Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things.
A classic teenage fetish object, the American driver's license has long symbolized freedom and mobility in a nation whose design assumes car travel and whose vastness rivals continents. It is youth's pass to regulated vice-cigarettes, bars, tattoo parlors, casinos, strip joints, music venues, guns. In its more recent history, the license has become increasingly associated with freedom's flipside: screening. The airport's heightened security checkpoint. Controversial ID voting laws. Federally mandated, anti-terrorist driver's license re-designs. The driver's license encapsulates the contradictory values and practices of contemporary American culture-freedom and security, mobility and checkpoints, self-definition and standardization, democracy and exclusion, superficiality and intimacy, the stable self and the self in flux.
Object Lessons is published in partnership with an essay series in the The Atlantic.
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
Number of pages: 160
Weight: 147 g
Dimensions: 165 x 121 x 15 mm
Ranging across the 20th century and between continents, Castile teaches a fundamental 'lesson' about the license: what's meant to fix an identity in fact generates competing meanings and values. Freedom and control, security and vulnerability, authenticity and fakery, youth and maturity. The book's Kerouacian opening and mix of pop culture references, personal anecdote, and philosophical musings invite attention to this overlooked but ever-present object. * Heather Houser, Assistant Professor of English, University of Texas at Austin, USA, and author of Ecosickness in Contemporary U.S. Fiction *
In Driver's License, Meredith Castile... draws six lessons: on national identity, on the culture of faked documents, on design, teen culture, identity, and civics. -- Julian Yates * Los Angeles Review of Books *
Driver's License is almost two short books in one. One part contains several personal stories, which evoke the much-mythologized independence of American teenagers now free to drive themselves. The other part becomes, like Hood, a condemnation of racial injustice. This section describes the de facto disenfranchisement of minority groups in the U.S. It explains how this disenfranchisement - not only when it comes to voting, but also for accessing basic social services - depends on the bureaucratic mechanics of the driver's license and other forms of ID. Being undocumented or unable to afford driving lessons are just two of the obstacles to exercising full citizenship, and Driver's License takes some interesting left turns to arrive at this message. Verdict: Buy. American culture so heavily fetishizes the car, yet the driver's license is also hugely important to a sense of identity and possibility. * Book Riot *