A high school yearbook is a keepsake. Like an Instagram filter, it’s meant to bathe recent memories in the warm, soft-focus glow of nostalgia. As an object, it evokes affection and community; you hope to show it to your children and grandchildren someday. A yearbook isn’t supposed to be divisive.
So how to commemorate a school year that coincided with a meltdown in decorum in American politics?
That was the question high school yearbook editors and their advisers had to ask themselves while they were busy gathering up mug shots of the seniors, quotes, and group photographs of the football team, the cheerleading squad and the chess club.
The challenge of how to capture this raucous political moment was especially pressing in America’s purple places, like the Kansas City region, where Trump supporters and women’s marchers live and learn in proximity.
Some of their yearbooks celebrated President Trump’s challenge to the political order, while also debating the fairness of the Electoral College and arguing over the role that race and gender played in the outcome. Students used sharp graphics to compare actual vote counts with the schools’ own mock election results, which often mirrored the leanings of the local communities.
There were spreads devoted to students’ formal introduction to politics — registering to vote and interning with campaigns — and to their unvarnished opinions of the candidates.
One disappointed junior at Mill Valley High School in Shawnee, Kan., said that Hillary Clinton “could’ve been very empowering.” A sophomore at Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village, Kan., said of Mr. Trump’s “locker room” talk: “makes me sick.”
But to a senior at Kearney High School in Kearney, Mo., Mr. Trump was “a refreshing businessman who knows America better.”
A Kearney classmate was clear about why he preferred Mr. Trump: “I don’t want a girl president,” he said.
Now that their yearbooks are being distributed and cracked open, the pages offer a glimpse at how teenagers in one diverse region experienced an exhausting and exhilarating year in politics.
As in most of liberal America, Mr. Trump’s triumph on Nov. 8 caught yearbook editors at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy, a public school in central Kansas City, Mo., by surprise.
“The morning after Trump got elected, a lot of our friends were crying,” said Ayana Belk, a senior and the yearbook’s business and social media manager.
Lincoln’s student body is about 80 percent black and Hispanic. Last year, its yearbook won the grand prize in a national competition held by Entourage Yearbooks, which prints over 4,000 yearbooks annually. Like professional journalists across the country, in the aftermath of Election Day, the Lincoln yearbook editors met to discuss how the outcome would change editorial plans. They decided to de-emphasize politics altogether.
“We didn’t want to upset ourselves writing it and make it such a big part of our yearbook,” Ms. Belk said. “We didn’t want to pass that down generation to generation.”
So the original plans — a two-page…