The goal of this book is to encourage educators and researchers to understand the complexities of adolescent gang members' lives in order to rethink their assumptions about these students in school. The particular objective is to situate four gang members as literate, caring students from loving families whose identities and literacy keep them on the margins of school. The research described in this book suggests that advocacy is a particularly effective form of critical ethnography. Smith and Whitmore argue that until schools, as communities of practice, enable children and adolescents to retain identities from the communities in which they are full community members, frightening numbers of students are destined to fail.
The stories of four Mexican American male adolescents, who were active members of a gang and Smith's students in an alternative high school program, portray the complicated, multiple worlds in which these boys live. As sons and teenage parents they live in a family community; as CRIP members they live in a gang community; as "at risk" students, drop-outs, and graduates they live in a school community, and as a result of their illegal activities they live in the juvenile court community. The authors theorize about the boys' literacy in each of their communities. Literacy is viewed as ideological, related to power, and embedded in a sociocultural context. Vivid examples of conversation, art, tagging, rap, poetry, and other language and literacy events bring the narratives to life in figures and photographs in all the chapters. Readers will find this book engaging and readable, yet thought provoking and challenging.
Audiences for Literacy and Advocacy in Adolescent Family, Gang, School, and Juvenile Court Communities include education researchers, professionals, and students in the areas of middle/high school education, at-risk adolescent psychology, and alternative community programs--specifically those interested in literacy education, sociocultural theory, and popular culture.
"This volume is an ethnographic study of four Mexican American male adolescents and their involvement in gangs and school. By using storytelling, the authors give meaning to the reader's and the boys' world. Recommended. All readership levels."
"Debbie Smith and Kathy Whitmore have produced a remarkable book….In this age of fragmentation when the alienation of youth has reached such an extreme [they] have provided us not only with an opportunity for reflection, but also for direct action in our classrooms and in our communities to reach out and change the conditions of those who grow up disenfranchised and dispossessed."
From the Foreword
"This is exactly the type of study that we need in the expanding and generative area of Literacy Studies. It explores populations that are under-represented in published research--Mexican American students, high school students, and gang communities, and provides much needed and topical insights into the literacy communities that these students negotiate."
Contents: D. Taylor, Foreword. Preface. Introducing the Characters: Lil Boy Blue, Smurf, Juice, Lil Garfield, and Debbie. Family Community: Mi Familia. Gang Community: "West Up Cuzz." School Community, Part One (I): "They Don't Want Us Here." School Community, Part Two (II): "This Is Our School." Juvenile Court Community: "In and Out of Juvie." Images of Gangs in the Media and Research Literature. Living on the Boundaries of School: Advocacy and Research. Literacy in Communities of Success and Failure. Appendices: Timeline. Family Trees. Glossary of Gang Terminology as Used by Lil Boy Blue, Smurf, Juice, and Lil Garfield. Smurf and Sad Boy's Story.