Date(s) - 03/09/2023
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Kristin Matthews, Professor of English will present at the Humanities Center’s weekly colloquium on Thursday, March 9. The presentation will be held at 3:00 PM in room 4010 JFSB.
Title: “There is power in the word”: YA Literature and the Contemporary Freedom Struggle
Reading has always been an integral part of the Black freedom struggle in the United States, and Black women have played a significant role in creating a conscious, readerly community. Contemporary activists, like the teenage slam-poet narrator of The Poet X, draw attention to how books “connect with people. / How they build community” (287). It is no coincidence that today’s best-selling YA literature written by Black women models a type of readerly consciousness that the current freedom struggle demands. Some of the most awarded texts—Jacqueline Woodson’s brown girl dreaming (2014), Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give (2017) and On the Come Up (2019), and Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X(2018)—have as a central character a Black girl who reads, writes, or poetry slams as a result of or vehicle for their budding social awareness. They are readers who are moved to act, and therefore, are models for the type of socially conscious individuals needed in contemporary America. My paper will demonstrate how these texts tap into a storied tradition of radical Black literacy, model a type of conscious readership, and “move” the next generation to bring America closer to its professed ideals.
 “There is power in the word” is the closing line of Elizabeth Acevedo’s National Book Award winning YA novel, The Poet X. Harper Teen, 2018. pp. 353.