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ERIC Number: EJ1017408
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013-Mar
Pages: 8
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0013-8274
Politely Disregarded: Street Fiction, Mass Incarceration, and Critical Praxis
Van Orman, Karin; Lyiscott, Jamila
English Journal, v102 n4 p59-66 Mar 2013
Due to prevailing attitudes about the prison industrial complex and African American and Latino/Latina communities, the literary production of urban street fiction has been politely disregarded by our society. Through the use of critical praxis, utilizing urban street fiction in the classroom is a necessary and urgent act of social justice. Street fiction, sometimes called "ghetto lit," "gangsta lit," "hip-hop lit," or "urban fiction," is a thriving literary genre (Hill, Perez, and Irby 76; Marshall, Staples, and Gibson 29). The risque themes and graphic content of the books sometimes prompt parents, educators, and cultural critics to question their appropriateness. Simultaneously, readers point to these very characteristics as the source of the novels' authenticity. Another notable feature of street fiction is the specter of mass incarceration that looms across its pages. Many street fiction authors, such as Vickie Stringer, Wahida Clark, Kwame Teague, K'wan, Shannon Holmes, and Kiki Swinson, have served time in prison ("8 Urban Fiction Authors"). Some writers reclaimed the void of their prison sentences by using the time and space to begin writing. The characters in street fiction novels live in landscapes shaped by the plight of mass incarceration and social forces that contribute to it, such as poverty, racism, and diminished educational opportunities. The genre deserves critical attention in all American classrooms because it may be one of the few sources we have for nuanced stories showing the hypocrisy, racism, and utter injustice of our "justice system." In this article the authors discuss the impact that mass incarceration has as a dehumanizing force on African American and Latino/Latina communities and how it is intimately connected to the genre of street fiction. They go on to describe the responsibilities of English educators and the end result of sidestepping street fiction as part of the curriculum. The article concludes with an evaluation of the risks involved in the critical study of street fiction in the classroom and an urgent call to educators to consider how they might use street fiction texts to challenge assumptions about criminalized, dehumanized members of our society for the purpose of inciting social imagination that makes way for new possibilities.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A