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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 6 Looking Back, Looking Forward: The Role of the Past In Christopher Paul Curtis’ Bud, Not Buddy and Kekla Magoon’s The Rock and the River 95

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6 Looking Back, Looking Forward The Role of the Past in Christopher Paul Curtis’ Bud, Not Buddy and Kekla Magoon’s The Rock and the River The old adage, “You don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve come from,” is applicable to the African American historical novels for young adults. Christopher Paul Curtis’s Bud, Not Buddy (1999) is set in 1936 Michigan during the Great Depression, but his young protagonist, Bud, has to face many issues that contemporary boys must also deal with—though their circumstances may be a little different because of divergent historical contexts. Likewise, Kekla Magoon’s The Rock and The River (2009), set in 1968 Chicago during the turbulent time when the Civil Rights Movement is being challenged by the then new Black Power Movement, also deals with issues prevalent for its setting’s time period but are also relatable to a con- temporary audience. But, why would African American writers’ use the past to comment on the present? Because many times African American students are not taught about the place and role of African Americans within the larg- er context of the story of America. Sure, during the designated Black History Month, February, many students of all ethnicities and races are taught about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and hear excerpts from his famous and oft quoted, 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. However, what else? Is the Black perspective of America explored? In particular, do African American stu- dents in the typical,...

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