Monday, July 7, 2014

A Summer With Hurston & Hughes Literary Circle

It has been a pleasure to deviate from my literary criticisms of African American female literary works to step back into my youth and explore the wonders of African American youth fiction.

The recent commentary regarding the importance of diverse characters in children's literature, the all-white book panel at the children's trade book fair in New York, and the overwhelming whiteness of teen/tween books prompted me to set about uncovering the works that are there, sending my manuscript to my publisher, and supporting a group of teen writers to keep their passion for this craft we love.

I founded the Hurston & Hughes Literary Circle to first encourage these teens to discover works their mainstream middle and high schools would ignore and to help them form a like-minded peer group of fellow bibliophiles.

The summer has not been disappointing.

They explored poetry works by Paul Laurence Dunbar, Maya Angelou, and Langston Hughes before delving into the realistic fiction that mirrors their life experience.

The following books are some of the ones they've read in the past four weeks:

Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
Black Boy by Richard Wright
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
The Clone Codes by The McKissacks
Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead
Finding My Place by Traci L. Jones

Over the next couple weeks, some of these books will be reviewed. We appreciate the generosity of the Kirkwood Public Library in gifting the spacious meeting room with AV, wireless, and computer capabilities that enables us to expand our discussion and incorporate technology. In reading The Clone Codes, for instance, we were able to research the Slave Codes that were enacted in 1866 throughout the confederate south. We were able to explore the 13th-15th Amendments of the Constitution, and listen to Maya Angelou read On The Pulse of Morning.

We invite you to read along with us and dialogue with the young readers of Hurston & Hughes Literary Circle.

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