Rebecca W. Black. (2008). Adolescents and Online Fan Fiction (New Literacies and Digital Epistemologies). New York: Peter Lang.
My rating: ***
This book uses current educational theory to discuss adolescent fan fiction. The book is useful in that it attempts to argue for the importance of fan fiction as an educational tool in promoting literacy. It also points out the fundamental discordances between the way knowledge is structured and delivered in schools and the way fan writing and communities work. However some of the characterisations of what is happening in schools are perhaps a little old fashioned – but this might in fact be a reflection of what is occurring in American classrooms and as such does not necessarily apply outside the USA.
Unfortunately the author only offers rather vague suggestions as to how teachers might work with fan fiction and their students. It could indeed be done but would require teachers who were very experienced and knowledgeable in terms of how fandoms, media technology and social networking operate.
But this is definitely a start. Fandom and fan fiction have been highly stigmatised, and given fan fiction is the fastest growing type of writing in the world today it is good to see some recognition from the educational sector of this form of literary engagement.
For extended discussions on how fan reading and practices might be harnassed in an educational setting see Henry Jenkins’ blog Confessions of an aca-fan.