The Biggest Book Rec That I'll Rec This Year

Hey, teen advocates! Here's a really cool book you should get for your mom!

[Book cover, depicting women linking arms in front of the Capitol. "What would you change about the world if you could?" and are written above and below the book, respectively]

This Women’s History Month, I’m proud to celebrate the most important woman in my life and how she has been a part of global history– my mom, Cynthia Changyit Levin, writing her debut book From Changing Diapers to Changing the World: Why Moms Make Great Advocates and How to Get Started! On International Women’s Day (March 8), her book was officially launched for the world to read.

It’s a warm, funny, and inspirational guide to political advocacy specifically geared towards moms and their unique power. Experts and everyday advocates alike have written glowing endorsements already, but as Cynthia Changyit Levin’s eldest child, I feel uniquely qualified to say this is the perfect representation of her life’s work: making the world a better place through policy, while being a loving and empowering parent. She taught me to leverage my privilege to uplift others whenever I can, and to advocate for myself and my communities when we’re directly hurt. I’ve seen “From Changing Diapers to Changing the World” take shape up close over the years— in our house, in hotel rooms and the halls of Congress, in crowded coffee shops and school auditoriums. Now, I’m so excited for countless others to learn from her through this book, a handheld guide for anyone who didn’t get to be raised by her every day for 18+ years.

[My mom holding her book and smiling. A quote from LaShaun Martin, National Vice President of Mocha Moms, Inc: "Levin is a powerhouse of advocacy. There's nothing more energizing than seeing a mom work alongside her children to change the world. God knows, if anyone can do it, WE CAN!"

I’ve witnessed the magic of mom-advocates up close, not just with my own mother. Lobbying alongside moms on Capitol Hill, I get to see them get through to aides and lawmakers who aren’t otherwise swayed by statistics. They hold our groups together during long lobby days and (sometimes) dull webinars, and they’re great at explaining big, important concepts to the most stubborn toddler or elected official. This book isn’t only an instruction manual for how to be like (or be one of) these powerful women– there are stories and profiles of mom-advocates from diverse backgrounds across the country. One of these profiles, about Columba Sainz, is already posted on Levin’s blog. Check it out!

(Are mothers the only ones with these skills? Are all moms the same? Of course not! I myself am a genderqueer teenager; not at all Levin’s target audience. But I still really appreciate what this book does for the advocacy world. Rather than excluding non-women parents or not-at-all-parents from the conversation, Levin’s focus on mothers is a targeted call to action and inspiration for a specific group often held back across the country because of misogyny and the practical demands of caring for kids.)

[My mom in a flowy skirt walking alongside me, in jeans and a t-shirt, turned towards me and smiling. In the background are the columns of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.]

I really do think mom, kids, and teens who are advocates are great partners and allies for each other. Both are groups that can be left out of the fast-paced activist world, but when one group makes space for themselves, the other can often follow! My mom and her colleagues around the United States changed their advocacy groups’ structures to be more accessible and supportive to moms… along the way, more kids were able to join the meetings, too!

One reason for that which you can’t overlook is the parent-child relationship. It would’ve taken me a lot longer to find my power if my mom hadn’t included me in her global nutrition talks with Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky when I was a toddler. My whole life, mom has been my biggest cheerleader and best mentor: from holding my hand on my first trip to DC, to standing up for me when I was a fifteen-year-old group leader challenged by our baby-boomer-dominated organization. I’m not the only example: I can think of four other parent-child teams I have personally lobbied with in the past five years! Sometimes it’s the parent dragging their kid along to events until the kid becomes genuinely interested themself. Sometimes it’s the kid who just needs a ride to the advocacy event, and then the parent ends up staying because they’re intrigued by their kid’s new activity. I’ve seen it work both ways, and it’s amazing every time!

Even if the mom-advocate who inspires you isn’t your own mother, it’s really awesome to have a mom on your side. Selfishly, I’m really looking forward to all the new mom-advocates joining movements because of Levin’s book, because they’ll make those movements stronger and more empowering.

[Cindy sits on a stone staircase, smiling and wearing a flowy skirt. The Washington Monument is behind her. To the right, the image of her book cover. At the top, a quote from Alex Counts, founder of the Grameen Foundation: "Levin has provided a roadmap for mothers raising kids-- and other busy, caring people-- to provide the advocacy muscle needed to make the bold changes that are so badly needed."]

One of my favorite things about From Changing Diapers to Changing the World is the “Advocacy Made Easy” section. Now, here’s a fantastic set of chapters that applies to anyone, not just moms!

It’s based on a series of blogs Levin has written over the years, like this one about how to make the most of a “coffee with your senator” event. And it’s exactly what the title implies– Levin is gonna boil down all the advocacy actions into super easy, doable tasks so you’ll feel ready and prepared. Not sure what a letter to the editor is? Nervous about what to say over the phone? Never fear! She’s got all the tip boxes and step-by-step instructions to make you sound like a pro.

Levin designed her book to be easy for busy moms/beginner advocates to use, which means you can pick it up and skip to the sections most interesting to you without missing anything crucial! If you’re looking for a pep talk, skip to page 35 for “Why Should Moms be Advocates?” If you’re more in the mood for a story, let me direct you to page 71, Felisa Hilbert’s profile about “Growing Your Impact.” Are you ready to cut to the chase and call Congress already? Boom. Page 203. “The Phone Call.”

It’s, like, ridiculously easy to use. This is a lovely book to sit down and read (you won’t miss any of the funny baby Yara stories that way), but I totally understand if it’s just a resource in your advocacy toolkit to pick up once in a while– that was also its intended purpose!

(And that table of contents is 100% accurate. I guarantee. I’m the one who double-checked it during the final round of edits.)

You can find From Changing Diapers to Changing the World by Cynthia Changyit Levin anywhere books are sold… including local indie bookstores! Go there! Support Black-owned businesses, especially, like Semicolon Bookstore in Chicago. If free and accessible to the general public is more your style, though, and you wanna request that your local library purchase it, please do go for it as that would be fantastic.

Oh yes… and have a lovely day. <3


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