Monday, December 17, 2007

Preaching to the choir

OK, so I tried to read Alan Lawrence Sitomer's Hip-Hop High School, and I admit the slang is pretty fresh, but who's the guy writing for? Check out this passage:
It's like I speak two languages. In my head I talk a normal king of English, but when I chat with my friends or any of my peers I rap to them in this kind of ghetto slang ... Like, I never say 'with.' I say 'wit.' And I don't say 'that." I say 'dat.' And I sort of slur my 'what's up' too and turn it into 'wazzup' ... if you talk too proper, you might get jumped by a crew of four or five. That's because people will think you're trying to act white (5).
So if Sitomer's writing for urban teens, why is he explaining code-switching like it's rocket science? Did the publishers make him put it in there for the white kids? Is he trying to reassure kids that everyone's doing it? Or is it just another example of YA writers forgetting who they're writing for?

It's like when writers explain how there are categories at school: jocks, geeks, preps, etc. Do they think they're writing for feral children? Who doesn't know about the categories? And on top of that, who actually makes up cute names for the categories? Sorry, Tina Fey, but that's such an adult thing. The only people we made up cute names for were the guys we had crushes on.


Brian Mandabach said...

I see what you mean. A much more subtle approach would have worked there.
I'm working on a piece that takes place in the late seventies, in a school where there were only two recognized groups: jocks and freaks. I'll make sure I don't fall into this trap, though part of the interesting thing about this time and place is that, unlike the wide range of cliques we're used to now, there are just the two. And the neither/nors.

Also, thanks for the link to book ninja which led me to a really cool article! Check the link in the drive-by poetry post!

xemilyx said...

Hey, I just read Or Not! And speaking of slang, I liked the word "Whatnever." I'd love to hear your thoughts on why the seventies is resurging in children's fiction. David first pointed it out, and then I was seeing it everywhere: from the new American girl doll to the Wednesday Wars. What's up with that?