Thursday, November 18, 2010

Reader Recommendations: Urban Fiction

Urban Fiction is a genre of literature that a great number of my students like. Why? Because it's what they know or what they like to pretend that they know. Urban Fiction is also called "Street Lit". These are books that are set in large cities and star teens and young adults who live in an urban area. Some of the books are centered around high schools while others are aimed more at an adult audience, though teens still read them.

You need to be careful if you have these books in your room. They often have profanity and R-rated plots. It's important to remember which books you are recommending to which students. Some high school students can handle books with more adult oriented plots, while others can't. It's also important to remember that cursing and sex are limited only to Urban Fiction. Stephen King, another student favorite, has his fair share of sex and cussing, too.

Urban Fiction isn't exactly my cup of tea, so most of the books I can recommend were recommended to me by my students. I also usually divide the recommendations between boys and girls, though it's mainly to do with students enjoying a main character who is their gender. Despite the labels I'm putting on them, some boys like girl books and girls like boy books. Again, it's mainly to do with the gender of the protagonist.

For struggling readers or readers who are not ready for more mature plots, I'd recommend the Bluford Series. The Bluford Series is one I brought up in my previous Reader Recommendations entry. The books have different characters, but all take place at the titular Bluford High. The books deal with sports, gang violence, teenage love and other conflicts. Books by Sharon Draper are also very good for male readers who require a younger book. Tears of a Tiger deals with a young man who feels responsible for the death of his friend, who was killed in the car he was driving.

As readers mature, they can move onto books by Walter Dean Myers, such as Monster, about a sixteen year old boy's murder trial. The rapper 50 Cent also has a line of books called G-Unit Books that deal with street centered plots.

Girls have added more to my collection than the boys that I teach. I'm not sure why, but these are some of their favorite books. For struggling readers or readers not yet mature enough for R-rated plots, the Kimani Tru series is a good place to start. They have several different authors and do not need to be read in order. The books focus on one girl for each book and many of my girls love these books. A great author to look for is Sharon Flake who wrote Who Am I Without Him, a collection of short stories about girls and their relationships and The Skin I'm In, about a young black girl learning to love her education and stand up for herself.

As girls mature, they can pick up books like the much acclaimed Push (later turned into the film Precious), however this book is extremely graphic and can be a triggering story for some victims of abuse. For a more mature series, girls really enjoy the True to the Game series about a young woman named Gena involved in a robbery gone wrong.

Urban Fiction is a great way to hook reluctant readers. Why? Because these are the types of movies they watch. These are the types of stories that interest them. Reading is not a punishment. Reading is not a requirement. Reading is a form of entertainment and students can realize this by actually finding books that entertain them. By finding books that interest them, you can create a lifetime love of reading.

When we go to the library, students are baffled as to why there are "metal detectors" before you can get to the books. They are metal detectors. They are those sensor things that go off like when you try to walk out of clothing stores with those magnet things still attached. Students ask why they are there.

"To try to keep people from stealing books," I answer.

"Who would steal a book!?" says the reluctant reader.

And then this student or their friend are introduced to one of my Urban Fiction book and admit to me "Okay, now I know why someone would steal a book."

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