In addition to being YALSA’s blog manager, mk Eagle is a school librarian who has used street lit in her own library’s collection. Here is what mk had to say about street lit, teens, and school libraries:
Tell us about your work with street lit.
I don’t really think of my work with street lit as “work.” When I was working in an inner-city school, street lit was what my students wanted to read. They requested Triple Crown by name (and how often do library users, let alone teens, request a specific publishing house or press?) and mowed through anything that even resembled street lit.
How did you first hear about street lit?
I’m pretty sure I heard about it from you! Linda Braun had you speak to our YA literature class when I was still in grad school. We also read a couple of titles, although as I recall, only one of the titles would fit a true definition of street lit; the other was more an “acceptable” teen substitute.
You’re a school librarian. What do you think about having adult street lit titles in school libraries?
The longer I work, the more I believe street lit has appeal for so many teens that it should be included in every school library collection. Think about the “adult” titles we stock–and assign in English classes!–without batting an eye: Farewell to Arms, Middlesex, Wuthering Heights, Catch-22… the list goes on and on, but as soon as someone suggests an author like Tracy Brown, many adults get very squeamish.
What kind of reactions did you get to the street lit titles in your library? Did you ever get any challenges?
I was very fortunate when I worked in an inner-city school. The library had a lot of autonomy, and my mentor there trusted my judgment when it came to purchasing new titles. I suspect the situation might be quite different in my current (suburban, predominantly white) school. Last year I was suggesting summer reading titles and was told that Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao could never be taught there. (We do have a copy for students to read independently, though!)
As with any other high-volume item–in my current school that would be just about anything from the manga collection–street lit titles in a school, particularly one with students who already recognize these titles, will quickly gain popularity, even if the books are “just” passed hand-to-hand.