Welcome to the World of Urban Lit

July’s School Library Journal cover story Street Fight: Welcome to the World of Urban Lit, is a thought-provoking article about the genre of books that aim to accurately represent the sometimes harsh, violent world of today’s inner city life. Amy Pattee’s insightful investigation of the history and continued cultural relevance of this genre provides good background for those who are unfamiliar with it and yet are confronted with teen readers’ requests for these types of books.  Pattee also provides a good bibliography of urban lit titles written specifically for the teen audience, although her point that some “young connoisseurs of urban lit may find these more restrained stories babyish or inauthentic” is worth considering when taking the inital steps into this genre.

What I thought was the most salient point to Pattee’s article came at the end, when she writes:

“And yet, these powerful stories represent the experiences of many of our nation’s young people, offering them an opportunity to see worlds similar to their own and giving them encouragement to escape their own difficult circumstances. Urban lit’s increasing popularity also forces us to examine our own predispositions: Do our collections reflect the needs and tastes of the young people we serve? Or do they just reflect our own literary preferences? Are we willing to challenge ourselves professionally and to open up to new forms of literary expression? Or are we set in our ways? As librarians who are committed to serving teens, it’s essential to embrace urban street lit—even if its stories occasionally clash with our values.”

  • Posted by Cori

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