Pushing the Envelope with Urban Literature Lara Walker, District Librarian Finneytown Local Schools, Cincinnati, OH email@example.com http://finneytownlibraries.weebly.com What is urban literature? www.urbandictionary.com/products.php?term=Urban%20Fiction&defid=4014724 Definition http://yawehmuzik.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Rivera-67.jpg Humans surviving life and death in ghetto streets Authenticity Characters experience unpredictable and often violent lifestyles as a result of choices made due to a lack of education and under or non-employment Depicts what daily living is like on the margins of mainstream American society History http://www.tower.com/yekl-tale-new-york-ghettoabraham-cahan-paperback/wapi/114197504 http://www.learningfromlyrics.org/imageOSJ.JPG http://americareads.blogspot.com/2012/02/five-topnovels-on-american-frontier.html http://nighthawknews.wordpress.com/2011/02/27/ top-100-novels-50-mcteague/ Authors have been telling the stories of marginalized Americans for centuries. These books and others helped spark the literary movement known as naturalism (Morris 12). http://www2.metrotimes.com/editorial/story.asp?id=6054 http://onlyrocky.blogspot.com/2011/05/urban-novellegends.html 1960s & 1970s Robert "Iceberg Slim" Beck & Donald Goines: depicted city life. Captured crime, violence, gangs, poverty, incarceration, and drug use of the ghetto. Still revered by some hip-hop fans & artists (Pattee). 1999 http://gr8reads.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/coldest-winter-ever.jpg Sister Souljah's The Coldest Winter Ever was picked up by a major publisher, and urban lit really took off. (drug dealing, hustling, violence, incarceration, pregnancy, theft) Need for teen urban lit Teens were reading these adult urban novels... BUT content of adult urban lit was too mature for teens. Popular urban presses (Triple Crown) and mainstream presses (Simon & Schuster & Ballantine) started to publish teen urban lit. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/514855.Gangsta http://thebookbook.blogspot.com/2009/01/sapphir epush.html Series such as Bluford High and authors such as Sharon Draper, Angela Johnson, Sharon Flake, Janet McDonald, and Walter Dean Myers were already being published and providing mainstream teen-friendly urban novels. http://troublinglygood.blogspot.com/2011/04/mon ster-by-walter-dean-myers.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bluford_Series http://www.amazon.com/Draper-Sharon-Author-Oct-01-94Hardcover/dp/B007SKKF5U Mainstream urban lit http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dymond-in-the-rough-precious/1006954728 Platinum Teen series straightforward dialectical language, laced with slang and contemporary terms. They were fast-paced stories that tweens and young teens related to (Morris 47). http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-ab-solute-truthjuwell/1007354365?ean=9780972932547 Represented a shift in young adult novels for urban, inner-city teen readers. Written in simple, Teen Urban Lit Familiar gritty, inner-city plot lines. Sex & violence: limited to descriptions through characters' conversations or references after. Warnings: dire consequences for engaging in destructive or criminal behavior. Fast-paced stories, often with flashback sequences. Vivid depictions of inner-city environment (substandard housing, poverty, lack of resources). The street as an interactive stage (things happen on the street or because of the street). . Female/male identity formation via intense relationships, often romantic. Protagonists are often young adults (age range is 19-25). Surviving abuse, betrayal in friendships, fantastical revenge plots. Commodification of lifestyles (name-brand this, bling-bling that). Surviving street life and overcoming street lifestyle. challenge of moving up and away from the streets (Morris 3). http://www.urbandictionary.com/products.php?term=Urban%20Fiction&defid=4014724 Why urban literature? http://teriwoodspublishing.com/main.html Author Teri Woods "I can count the number of people who said things to me like 'Black people don't read. You're wasting your time.' Then there were those who had worked very hard, I'm sure, and received a formal education who had their personal opinions. Many of them also said, 'You can't write. That's not English. You don't even use proper grammar; you can't write those slang words in a book'" (Morris xii). Opposition to urban lit Cover art = racy. Characters = promiscuous. Story lines alternate between steamy & violent. Language = harsh + often misogynistic. Glorifies & glamorizes the thug lifestyle. Exploits the black experience & reinforces stereotypes. Non-standard English (African American Vernacular English or Chicano English) sets a poor model for literacy. Writing = sub-standard + basic editing errors. …but it's getting better...especially with teen lit! The language, sex, & choices made by tyrell left me feeling as though this book had no redeeming value and no place in a school library. ...however, school library journal gave it a starred review! http://yareadsandotherthings.blogspot.com/2012/07/coe-booth.html My first exposure 2007 Reality 2011-12 Students: "Do you have Push by Sapphire or The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah?" Me: "They are not really appropriate for school libraries. Have you read Bluford High or Monster?" Students: "Groan...this library SUCKS!!! There's nothing good to read." http://thebookbook.blogspot.com/2009/01/sap phirepush.html http://gr8reads.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/coldestwinter-ever.jpg To Drama or not to Drama "Teens may not know the different genre names, but they ask for the books when they request stories about growing up in the city, gangs, guns, and drama (for teens, drama does not mean plays)" (Meloni). http://www.theblackguywhotips.com/2011/10/223-no-more-drama/ Eye-Opening JAAL article Stephanie Guerra applied an evaluative process to hundreds of urban lit novels and came up with a list of 100 that met at least 2 out of the 3 key criteria: 1. Does (one of) the main character(s) ultimately prevail in doing what is right for the people around them? 2. Does (one of) the main character(s) grow in selfunderstanding? 3. Is the overall tone of the book one of hope or possibility rather than despair, egotism, or anger? The ultimate question Does your library collection reflect the needs and tastes of your student population or is it a reflection of YOUR literary preferences?? My student population Average district enrollment: 1492 Black, nonHispanic: 40.1% Multi-racial: 5.7% White, nonHispanic: 51.1% Economically disadvanted: 36.2% (ODE 2010-2011 District Report Card) My ultimate answer Urban lit novels reflect life on the streets back to kids who are living it and needing help making critical decisions. It doesn't matter if I think the novels are "worthy" or not. If my students want and need to read urban lit, I am going to help them. ...what's yours? http://www.agnr.umd.edu/academics/media/newsbites/200810newsbite s.html Cold, hard truth Many of our students are living and operating in the same raw and graphic conditions as those described in urban lit novels. Confronting this cold, hard truth is necessary to understand why teens living in inner-cities want to read stories that parallel their experiences. http://www.engin.umich.edu/newscenter/feature/m-stem-firstgraduating-class What students have to say "It's just so relevant to my life." "I'm shaking, I'm so excited to read this book!" "That's not me in the story, but I know that girl. I see her walking down the street" (Morris 4). "It's like a movie in my head" (Morris 4). http://www.reed.edu/apply/mrec/index_files/reading_big.jpg Why NOT urban literature? "By taking the time to contemplate the world in which they live, as readers the teens have a chance to decide: 'This is not ME; these are just the circumstances of my life right now. This is just my current world, my current reality, but it is not the reality I want to live'" (Morris 54). http://www.demco.com/webpr d_demco/product_block/D15/ X1281566A_webd.jpg http://www.demco.com/webprd_demco/product_bl ock/D96/X1219613A_webd.jpg http://www.demco.com/goto ?PNHM54 http://www.abbottdiabetescare.co.uk/yo ung-adults http://www.lansinglibrary.org 7-12 libraries Teen section = relatively tame Young Adult section = edgy Automation software set so that only students in gr. 9-12 can check out YA books. http://data.whicdn.com/images/31669634/your-comfort-zone-vs-where-the-magic-happens_large.jpg Comfort Zone And the winners are? Do award winning books always get checked out? NO! Do Urban lit novels get checked out? YES! In fact, they get stolen. That is the TRUE sign of approval in any student population. http://cdn.indulgy.com/Xz/gv/Zu/78320480 989586911d1Rrvg9Tc.jpg http://www.amazon.com/NewberyCaldecott-Awards-GuideMedal/dp/0838936016 http://www.betterworldbooks.com/pattersonheights-id-0606149066.aspx Tyrell: character development Coldest Winter Ever: exploration of voice in text Riker's High: setting Homeboyz, Jumped, and Patterson