Young Readers to discuss boyhood with ‘The Outsiders’, ‘The Crossover’

RUBY WALLAU | Staff Photographer

CLSC Young Reader Selections for Week Two.

Week Two yields a pair of books for the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle Young Readers Program that fall in with the theme, “Boys Will Be Boys, Then Men”: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton and The Crossover by Kwame Alexander.

Matt Ewalt, associate director of education and youth services, said this is a result of having two excellent pieces of literature that reflect the issues boys face in profound ways.

“There is an authenticity to the language of both books, language that connects to the young reader with honesty and respect,” Ewalt said. “In The Outsiders, it is a lack of polish, so striking for the time it was published. In The Crossover, it is a story told in verse and the contemporary beat of hip- hop.”

While many adolescent readers have delved into Ponyboy’s tale in The Outsiders, The Crossover is a newer work. Its rap-like verse makes a connection to young readers through poetry and basketball.

The Outsiders may have provided that kind of authenticity to young readers, but not all,” Ewalt said.

These two books are the subject of today’s CLSC Young Readers program. A discussion and activity will take place at 4:15 p.m. today in the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall Ballroom.

Today’s program will include Institution Marketing Manager Vanessa Weinert, Director of Religion Robert Franklin and librettist Marc Bemuthi Joseph — whose work “Meditations on Raising Boys” will be performed with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra tomorrow — to speak to influential books in their own lives.

“One is Native Son, by Richard Wright, published in 1940,” Franklin said. “It was just one of those coming of age novels based in Chicago, and because I was reared in Chicago, it resonated in me.”

The other book is Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Both books illustrate struggles with racism and poverty and addressed issues critical to Franklin.

“Often, outsiders are unaware of your intentions, so you work harder to render your inner intentions public,” Franklin said of Native Son. “That was an important book that almost served as a kind of warning to me.”

Ewalt said he hopes the discussion portion of the program will allow for participants to open up about books that have influenced them and changed their lives.

“It validated you — to be able to see it in writing,” he said. “Beautiful words are something, I think, that can change readers. Those are those moments when there’s a clear power beyond the page of the book itself, and it stays with you and ignites something.”