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Your Average Nigga: Performing Race, Literacy, and Masculinity (African American Life Series) [Paperback]

Vershawn Ashanti Young
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 1, 2007 081433248X 978-0814332481

In Your Average Nigga, Vershawn Ashanti Young disputes the belief that speaking Standard English and giving up Black English Vernacular helps black students succeed academically. Young argues that this assumption not only exaggerates the differences between two compatible varieties of English but forces black males to choose between an education and their masculinity, by choosing to act either white or black. As one would expect from a scholar who is subject to the very circumstances he studies, Young shares his own experiences as he exposes the factors that make black racial identity irreconcilable with literacy for blacks, especially black males.

Drawing on a range of interdisciplinary scholarship in performance theory and African American literary and cultural studies, Young shows that the linguistic conflict that exists between black and white language styles harms black students from the inner city the most. If these students choose to speak Standard English they risk alienating themselves from their families and communities, and if they choose to retain their customary speech and behavior they may isolate themselves from mainstream society. Young argues that this conflict leaves blacks in the impossible position of either trying to be white or forever struggling to prove that they are black enough. For men, this also becomes an endless struggle to prove that they are masculine enough. Young calls this constant effort to display proper masculine and racial identity the burden of racial performance.

Ultimately, Young argues that racial and verbal performances are a burden because they cannot reduce the causes or effects of racism, nor can they denaturalize supposedly fixed identity categories, as many theorists contend. On the contrary, racial and verbal performances only reinscribe the essentialism that they are believed to subvert. Scholars and teachers of rhetoric, performance studies, and African American studies will enjoy this insightful volume.


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Your Average Nigga: Performing Race, Literacy, and Masculinity (African American Life Series) + Looking for Leroy: Illegible Black Masculinities (Postmillennial Pop)
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Editorial Reviews

Review

In an engaging style, Young mixes narrative autocritography, his mother s tongue and wit, analysis of literature on race, African American history, and language and literacy studies to argue against the dominant ideological model of literacy and for a theory of code meshing a technique [that] meshes versions of English together in a way that s more in line with how people actually speak and write anyway. Although he knows code meshing is not a panacea, he sees it as one way to improve the retention rates and achievement of black students in higher education. Read Young. Argue with him. Take him to task. You may not agree with his every point, but you will come away from this book thinking deeply about racism, sexuality, class, gender, their role and yours in the teaching of literacy. --Elaine Richardson, associate professor of English and applied linguistics at Pennsylvania State University and author of Hiphop Literacies

Vershawn Young s Your Average Nigga has the ingredients of a good novel: dazzling prose, a seductive plot, and a critical and likeable narrator. Beyond its wonderful storytelling, however, this manuscript is undergirded by a provocative theorizing about racial, gender, and sexual identity vis-à-vis language use. --E. Patrick Johnson, associate professor of performance studies and African American studies at Northwestern University and author of Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity

Punctuated throughout with verve, passion, and rigor, Vershawn Ashanti Young s Your Average Nigga is a smart and provocative addition to the burgeoning field of black masculinity studies. --Mark Anthony Neal, associate professor of African-American studies at Duke University and author of New Black Man

Vershawn Young s Your Average Nigga has the ingredients of a good novel: dazzling prose, a seductive plot, and a critical and likeable narrator. Beyond its wonderful storytelling, however, this manuscript is undergirded by a provocative theorizing about racial, gender, and sexual identity vis-à-vis language use. --E. Patrick Johnson, associate professor of performance studies and African American studies at Northwestern University and author of Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity

Punctuated throughout with verve, passion, and rigor, Vershawn Ashanti Young s Your Average Nigga is a smart and provocative addition to the burgeoning field of black masculinity studies. --Mark Anthony Neal, associate professor of African-American studies at Duke University and author of New Black Man

Book Description

An engrossing autobiographical exploration of black masculinity as a mode of racial and verbal performance.

Product Details

  • Series: African American Life Series
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Wayne State University Press (March 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081433248X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814332481
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,191,730 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Writing Style and Good Study of Language April 12, 2008
Format:Paperback
Well, I'm a PhD students in performance studies and English. I had to read Vershawn Young's book last semester in a graduate course on language, culture, and performance. I had to do a presentation that involved in-depth interpretative reading. After I had just read the preface I was very much impressed with his candor and awesome writing style -- so much so that I immediately stopped reading and looked up his email address to tell him so !!!

He was very nice and we had a nice email conversation. He even helped me with my presentation, saying that while it's important to read his book as auto-ethnography, the method the field sees it in, he says it's an autocritography...a personal study of what makes a scholar and the ideas he's interested in. I had almost missed that in the introduction.

Anyway, I was privileged to meet him. So few authors engage others in their ideas. What I liked most about the book and the thing that was most different is that the scholarly parts are mixed in with the stories, so they become a real part of the narrative. It's not like other books where you can flip to the introduction and conclusion of each chapter and get the point without reading any other parts. I had to actually READ this book. And his excellent writing style made every minute worthwhile, which didn't take me long at all. Three days over a busy weekend.

I also had a personal reaction to the book, being a black person. I found myself wanting to speak with him over a cup of coffee or a beer ---not strictly academically, but more as friend and colleague who shares
some intellectual and personal interests by nature of our ethnicity.

I have friends who are an academic couple I met in grad school who are
come from a background very similar to Young's.
Read more ›
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book! August 8, 2007
Format:Paperback
"Your Average Nigga" is not about being average, but dealing with a society that views people of African descent as below average. Dr. Young unashamedly tells his own experiences of navigating through a warped society that judges African Americans on preconceived ideas based on historical inaccuracy of race, dialect, economics, and gender performance. And, in his attempt to rationalize the irrational he was almost a victim to self-hatred. I identify with his story because it speaks true to my own journey of discovery in attempting to find my voice in a society that is built to destroy a man of color that fails to fully assimilate. I have found you never reach this so-called level of authenticity, and no matter what you acheive your motives and abilities are constantly questioned. Dr. Young truly explores this experience in his writing about Iowa and the University of Iowa. His "white" speak was not enough to avoid race and gender discrimination. What I love most about this book is that Dr. Young challenges us all to evaluate our behavior based on race, gender, economics, and sexuality, which in turn, helps us all to embrace the differences for it's those differences that make us all unique
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good! March 30, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It came like they promised it would, and I really appreciate when the product lives up to the expectations of the dealer, and me.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very Enlightening. July 15, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
An important book about linguistic segregation and the necessity of code-meshing as a means of overcoming this divide. The book's autobiographical structure also presents a number of insights drawn from Dr. Young's experiences. Recommended.
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