23 February 2011

Interview Series: KC Boyd, Warrioress Librarian, Part 3 of 3

KC Boyd, Warrioress Librarian
StreetLiteratureBlog: How do you perceive the current state of Street Lit?

I have mixed feelings about the current state of Street Lit.  On one hand, I’m happy to see more authors writing within the genre and producing some great work.  Some authors are so successful, they now have a strong following and book series have been created by their publishing houses.  There is also an increase of books that are now professionally reviewed. YALSA has included a number of these books on their Quick Pick lists and there is a strong online community that supports and advocates for the use of these books in the classroom and school library.  Major publishing houses have taken note of this interest and are now publishing more novels, more frequently. 

On the other hand, I’ve seen a great deal of ‘garbage’ that has been marketed as Street Lit.  Since the recent explosion of Young Adult fiction in school libraries, many books have been labeled Street Lit and published solely for financial gain.  It is my professional opinion that these books do not capture the true essence of the genre which is an authentic fictional account of street life.  

Another trend I’ve been observing is some Librarians/Teachers are mistakenly labeling books with African-American kids on the cover as ‘Street Lit’ when these books are not.  For example, Simone Bryant’s ‘Fabulous’ is the story of three upper class teens that attend Pace Academy, wear designer clothing and are chauffeured around town in luxury vehicles.  This is a story that provides teens readers with a story of a group and class of people that are rarely seen in YA Fiction.  In addition, after viewing a very long conversation thread about Street Lit on the YALSA listserv, I’ve come to the conclusion that some Librarians and Teachers have not educated themselves fully about the genre, yet they are promoting the books heavily.  Finally, I still see a level of censorship against Street Lit taking place by librarians and Teachers. 

StreetLiteratureBlog: What do you anticipate Street Lit will look like say, 2 years from now? 5 years from now?

I believe Street Lit will continue to grow in popularity and the genre will gain more respect within the literary community.  Schools will adapt more books within the genre as classroom and whole school reads.  More financial effort will be made by publishing houses to market these books through book trailers, and other online media.   Lastly, these books will finally receive more award recognition of various ALA book awards such as the Coretta Scott King Award, Printz and Alex Awards.

K.C.’s Top 10 Young Adult/Adult Street Lit Books with a Message:
1.  Monster by Walter Dean Myers**
2.  Tyrell by Coe Booth**
3.  Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown*
4.  The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah*
5.  True to the Game Trilogy by Teri Woods*
6.  Keysha’s Drama Series by Earl Sewell**
7.  Damaged by Kia DuPree*
8.  Ni-Ni Simone Series by Ni-Ni Simone** 
9.  Gangsta by K’wan*
10.Retaliation by Yasmin Shiraz**
Note: *Adult   **Young Adult

K.C. Boyd is currently a high school Librarian with the Chicago Public Schools at the Wendell Phillips Academy High School, in the Brownsville neighborhood of Chicago, IL. The Phillips Academy High School is part of the Academy of Urban School Leadership Program within the Chicago Public School system. Mr. Terrance A. Little, Principal of the Phillips Academy, was recently featured as a stellar educator in the February 7, 2011, issue of The New York Times.

You can contact KC on Twitter, and on her blog, Miss Domino.

21 February 2011

Interview Series: KC Boyd, Warrioress Librarian, Part 2 of 3

K.C. Boyd and me, June 2010, Wash., D.C.
StreetLiteratureBlog: Please share with us how Street Lit contributes to the literacies of your students at the library where you are currently serving?

Many of my students live very adult lives.  Some are parents, some provide some financial support for their households and many have ‘adult’ responsibilities such as raising younger siblings.   When they have some downtime to read leisurely, I find that many reach for Street Lit books for young adults.  Some of their favorite authors are Ni-Ni Simone, L. Dvine, Earl Sewell, Babygirl Daniels and Paul Langan.  These books are constantly checked out and there is always a waiting list for them.   As a result of this, their reading comprehension and vocabulary has improved and they are more open to trying different authors and genres. 

I believe the biggest impact Street Lit has had on my students is that it meets their emotional needs and allows them to escape mentally.  My students deal with events/situations in their personal lives that are stressful and they need a release.  The stories are highly relatable and discuss issues that today’s tweens/teens can relate to.  Timeless themes such as peer pressure, violence, pregnancy, divorce, drugs and sex are presented in a non-preaching manner.  Through reading these stories, my students are encouraged to identify the struggle and the best solution for the story’s protagonist.  In addition, the stories are also cautionary tales that emphasize right from wrong behavior/actions.  

