Thursday, July 23, 2009

Part of A Previous Essay On Ghetto Lit / Kimani Tru

KIMANI TRU bills itself as: The ultimate destination for entertaining fiction for African-American teens. Friendship. Love. Family. School. Life. Drama. We have it all covered from the city to the suburbs and everywhere in between. Reflecting your dreams. Your issues. In your voice.

I grew up with Nancy Drew and The Baby Sitter's Club and Encyclopedia Brown and Sweet Valley High (they had mysteries and adventures too) among many others. The thought of my sister getting to read the same stories, but with black protagonists excited me. She's dealing with very different issues than I had to deal with at her age. I grew up in the Caribbean where I had to be told my best friend was specifically white and just not a Bajan. My baby sister's known what it means to be a black person in a car the police flags to the side since she was four.

Scrolling through the site, I picked one book that looked interesting and sent off to the library for a copy to read. But I was so excited at finding the imprint, I recced the label to my little sister before I read the books. Luckily, by the time I did read she hadn't gotten around to buying them yet and I quickly put a stop to that idea.

And while it was my fault I recced the books without reading any first, I thought these were books about how difficult it is to be a teenager while feeling all alone, never realizing that everyone else isn't actually that different. If you've read Sweet Valley High etc, perhaps you know what I mean - books about cliques and first dates and being popular or not so popular and parental pressures and trying to sort yourself out. In fact I thought the books were for teens ages 14 or so and up.

I picked up The Edification of Sonya Crane. I thought I was going to read a book about a white girl whose mother gets caught up in drugs and thus circumstances force them to move to a black neighbourhood where the girl is mistaken for being biracial.

Yes, her mother gets caught up in drugs. But that can be a fact of life for some teenagers and I didn't think that would or should be an immediate warning sign for graphic content.

Heck I may not have read the books before recommending them to my sister, but I did check out And I can remember rolling my eyes at one reviewer (of the very book I'd picked as interesting to me) who was in an absolute tizzy because she glanced through the book before giving it to her daughter and was appalled. I remember thinking that person was trying to hide discomfort at certain aspects of race relations perhaps being brunt and honest from a black point of view.

I was wrong.

So. So wrong.

The Edification of Sonya Crane is a book with graphic underage molestation, rape, sex, drug use, violence, more rape, graphically described sex acts, pregnancy - at that point the cussing was passing under my radar cause WTF?

"Reflecting your dreams. Your issues. In your voice."


What was this?!!

It's Street Lit for the Kiddies, is what it was.

To look at the book covers I couldn't imagine that they think modern black teenagers should all be relating to drug lords, physical child abuse, child neglect, drug abuse and grown men forcing themselves onto fifteen and sixteen year old girls. And I really don't care if this is just one book in the whole imprint. They included it in the imprint. They sent it out into the world to represent them; And now it has.

When did I end up the naive one for thinking a book that emphasizes the rivalry between two girls in a highschool setting would not have the scales tipped because one discovers the other blowing a teacher behind the bleachers - with mentions of saliva and penis veins?!??!

Am I just old?

Or is this, part of that unpleasant picture I mentioned before as to what is modern black/ African American literature, what it should be about and who reads it.

Because I'm not liking this picture, not at all. But I have no idea what to do to change it.

[Eta: This portion reposted to add to this post about Kimani Tru being owned by Harlequin]