The Get Down-Booklist: A Celebration of the Bronx, Hip-Hop, Disco, and Art

Focussing on the artistic ambitions of a group of teens living in the South Bronx in 1977, Netflix’s original series The Get Down is an explosion of force. Set in a time when Disco was large and Hip-Hop was in its earliest day, director Baz Luhrmann and producer Nas take into a time when art that would lay the path for future generations was being born.

Here is a list of books that will help continue that Get Down groove.

Fiction for Fans of The Get Down

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Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina

Also set in 1977 New York City in Queens, it captures the music, the discos, the arsons, the heat, the tensions, and the night of a major blackout that was filled with businesses getting looted. Nora is about to graduate high school and teachers are pushing her to apply for college. Her main goal is to get out, and get on her own. The Son of Sam serial killings is overshadowing the city as the murderer seems to be focussing on young couples that are staying out too late.

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera (2016 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults)

A slightly futuristic Bronx neighborhood permeates this somewhat science fiction coming of age novel. Aaron Seto, a Puerto Rican teen is trying to deal with the emotional aftermath of his father’s suicide, and also coming to terms with his own failed attempt. His life seems to be permeated by complicated relationships and painful memories. He begins to contemplate the Leteo Institute’s mind-alteration procedure that can assist in wiping clean certain pockets of one’s memory.

Tyrell by Coe Booth (2007 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 2007 Best Books for Young Adults, 2010 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)

Music and the Bronx are alive in this tale of a young teen trying to sidestep the easy money of dealing drugs, and instead trying to use music to raise needed money by pulling together an underground dance party. Tyrell’s life is full of tough decisions as he tries to support his younger brother, avoid the path of his father who is in jail, and staying with his girlfriend Novisha or be tempted by Jasmine.

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DJ Rising by Love Maia

DJ Ice moves you to the dance floor. Marley, caught between keeping his scholarship at a fancy prep school and caring for his heroin-addicted mother, dreams of becoming a DJ. When he lands his first job as DJ Ice, his career as professional DJ is on the rise. Soon the realities of home force him to have to choose between following his dreams or to the ties of family.

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older (2016 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Set in nearby Brooklyn this captures the magic of graffiti art. Sierra Santiago is a muralist and third generation Puerto Rican. She has planned an easy summer of making art and hanging out with her friends. But then a corpse crashes the first party of the season, and the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep real tears. Something more sinister is going on.

Show and Prove by Sofia Quintero (2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Set in the South Bronx in 1983, Smile and Nike are experiencing the pains of growing up in a time when hip-hop as proved its staying power, Reaganomics is wreaking havoc on the poor, and AIDS and crack have entered the inner-city.

Nonfiction for Fans of The Get Down

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Ghetto Brother: Warrior to Peacemaker by Julian Voloj

Set in the South Bronx in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Benjy Melendez, son of Puerto-Rican immigrants, founded the notorious Ghetto Brothers gang. His multiracial gang promoted peace rather than violence, and ended up joining other gangs to work together to fight for tenant rights, civil rights, and ultimately helping to create a space for the emergence of hip hop.

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-hop Generation by Jeff Chang

A biography for the history of the hip-hop movement that traces its foundations from Jamaica to the South Bronx. It is based on over a decade of interviews and research.

Born in the Bronx: A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop

A visual history of the the early hip hop movement that includes the improvisational artwork of previously unpublished street flyers of the era, Polaroids, and testimonials from influential figures such as Tony Tone, LA Sunshine, and Charlie Chase.

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Hip Hop Family Tree: 1, 1970s-1981 by Ed Piskor

An encyclopaedic history in graphic novel format that is the beginning of a four-part series. This volume captures stars DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, as well as three kids who later become RUN-DMC.

Honorable Mention:


Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett  Johnson

What is the mystery of the purple crayon?