Afrodiasporan Teen Literature

Reading in Virtual Spaces

The Hurston and Hughes Literary Circle 2020 is going virtual!

Covid19 and the need for physical distancing has invited us to reimagine being together through literary works.

We usually spend the time from January-May finalizing our ten week meeting locations in and around the Saint Louis County area. We frequent local coffee shops, bookstores, parks, libraries, museums, and any other place that inspires us to bring stories to life.

Through almost ten years (the precursor to H&H was A Summer of Hope), we have engaged with Afrodiasporan teens in a quest to read deeply into literature for stories of resilience, opportunity, imagination, triumph, belonging, and be-ing.  We gathered middle and high school students to consider poetry and prose from the earliest African American writers to the more contemporary works coming from Caribbean and West African authors. We have deep discussions about the characters, setting, plot and style through the lens of being socially located in educational experiences that exclude the nuanced stories of Black people. This opportunity expands considerations encountered in typical Social Studies and English classes.  It is a time of connection we have looked forward to.

This year, as physical distancing is necessarily lengthened through the summer, we are inviting a new experience for our readers. We are connecting via Zoom every Tuesday afternoon from 2-4(-ish) CST. This is for students who want to connect with other students, beyond the physical confines we had before, to read together and talk about books. One has to love the story and the possibility of creating together!

The experience is free, we just ask the participants to sign up, to be present, and to purchase the books or poems. We believe in owning real books (if possible) and fully support bookstores like Mahogany Books in Anacostia, Washington DC, Left Bank Books in the Central West End, Subterranean Books in the Delmar Loop, Strand in New York City, The Tattered Cover in Denver, EyeSeeMee Bookstore in University City and any other local bookstore that you desire. Tell us where you would go if you were free from Covid19.

How do you participate?

  1. Send an email to Ms. Antona at readwritethinkconnect@gmail.com
  2. Connect via FB at @TayeFosterBradshawGroup where we will post event invites and frequent updates as we get closer to the date
  3. Follow on Twitter @lattegriot – we have had author conversations in the past using this platform
  4. Visit on Instagram @Antona2020 where we will feature the upcoming books and just inspirations around literature
  5. Come back to this blog for updates, especially as we get closer to June 2.

Book and Poetry List

We always start with a large list at the end of the prior year and narrow it down to ten selections for the summer.

The tentative schedule is as follows:

  1. June 2 – introductions and breakout groups, discuss reading assignments for upcoming school year – we always try to incorporate any required summer reading and writing into the ten week session. We will also explore writings of our namesake – Zora Neal Hurston and Langston Hughes
  2. June 9 – Slay by Brittney Morris – discussion leader is Keziah, 16, will be a junior in the fall
  3. June 16 – Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles – discussion leader is Kiden, 18, who will be a college freshman in the fall
  4. June 23 – Poetry Place – everyone bring 1-2 favorite poems – group discussion, group write on poetry, introducing AfroDiasporan poets. Optional read – Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. Young men can consider Jason Reynolds and his novels in verse. We will also explore some of our poetry ancestors.
  5. June 30 – Red at the Bone – Jacqueline Woodson
  6. July 7 – Parable of the Sower – Octavia Butler (very dystopian) and Parable of the Talents (also exploring Afrofuturist and fantasy writing from Toni Adeyemi and Dr. Nnedi Okorafor
  7. July 14 – How Long Til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin (and explorations of other short stories, participants are invited to find on in African American, Ghanaian, West or East African, or Caribbean traditions)
  8. July 21 – Be a Kid Again – Participants find and read a children’s book that features stories or artwork highlighting Afrodiasporan children. This is also writing week where participants will spend the other half of the time workshopping any writing they have due for English class in the fall (if required)
  9. July 28 – Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
  10. August 4 – Color Me In by Natasha Diaz. This is the final week. We will also celebrate.

The entire list is completely subject to change based on participant interest and demographics.

If you have questions or suggestions, let Ms. Antona know!

We look forward to reading together. If you are a teen and would like to host the discussion of one of these books or recommend one, let us know!

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