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ERIC Number: EJ786509
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2006-Jul-15
Pages: 4
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0363-0277
Streetwise Urban Fiction
Wright, David
Library Journal, v131 n12 p42-45 Jul 2006
One of the hottest literary phenomena of recent years has been the explosion of what has been variously termed hip-hop, street, or urban fiction. Especially popular with younger African Americans, books in this genre are reaching an increasingly broad readership through ties to hip-hop music and culture. These crime stories generally revolve around the often tragic choices and journeys of young women and men drawn by the lure of easy money into drugs, prostitution, and the thug life. Street lit readers place a high premium on authenticity, and many of the genre's writers have firsthand experience of the "gangsta" life, not a few starting their writing careers as a way of coping while in prison and a means of going legit once they get out. Indeed, what distinguishes street stories from other contemporary African American literature is their emphasis on crime, drugs, and a cold, hard look at the less savory side of the street. These books speak in the voices of rappers, players, and "gangstas," where the "n-word" has passed from abusive epithet to defiant honorific to the merest pronoun. It comes as no surprise that street lit's popularity, especially with the young, has proven controversial, but the underlying message is not as simple as some critics think. While characterized by its refusal to preach, this genre often presents cautionary tales freighted with the conviction of those who have done the crime--and the time. These books' appeal as outlaw fables cannot be underestimated and helps account for their phenomenal success with younger readers interested in challenging dominant cultural norms. Yet to the extent that many of the genre's fans face choices similar to those of its characters, these books also deliver on their promise to tell it like it is, reflecting the often discomfiting reality of a society addicted to money and drugs and at war with itself along racially drawn lines. For libraries, the message is loud and clear: street lit is creating huge numbers of new readers. Although these readers range across the socioeconomic spectrum, from prisons to college campuses, many of them repeatedly say that if it weren't for street lit, they probably wouldn't be much interested in books. The goal of promoting literacy is so central to the mission of every public library that for them to fail these new and emerging readers by ignoring this living literature goes beyond a disservice--it is practically a sacrilege. This article offers a list of titles representing the hottest in the recent boom of independent or initially self-published authors in this genre.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reference Materials - Bibliographies; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A