The Portrayal of Young Black Women in YA Literature

Young adult literature has seen a needed explosion of Black protagonists lately, and particularly Black females. Many of these new protagonists are also involved in Black Lives Matter or similar, sometimes fictionalized, organizations. They may be involved with other fictionalized organizations like Innocence X (The Innocence Project), seeking justice for incarcerated loved ones. Some Black female protagonists also rap, blog, or otherwise create to have their voices heard, and face both support and backlash.

Examine the voice and portrayal of the young Black woman in today’s YA literature. Who is she? Is her representation fair and nuanced, or do a lot of her incarnations look the same (and why is that)? If you choose to discuss historical Black females, how are current fictional protagonists different from those written in past decades? What do Black female characters have in common, and how do they differ from each other as well as other races? Who are some of your favorites, and/or whose stories do you think today’s young adults should read first if they’re trying to gain an understanding of Black, female personhood?

  • I highly recommend reviewing Chapter 2: "African American Young Adult Literature and Black Adolescent Identity Developing a Sense of Self and Society through Narrative" in Janet Alsup's Young Adult Literature and Adolescent Identity Across Cultures and Classrooms: Contexts for the Literary Lives of Teens (2010). I think anyone who chooses to write on this topic will find excellent insights in that textbook. – Felipe Rodriguez 1 year ago

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