We had a fast-paced summer of reading together this year at Hurston & Hughes. The fifth season kicked off with coffee, pastries, and a bit of poetry as we considered what it means to be Afrodiasporan in the 21st century. The teens compared their lives now with the world of literary works by African American from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries to the works of 20th and early 21st century writers that included more Afrodiasporan diversity.
The teens challenged their thinking on what makes a work classic or literary versus some of the popular, contemporary, urban, and street literature they have encountered in libraries and bookstores. They talked about the difference between pop, rap, and jazz as compared to literature.
As they moved through the weeks and the list of poetry, essays, and books, they grew in their analysis, their use of literary terms, and their commentary on the author, themes, and plot encountered.
Ranging from middle-to-high school, this group worked through assumptions of public and private school literature classes, when or if Afrodiasporan literature is introduced, and the difference that place makes in reading.
All the teens gained a voice in speaking past teachers who just want to present literature of oppression or tired tropes of To Kill A Mockingbird to explore some of the themes of coming-of-age, discovery, life choices, good-versus-evil, love, family, and society, in books that feature living authors like Toni Morrison, Jacqueline Woodson, and Edwidge Danticat to living poets like Eugene Redmond and Tracy K. Smith.
The Hurston & Hughes Literary Circle is a community-focused Afrodiasporan teen summer reading experience centered in the West and near West suburbs in St. Louis, Missouri. It is a division of Tayé Foster Bradshaw Group. The Founder and Director, Mrs. Antona Brent Smith, holds a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Iowa, is a candidate for the Masters of Divinity from Eden Theological Seminary and holds Certificates from Penn and Duke in writing and poetry. Her literary reviews can be found at http://www.tayefosterbradshawbookshelf.com