This morning’s New York Times has a very positive article about street lit and libraries. The article mostly focuses on adult readers, but there is also a mention of the Widener Street branch of the Philadelphia Free Library, where librarians and teens began a teen street lit book club, and subsequently library circulation increased and the teens expanded their reading interests to science fiction and biography.

My favorite point is about the appeal of street lit:

“I read what I can relate to,” she [Shonda Miller of Queens, NY] said. “They’re writing about what I’ve experienced. It’s easier than reading about Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive.”

Which is not to say Ms. Miller, a mother of four, has ever murdered anyone, worked as a prostitute or been draped in diamonds by a drug-dealing boyfriend. (Her husband of 19 years, an ex-Army man, is a garbage collector.) What she recognizes are the characters’ fashions and pleasures (door-knocker earrings, clubbing), their problems (few jobs, drug dealers offering your children fast cash, people you know getting shot or stabbed) and their aspirations (striving for a better life).

Readers relate to street lit not because they themselves are involved in a life of crime, but because the books provide a reflection of life in poor urban neighborhoods, not to mention escapist fantasies about fame and easy money.

It’s great to see a story about street lit in libraries where the tone is upbeat rather than alarmist.

About Megan Honig

Megan Honig is the Teen Collection Specialist at the New York Public Library. When not blogging for YALSA, Megan can be found writing fiction herself, challenging negative attitudes toward street lit, and shocking teens by beating them at Dance Dance Revolution. Megan is also a member of YALSA's Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults Committee.

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