This generation of young people is starved for the stories of older survivors. They've been cheated. They've had no equivalent of the village gathering around a fire to recount fearsome accounts of fighting off lions. Most don't live near extended family, so they don't get to relax on front porches with icy glasses of lemonade to laugh with uncles or grandmothers recalling younger versions of themselves back in the day.
That's why I want to recommend Left To Tell, Immaculee Ilibagiza's memoir of survival and devastation during the Rwandan holocaust in 1994. The power of this starkly honest story is that it doesn't leave the reader fearful and devastated. As Immaculee's tender, tough voice recounts her suffering, teens will realize that they, too, can receive grace to confront and endure evil without succumbing to it. They, too, can even experience the amazing power to forgive those who inflict evil.
In a culture where vengeance, violence, and suffering can devastate a high school or middle school community, and where lifestyles of self-indulgence and entitlement are flaunted and celebrated, teens need true stories of forgiveness, sacrifice, courage, and survival. Watch the movie Hotel Rwanda with your high schoolers. And let them read this story that Imaculee believes she was Left To Tell.