Young Adult Lit/Crit

May 8, 2008

Jon’s Music Seminar

Filed under: seminar feedback — sostrom @ 9:54 am

I was fortunate enough to be a part of Jon’s seminar on YA Music Lit last night.  What a perfect way to end the class.  Jon’s seminar was upbeat and demonstrated the intrinsic value of music to young people in particular.  Through his three focus texts, King Dork, Heavy Metal and You and Hip Hop High School, Jon pointed out how music can help students form identity, cope with difficult situations, release bottled-up emotions and feel part of a community.  While King Dork sounded like a funny book about forming a band (and forming identity), Heavy Metal and You (a love story) and Hip Hop High School (a triumphant surpassing of the low expectations many people have for urban, African American youth)  have both made it to the top of my summer reading list. 

Jon’s folder included three interesting articles which outlined successful integration of music into traditional poetry curriculum.  What I found the most striking was AnJeanette C. Alexander-Smith’s comment from her article in English Journal titled “Feeling the Rhythm of the Critically Conscious Mind” in which she wrote, “I found that incorporating urban adolescents’ discourse [hip-hop] into my instruction increased students’ engagement” (58).  Alexander-Smith explains how she moved between hip-hop lyrics (from artists such as DMX, Nas, Lauryn Hill, Common and others), to spoken word or slam poetry (by poets such as Suheir Hammad and Jessica Care Moore), to jazz lyrics (particularly Billie Holiday’s haunting “Strange Fruit”).  In doing so, Alexander-Smith’s students were engaging in critical literary, political and artistic analysis of the texts.  I think it is important that we view this article of further proof of what we know, and what Jon reiterated in his seminar rationale when he wrote: “I discovered long ago that interest was the only motivating factor in getting my students to read.”

In addition, Jon’s seminar really pointed out the power of YA lit over adult lit.  Jon reflected on his former practice of buying books from the music section of the book store for his students, and emphasized the importance of story that is more present in YA music lit.  To this end, his seminar really resonated with our work overall in this course.  YA lit is directed at our students, which doesn’t make it un-literary or overly simplified.  It makes is a perfect match for our students – appropriate and engaging. 

Thank you, Jon, for introducing us to so many wonderful books and impressing upon us the importance of meeting our students where THEY are (not where WE are).



1 Comment »

  1. Hi Sarah,

    I really appreciate your comments. As always, your insight is really valuable to me, and I’m so happy you participated.
    I still feel guilty for not being in your seminar. You’ll have to fill me in during a future social occasion. Take care.


    Comment by scrollman — May 8, 2008 @ 11:57 am

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