At first my students were really surprised that I read the same books they do.  I really enjoy it when they make a point to stop by my circulation desk and share how they compare the story to their own lives and show empathy with the protagonists struggle.  Moreover, just hearing how much they like the books and how they relate to some element/literary device to reading material presented in the classroom.  

StreetLiteratureBlog: What do you most want fellow educators to understand and appreciate about the genre of Street Literature?

First, respect the genre and not dismiss it because you don’t understand it.  Take the time and read some of the books within the genre, you’ll be quite surprised at some of compelling stories the genre has to offer.  Second, these books can serve as a healthy platform for discussion/dialogue between tweens/teens and adults.  Educators will see a different side of the student they are servicing in library or class when they discuss events that have taken place in the story.  Finally, Street Lit is a genre which appeals to a group of library patrons that has historically been ignored by publishing houses.  Street Literature is a wonderful genre that should not be dismissed nor censored by educators, but instead it should be embraced because it can make an indelible impact on the lives of tweens and teens.
You can contact K.C. via Twitter or her blog.
-- Stay tuned for Part 3, coming Wednesday, February 23, 2011.

19 February 2011

Slot Available on 2011 Street Lit Book Award Committee

Library patron left this stack on the table, January 22, 2011.
Greetings; there is one more slot available on the 2011 Street Lit Book Award Committee. This is a committee of 7 people who have a vested interest in Street Literature and would like to contribute to choosing the best books for 2010. We need just one more person!

This committee's charge is to decide on the Best Street Lit titles published in 2010 (and yes, in our humble opinions), across the following categories:

Adult | Young Adult | Tween | Fiction | Non-Fiction | Alternate Formats (picture books, graphic novels, etc.)

Following the model from my blog posts about the awards, I'm thinking we could offer this year, one medal award winner and perhaps 2 honor winners. Of course, this is all open to discussion and majority rule determination by the committee.

I posted some titles for contention via the link above, and some people have emailed suggestions. All of these works will be taken into consideration, as well as whatever fellow committee members bring to the table.

I'd like us to start this conversation and have a goal of coming to a decision by March 21, to announce the award winners with the dawn of Spring. 

The committee's collaboration will be done entirely online. So you can be from anywhere on the planet, and if you are an educator (teacher or librarian or library para-professional), or an author and/or a reading advocate for the literary genre of Street Literature, you are more than welcome to participate on the committee. Short bios on committee members will be posted to the Street Literature blog, once the committee is fully formed.

17 February 2011

Interview Series: KC Boyd, Warrioress Librarian, Part I of 3

K.C. Boyd, Warrioress Librarian
As promised, I am highlighting my librarian-colleague and friend, Ms. K.C. Boyd, of Chicago, Illinois, USA. She is a passionate advocate for Street Lit, and has done some amazing work with tweeners and Street Lit. I am offering her interview in three (3) installments, so that we can really enjoy K.C.'s insights to the fullest. Enjoy!

