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The Boys Club

Male Protagonists in Contemporary African American Young Adult Literature

Series:

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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Chapter 1 Defining Manhood: The Function of Violence in Kenji Jasper’s dark and Sharon G. Flake’s Bang! 17

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1 Defining Manhood The Function of Violence in Kenji Jasper’s dark and Sharon G. Flake’s Bang! Ever since I was a kid, I have noticed that boys were considered the “rough and tumble” sex, and girls were considered the sweet gentle ones. In fairy tales, cartoons, and movies geared toward children, girls are more often than not the ones placed in dangerous situations while boys are the ones to fight the villains and save the girls. Once I grow into an adult, I noticed that the story dynamics rarely change in the adult stories and movies—unless the au- thor was going for an ironic twist of fate or a shock value. Heroes seem to se- riously out number heroines time after time. And quite frankly, as a child, I liked it. Like most, young girls I did not see the need to fight my own battles when a “knight in shining armor” could do all the dirty work. As I became older, I began wondering why the girls could not fend for themselves and sought novels with female protagonists who could. However, while studying children’s literature, I began to wonder why the boys more often than not had to be the hero and why heroic behaviors often included violence. While vio- lent behavior is generally unbecoming of a girl, it seems to be mandatory for a boy. Why? In Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood, William Pollock writes about the “Boy Code” that seems to...

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