Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
This study investigates the social function of reading Urban Literature and the role the genre serves in the lives of a family of African American women. This investigation discovered that their talk about a particular Urban Literature text reveals intertextual links among multiple "texts" and that these links relate to elements of their lived worlds and cultural models.
Using a case study portrait methodology, grounded in a sociocultural approach to language and literacy, this study focuses on the following questions:
1. What do the women in an all-female African American family read? Why do they read?
2. How are these African American women's self-perceptions and identities related to their family's reading practices?
3. How do the women in an all-female African American family engage and talk to one another about books as readers, individuals, and as a family?
4. How are the intertextual links they use during their talk socially constructed as they interact and react to one another?
To address the first two questions, I conducted two in-depth individual interviews of the participants and analyzed their responses for evidence that reading Urban Literature is part of larger social and cultural practices related to their self-perception and their lived worlds and cultural models. In this case, reading Urban Literature serves a larger purpose than just pure entertainment. Specifically, I found that the women in this family read Urban Literature for the following social functions: (1) as a connection to urban life; (2) as a form of entertainment; (3) as a collaborative activity; and (4) as a means of constructing and defining their own identities.
To address the second two questions, I joined the family for a discussion of an Urban Literature book called Rage Times Fury (2004). After documenting the conversation on video, I analyzed a 6 min 16 sec segment of the 1 hr 17 min 11 sec discussion to explore the ways the family members' talk collaboratively constructs meaning through intertextual links. The collaborative nature of their talk about Rage Times Fury reveals that this family uses intertextual links to: (1) define themselves as readers, particularly as readers of Urban Literature, and as students; (2) strengthen their bonds as members of the same family through strategies such as repetition; and (3) identify and validate their cultural models and prior lived experiences based on their shared social and historical perspectives.
The analysis within this study suggests researchers can conduct more extensive studies of how African American families with adolescents engage in various literacy practices and how those practices are embedded in their social and cultural lived worlds. This study also recommends that educators should strive more to connect family literacy skills, practices, and cultural models in students' homes to instructional skills, practices, and cultural models employed in classrooms.
Copyright 2012 Valerie Nicole Nyberg
Nyberg, Valerie Nicole. ""It tells about the street life": a portrait of a family of African American women who read and discuss urban literature." dissertation, University of Iowa, 2012.