Tales from The Hood

Sharon Flake captivates young readers with gritty realism

It's hardly an accident, given the overwhelming success of the Harry Potter books, that a contingent of writers has suddenly discovered the young-adult author within. But veteran novelist Sharon Flake is no Johnny-come-lately to the genre. "This is not a place I visit," says Flake. "This is a place where I live." Her novels, which explore the lives of African-American teenagers, are known for their honest depiction of gritty urban life and racism, as well as the universal themes of teen insecurity and angst. "I don't write about easy stuff," admits Flake, 49. "I take a no-holds-barred approach."

That approach has...

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