http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6573998.html written by Amy Pattee a assistant professor at Simmons College’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science. The article is about urban literature and if its appropriate for teens. After reading this, I had to remember to breathe.
I was kind of wary when Pattee says urban literature is know for it's provocative titles, which is so true but the example she gives -"Death Before Dishonor" is so weak. There are so many better titles she could have chosen. James Patterson's " Pop Goes the Weasel" is more provocative. Though, I nodded my head in approval when she outlines the history of urban literature. I also agreed when Pattee said urban novels are prone to grammicial, punctuation and spelling errors. Though from there we part ways.
Pattee considers Push by Sapphire an urban lit novel, and that is so wrong. Push is not urban lit. ( redundant on purpose) Push is a beautifully written contemporary realistic novel. It does not glamorizes the protagonist story. It simply tells the story of Precious Jones, a teenage girl who slowly begins to believe in herself and want more. No one reading Push is going to dream of being a pregnant 16yr old who is sexually abused by her parents. If Push is urban lit then so is Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Pattee goes on to say some of the African American YA novels are urban fiction.
"Teen street lit also often includes warnings about the harmful consequences of destructive or criminal behavior. And some mainstream publishers are now offering a “safer” variety of teen street lit, such as Scholastic’s “Bluford High” and Harlequin’s “Kimani Tru” series—but beware, young connoisseurs of urban lit may find these more restrained stories babyish or inauthentic."
I have read some Kimani Tru novels and they are not urban lit, if we are sticking to the already established defintion in the article. Kimani Tru novels feature black teens sometimes but not always living in urban areas, doing what all teens do coping with family, friends and life. I have not read any of the Bluford High books but I am go out on a limb here and say they are not urban lit. The other YA novels Pattee names do not fit the pre established urban lit criteria either. If Tyrell by Coe Booth and The Hoopster by Alan Lawren Sitomer are urban lit then so are The First Part Last by Angela Johnson and Game Walter Dean Myers.
I am so upset by this article, Pattee seems to be calling most contemporary YA fiction featuring African American characters urban literature. She's teaching and influencing the buying habits of future librarians. There are negative connotations assicoated with urban lit (or maybe that's just my bias) when some of Pattee's student begin working they may think twice about giving a book like Hot Girl by Dream Jordan or Indigo Summer by Monica Mckayhan a chance.
Their eyes were reading smut I am linking to this 2006 NYT opt piece by Nick Chiles because it fits in with this post plus its a great article and I don't know when I will get a chance to share it again. It still makes me laugh, its either laugh or cry.