“Dreaming Themselves into Existence”: Reading and Race
This chapter examines the relationship between literacy and minoritized youth. In a climate informed by the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement—though far from fully responsive to it—it is not surprising to find texts focusing specifically on adolescent literacy among underrepresented teens. Literacy and minoritized communities have a vexed relationship in the USA, from the denial of literacy to enslaved peoples to the literacy tests used to deny voting rights. The readers I examine in this chapter do not take their literacy for granted, but they are also under no illusion that reading alone will make them either whole or free. Economic power and political engagement take a backseat to empathy in novels that strive to reimagine the literary tradition. As both fictional characters and implied readers engage with the White canon, they must also craft their own—and the novels themselves may become the stories their characters seek out.
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