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The Boys Club

Male Protagonists in Contemporary African American Young Adult Literature

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Wendy Rountree

The Boys Club: Male Protagonists in Contemporary African American Young Adult Literature is a study of prominent issues and themes such as education, identity, and racism in contemporary (i.e., post-Civil Rights era) young adult novels written primarily for African American boys by African American men and women writers. Representative works by writers Candy Dawson Boyd, Curtis Paul Curtis, Sharon G. Flake, Kenji Jasper, Kekla Magoon, Williams McDaniels, Walter Dean Meyers, and Jacqueline Woodson are analyzed. Ultimately, this book illustrates how men and women writers of young adult literature for African American boys reveal and validate the difficulties of growing up young, Black, and male in modern-day American society, and thereby seek to improve the lives of their readers.

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Introduction 1

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Introduction Boys today are in serious trouble, including many who seem “normal” and to be doing just fine. Confused by society’s mixed messages about what’s expected of them as boys, and later as men, many feel a sadness and disconnection they cannot even name. New research shows that boys are faring less well in school than they did in the past and in comparison to girls, that many boys have remarkably fragile self-esteem, and that the rates of both depression and suicide in boys are frighte- ningly on the rise. Many of our sons are currently in a desperate crisis. William Pollack, Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood I wanted to begin The Boys Club: Male Protagonists in Contemporary Afri- can American Young Adult Literature with a quote from William Pollack’s groundbreaking psychological work, Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood (1998), for a number of reasons. First of all, Pollack’s re- search into the contemporary American boy’s psyche seems timely since many news articles and new magazine shows have begun to inform the American public about the plight of the contemporary boy. Absentee fathers, societal focus on the empowerment of girls, and other sociological factors have all taken their toll on American boys and their ability to define and model masculinity. While Pollack’s work concentrates on the complications of being a contemporary American boy, it is not hard to image how the addi- tional dynamic of ethnicity further complicates the developmental lives...

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