rowan blanchard's new book is an intimate portrait of modern teen life
'Still Here' provides a glimpse into adolescence through a collective lens. Rowan's personal diary entries are accompanied by art and writing from friends such as Gia Coppola, Rupi Kaur, and Jenny Zhang.
Photo courtesy of Penguin RandomHouse
“I believe this rawness, this anger, this sadness, this wonder is possibly the time where our feelings are the most sincere,” Rowan Blanchard writes of growing up in the introduction to her new book, Still Here. “When our gazes are still somewhat informed by our own unknowingness, when we are intoxicated and addicted to how it feels to experience something for the first time”.
Rowan, a young creative and a passionate humanitarian both born and raised in Los Angeles, is known for her on-screen talent as well as her inspiring activism. She not only is part of the upcoming film A Wrinkle in Time, directed by Ava DuVernay, but has also spoken at the United Nations about gender inequality in youth, and gave a moving speech at the inaugural Women’s March in Los Angeles on the importance of intersectional feminism. In Still Here, she has created a collection of art, writing, and photos by herself and a diverse group of contributors — including poet Rupi Kaur, photographer Gia Coppola, and writer Jenny Zhang — about growing up in modern times. Still Here acts as a medium to further encourage other teens, by providing personal reflections on thoughts such as the inevitable passing and loss of time and the complexity of relationships.
The other creatives contributing to Still Here are a mix of Rowan’s longtime idols and IRL friends. Images by Washington, D.C.-based artist Samera Paz capture the 2015 Freddie Gray protests in Baltimore. Artwork by Karina Padilla explores the saving power of imagination. Rupi Kaur’s illustrations focus on finding strength in pain, while Gia Coppola’s photographs of teens hanging out in bedrooms and on the street remind us of the universality of these experiences. All of these intimate accounts create an honest and raw portrayal of growing up in today’s world, focusing on those moments of life when you may be feeling everything or nothing at all. Their contrasting perspectives depict just how kaleidoscopic one’s youth can be.
Engaging with Still Here feels like going through a friend’s scrapbook. Full of love and loss, it is incredibly relatable and deeply resonating. It gives you the feeling of being connected to its author and contributors, even though you may not be right beside them — a familiar sentiment for those growing up in the age of social media, a reminder that the common familiarity of connectivity is made possible through a modern world weaved together by its digital ties. Your teenage years provide some of the most influential moments of your life: physically, mentally, and emotionally. You learn a lot about yourself and the people that surround you. But Still Here isn't just a sentimental meditation. The book reminds teens that their voices matter and should be heard — that the youth is the future. A conversation that is especially relevant in 2018, in a world where young people have proven time and again to be an integral part of leading the revolution.