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Provocative Urban Lit Attracts Teen Audiences

In recent years, there’s been a renaissance of books about tough, inner-city life which are popular with teen audiences. The genre has been called urban fiction, hip-hop fiction or ghetto lit, and it’s often filled with profanity, sex, violence and illegal activity. Some of popular titles include Thugs and the Women Who Love Them, Hooker to Housewife and Golden Hustla.

While the genre seems to keep a technology-saturated generation reading, the content of these books is troubling to a lot of parents and teachers. McKayla Crouss, a student at Washington High School in Kansas City Kansas, recently wrote a story about this issue for the school newspaper called Freedom to Read that won a Kansas Scholastic Press Association award. 

KCUR's Susan B. Wilson caught up with Crouss at Washington High School, and talked to some of her classmates who are fans of the urban literature genre.

Most Washington High students seem to support urban fiction, but many parents and educators have wondered if high school and middle school students should be allowed to read the books. Should libraries assign movie-style ratings to urban fiction? The West Wyandotte branch of the Kansas City, Kansas Public Library is the source of a lot of these books for young readers. And the staff says they have no plans to change that. 

This story was produced for KC Currents, which airs Sundays at 5pm with a repeat Mondays at 8pm. To listen on your own schedule, subscribe to the KCCurrents podcast.

A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Susan admits that her “first love” was radio, being an avid listener since childhood. However, she spent much of her career in mental health, healthcare administration, and sports psychology (Susan holds a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and an MBA from the Bloch School of Business at UMKC.) In the meantime, Wilson satisfied her journalistic cravings by doing public speaking, providing “expert” interviews for local television, and being a guest commentator/contributor to KPRS’s morning drive time show and the teen talk show “Generation Rap.”
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