Coming of age in the Parisian Banlieues: young adult fiction as a vehicle for empowerment
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Over the last number of decades the French banlieues, residential suburban areas surrounding major cities, have become increasingly visible in French society. The residents of these zones are predominantly working class, with immigrants and their descendants comprising a significant proportion of the population. These areas are characterized in the French imagination by unemployment and low-income families and are portrayed as inherently negative, troubled and violent. The vast majority of media reports concerning these regions highlight this negative, violent aspect, and the banlieue youth are portrayed as simmering with rage, liable to erupt into scenes of riots, violence, clashes with police, car burnings and theft. Such images are now very familiar to the French public, owing to zealous media exposure. The youth population of these zones must therefore be empowered, in order to overcome these various problems and stereotypes. Such empowerment could lead these young people to act in a manner that benefits the community at large, which could pave the way for major social change in these maligned regions. To this end, young adult literature is a particularly conducive tool for enabling social change and can act as one of the mediums through which efforts to empower the young banlieue population are being made. This thesis examines the work of three authors - Faïza Guène, Mabrouck Rachedi and Habiba Mahany - all of whom are of Algerian descent and grew up in the Parisian banlieues. All three write stylistically innovative novels for young adults, portraying the banlieues in a realistic and optimistic manner. The thesis will explore the strategies used by these authors in their attempt to address the misperceptions and misrepresentations faced by the youth population of the banlieues, and will demonstrate that these novels can act as a significant means of empowerment for these marginalised young people.