse to water, as it were—it’s up to the reader to engage. With dozens of “Call to Action” sections, the reader is supplied with no shortage of stimuli to move from wishing to do something to actually accomplishing something that matters.
This is no manifesto for change or a fist-in-the-air call for activism. Rather, The Creative Activist is intended to provide a spark and some encouragement for individuals who feel they want to do something to make their world a little bit better. Luskin believes that those who embrace creative activism will be closer to living a “fabulous life”—an admirable goal that many of us can identify with.
July 2015, Wise Ink Creative Publishing
$24.95, paperback, 194 pages
—Reviewed by Kelli Christiansen