Heights: cycles of violence Lockdown, Riker's High, and Upstate: incarceration Dope Sick: reluctant hero Mexican White Boy or America: imagery; metaphor Any urban lit novel: Power; privilege; identity; politics of women; domestic relationships; race/cultural stigmas perceived about African Americans http://troublinglygood.blogspot.com/2011/04/ju mped-by-rita-williams-garcia.html Urban lit in the classroom Cash-strapped decisions Librarians have been slow to purchase street lit. Why? unfamiliarity or discomfort with the genre absence of reliable reviews reluctance to buy books that walk out the door But... our collections are for use! http://penguinpetes.com/b2evo/index.php?title=abbie_hoffman_would_have_lo ved_4chan&more=1&c http://beyond-school.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/lockers-by-steven-fernandez.jpg Author Teri Woods "I'm here to say this: give them the books that lets them read. Trust that the power of reading is what is affecting readers the most, regardless of what you, as an educator, might deem appropriate" (Morris xiv). http://trinoschoice.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/trinoschoice-diane-gonzales-bertrand-paperback-coverart6.jpg http://www.storyman.com/books/redridershood.html ?animate=1 http://www.tiffanylwarren.com/wp content/uploads/2012/10/soforrea l1.jpg Middle School appropriate http://www.foothillseducation.ca/images/SE3845-A1.jpg http://finneytownschools.wikispaces.com/Urban+Literature http://cimages.swap.com/images/boo ks/40/9781442022140.jpg http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_mdQV_szSm bs/RsMlhfBIYLI/AAAAAAAAAAM/SH_A QCHvENI/s320/Kimani+Tru.jpg http://blog.mpl.org/mke_reads/queen%20 of%20the%20yard.jpg http://finneytownschools.wikispaces.com/Urban+Literature (scroll down) http://www.kensingtonbooks.com//supportdata/dramahigh_series.h tml http://photose.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-akash4/297083_30989799235 6606_123613437_a.jpg High School appropriate Other types of Urban Lit http://www.amazon.com/Bird-ZettaElliott/dp/160060241X http://www.betterworldbooks.com/makes-mewanna-holler-id-0679740708.aspx http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/2011/04/19/boo k-review-yummy-the-last-days-of-a-southsideshorty/ http://swotti.starmedia.com/books/monster %3A-the-autobiography-of-an-l-a--gangmember_26293.htm http://finneytownschools.wikispaces.com/Urban+Literature (scroll down) Want to learn more? Website to check out: Morris, Vanessa Irvin. "Street Literature." Street Literature. N.p., 2012. Web. 13 Oct. 2012. <http://www.streetliterature.com/>. Bibliography: Corbin, Michael. "Baltimore City Paper." The Invisibles: Young Adult Fiction Has Yet to Hear The Voices of Young, Urban, and Black Readers. N.p., 24 Sept. 2008. Web. 07 Oct. 2012. <http://www2.citypaper.com/special/story.asp?id=16744>. Guerra, Stephanie F. "Using Urban Fiction to Engage At-Risk and Incarcerated Youths in Literacy Instruction." Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 55.5 (2012): 385-94. Wiley Online Library. International Reading Association, Feb. 2012. Web. 7 Oct. 2012. <http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1002/(ISSN)19362706>. Meloni, Christine. "Attracting New Readers with Hip Hop Lit.“ Library Media Connection 25.5 (2007): 38-40. ERIC. Web. 7 Oct. 2012. <http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&d b=eric&AN=EJ762374&site=src-live>. Morris, Vanessa I. "The Street Lit Author and the Inner-City Teen Reader." Young Adult Library Services 10.1 (2011): 21-24. Academic Search Premier. Web. 7 Oct. 2012. <http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph &AN=67642897&site=src-live>. Morris, Vanessa Irvin. The Readers' Advisory Guide to Street Literature. Chicago: American Library Association, 2012. Print. Pattee, Amy. "Street Fight: Welcome to the World of Urban Lit." School Library Journal 54.7 (2008): 26-30. ERIC. Web. 7 Oct. 2012. <http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx? direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ803370&site=src-live>. "Urban Fiction/Street Lit/Hip Hop Fiction Resources for Librarians." Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki. N.p., 30 Mar. 2006. Web. 07 Oct. 2012. <http://www.libsuccess.org/index.php?title=Urban_Fiction/Str eet_LitHip_Hop_Fiction_Resources_for_Librarians>. Wright, David. Library Journal 131.12 (2006): 42-45. ERIC. Web. 7 Oct. 2012. <http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx? direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ786509&site=src-live>.