For the last week or so, I ventured into a category I thought I laid to rest in 2006.
Street Fiction, or Urban Fiction.
It is gritty. It is real. It can be…nasty, sexually explicit, I mean.
Today I want to briefly explain what Urban Fiction means to me and why I decided to read more of it lately as well as some pitfalls of the category that should be cleaned up by now(I do this with love for black writers and their craft).
Do I Purchase These Books Because I Am Black?
This is not a tough question. The answer is that I love the books because they are just so darn good and the bonus is that the authors and characters look like me and write from a place of understanding what we as African Americans go through- or at least those from low to middle income neighborhoods. I just finished Little Miami Girl, books 1 and 2 and even though I’ve never been to Miami, the reality of aunts hating their own flesh and blood, men who carry guns on the regular and even the reality of rape is so common in some or most of the impoverished black neighborhoods that you feel as if you are reading about someone you know or even yourself.
I read Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree in high school and more of his urban fiction that I could not stop reading. Later on after college I gobbled up Zane, Eric Jerome Dickey, and even Octavia E. Butler books because it interested me. All of this during a time I was falling in love with Amish fiction and medical thrillers.
Can Urban Fiction Be Defined as Real Literature?
A quick Googling will reveal the definition of literature meaning “a work of lasting merit”.
Who deems a book lasting or of merit?
Walter Dean Myers, Tanarive Due, Octavia Butler’s books will prove to have lasting quality in the future.
Then again, does that mean any good book can be considered literature?
I am a huge fan of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, James Patterson and most recently Julie Lessman. I believe whatever these writers write, at least half of their stories will become classic literature. But again, it depends on time, lots of it.
The “hood books” I read now are quick reads with drug abuse and sex as the main themes but there are also some which surprised me. A Dopegirl Needs Love Too and A Thug’s Love feature strong, sexy, smart women who make moves in their communities while making mistakes along the way.
But there are problems I see already with current Urban Fiction.
A Competitive, Popular Market
With self publishing being as simple as uploading your manuscript to Kindle or CreateSpace, or even Smashwords and Lulu, one can immediately send off their book.
I have this problem too sometimes: self editing.
Many books and not just Urban Fiction included, requires heavy editing- some typos may escape and that is okay, but some Urban books I have been reading have so many hiccups in grammar, it can be trifling. I am speaking as a bookworm though and not a grammarian.
Also, the pricing of Urban Fiction can be better. The ones I have downloaded cost Free or at least 99 cents with the highest being 3.99 but there are a couple I have seen where the Kindle version is ten bucks! I think that is way too high for a pricing model.
It burns me up badly when I enjoy a series and I find out that the final installment is ten dollars and the magic in all this is that people have paid the money and in their reviews they gripe about it, but they still paid.
All of this to say that street/urban stories has come a long way with more African American publishing companies and editors opening up their doors and the ease of buying them online is also a plus.
I will continue to read and promote these books because they are truly addicting if you can get past the language and “rawness” of the streets in these works. Their redeeming quality is that even though the bad stuff seem glorified, there are real consequences for the characters involved and the messages will be clear to any audience.
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