Male Protagonists in Contemporary African American Young Adult Literature
Chapter 5 Depicting Romantic Relationships in Walter Dean Myers’ Motown and Didi and Jacqueline Woodson’s If You Come Softly 79
5 Depicting Romantic Relationships in Walter Dean Myers’ Motown and Didi and Jacqueline Woodson’s If You Come Softly Relationships are difficult, and anyone who has been in one—whether par- ent-child, sibling-sibling, friends, lovers—knows it to be true. They take work, patience, and compassion. Interpersonal relationships challenge the preconceptions of a young person’s individual identity and relationship iden- tity. They can push a young person to take actions that he/she would other- wise never even image. “Movement into romantic relationships involves more than developing a level of comfort while communicating with the op- posite gender. It also requires a full compliment of relationship skills, most of them communication based as well. Adolescents must become familiar with the process of making initial overtures, learn how to communicate their needs to partners, manage conflict, and successfully terminate unwanted rela- tionship” (Giordano, Longmore, and Manning 265). So, how do African American boys, who often have absent fathers and who face societal pres- sures, learn how to create loving intimate relationships? “The historical and ongoing oppression experienced by African Americans has had a tremendous effect on […] intergender relations” (Lawrence-Webb, Littlefield, and Okundaye 628). Walter Dean Myer in Motown and Didi (1984) and Jacque- line Woodson in If You Come Softly (1998) deal with establishing and main- taining romantic relationships. 80 | The Boys Club: Male Protagonists in Contemporary African American In Myers’ work, the protagonist Motown struggles to communicate and establish a loving relationship with Didi, a young lady who lives in his urban...
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