It is my understanding that you have been working with the Chicago school system in various capacities for a few years now.  Could you please share your journey with working with Chicago teens in various capacities as a librarian and how your work with them brought you to Street Lit?
My love with reading books in particular, Street Lit first began when I was in high school.  I was a voracious reader and made bi-weekly trips to the school and public library.  I also used to aggravate my teachers because instead of reading the selected classroom book with my peers, I would finish it early and would read another book in class.  Yes, I was a real pain. 
It was during my teenage years, I fell in love with Street Lit books.  Yes, these books spoke to me in a way that no other genre had previously.  I loved the fast paced stories that kept me on the edge of my seat.    Books written by Donald Goines, Iceberg Slim and Claude Brown were my favorites during that time.   The books were thrilling, adventurous and hard to put down.  The stories were ‘real’ and told the tales of the streets in a raw, honest and unflinching manner.  The characters were highly relatable and I felt the emotions that they were experiencing at the time.    Years later while attending college, I read books by Omar Tyree, Teri Woods and Sister Souljah; you can say from that point on I was solidly hooked on the genre.  
As a School Librarian, I can relate to my students’ reading interests and their love of Street Lit. When I served as a K – 8 Librarian, to my surprise, many of my students were reading the same Street Lit books I was reading during my leisure time.  When I saw one of my 7th grade students reading Noire’s “G-Spot,” I knew there had to be Street Lit books that would appeal specifically to my tweens.  In an effort to identify reading material that was more age appropriate, I began looking for professional reviews of Street Lit books for teens.  I was not very successful.  
Many of these books were not professionally reviewed by reviewing sources such as Booklist or School Library Journal but were instead reviewed by bloggers and fans of the genre. The few books that were reviewed were done so by reviewers I felt couldn’t relate to the tales of the hood and the review wasn’t 100% honest.   I began relying on the reviews of those bloggers and fans because they provided the best and most respectful synopsis review of the books.  Reading young adult (YA) Street Lit was the best decision I have made as a librarian because I could determine if the books would be a good fit in my collection.  Eventually, I began to recommend books to my friends that were also librarians and middle school teachers.   
When I was promoted to an Administrative Position within Chicago Public Schools, I began to blog, Facebook and Tweet about the many books tweens and teens could read within the genre.  Some of the books were true Street Lit books for tweens/teens while some were considered ‘read-alikes’ to the genre.  Eventually, I began to recommend many of the books for various booklists that were published by the department I worked in.  I also provided professional development on Street Lit which was well received.  While serving as the Program Coordinator for the Mayor Daley’s Book Club – Middle School program, I recommended and included a number of Street Lit titles for the High School and Middle programs.  The book club was and still is a reading motivation program that services over 4,500 students in Chicago Public Schools.  Now working back in a school setting, I promote Street Lit heavily; you can say this genre is the ‘heartbeat’ of my fiction collection. 
You can contact K.C. via Twitter or her blog.
-- Stay tuned for Part 2, coming Monday, February 20, 2011.

11 February 2011

"The People Won!" - Julia, age 13

Wael Ghonim.
Image Source: allfacebook.com

"I am not a hero, O.K.?
I am not a hero.
I am a very ordinary person.
The heroes are the ones in the street."

-- Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who helped organize Egypt's initial protests, following his release from jail; the next day, Ghonim addressed a huge rally in Tahrir Square.

This quote and caption is from page 17 of the February 21, 2011 issue of Time Magazine.

Wael Ghonim being taken away by Egyptian police,
circa January 31, 2011.
Image Source: http://pumabydesign001.wordpress.com

07 February 2011

Street Lit Resource: freshfiction.com

Fresh Fiction Street Lit page

I was chatting online with a colleague librarian today, asking about Street Lit titles at her library. She shared a good list of resources that I was already familiar with, but she threw in one resource that was a newbie to me, that I thought I'd share with you all.

This website is called: Fresh Fiction. It is a pretty extensive website that offers the latest titles in various genres. On their "About Us" page they state their purpose:

"FreshFiction is a web site designed to provide easy, accessible, and informative data to popular fiction readers on current authors and their available books. We specialize in genre fiction: romance, mystery, suspense, thrillers, horror, science fiction, fantasy, contemporary, graphic and action novels. FreshFiction.com consists of author pages, book pages, reviews, columns, blog, book reviews, news, and contests."

I'd like to add that within their "books" menu, they have a multicultural section, which includes street lit as a sub-genre. They don't have many titles listed on their Street Lit page, but perhaps they are just starting to build it, and more titles will be added as time moves on. We have to appreciate this effort though.

What I especially appreciate about this web resource is that they accurately and appropriately list erotica within the romance genre, and not with street lit. They list urban fantasy within the genre of fantasy. These are all appropriate assignations, in my humble opinion. This is the first resource that I have come across (print or electronic) where all things urban and African American are not automatically conflated into Street Lit.

Fresh Fiction is a good Readers Advisory resource overall, for all genres, as far as I can tell. I suggest checking out this website. It's evident that the authors and designers are putting forth a sincere and thoughtful reference here. My only wish is that their staff was as diverse as the titles in their database.

FYI: Stay tuned to the Street Literature blog - later this week, I will be posting an interview with Chicago librarian, KC Boyd, who is not afraid to say that she is a "lover of Street Literature for tweens/teens and adults." KC shares my passion for intellectual freedom for all readers, and particularly for Street Lit readers. Her insights about promoting Street Lit in a school media center will be well worth the read!

StreetLiterature site *ON HIATUS*

Greetings, This site is *on hiatus* until further notice. There are reasons: 1/ Since street lit has become pretty mainstream in publicat...