Published on January 14, 2008
street liturban fiction ghetto lithip-hop fiction gangsta lit: street lit urban fiction ghetto lit hip-hop fiction gangsta lit Definition: Definition San Francisco Chronicle, Oct 19, 2003 “The so-called hip-hop books. . .are page- turners rife with violence, sex and crime; they're often populated by African American characters; they're especially popular among reluctant readers, notably including young, black men; and the language, cadences, subject matter and aesthetic evoke comparisons to hip-hop music.” Criticism: Criticism One critic calls it “mindless garbage about murder, killing, thuggery” Another says: “In ghetto fiction, as in today's hip-hop lyrics, the lives of the people who live in the 'hood are portrayed as stimulating and glamorous. The real-life desperation and need for redemption are ignored.” Critics say it reinforces stereotypes and encourages irresponsible behavior Critics worry that it may crowd out better-quality African American literature Why Libraries Should Buy It: Why Libraries Should Buy It One defender says: "They reflect the world as [readers] know it, the society as they know it, much in the that way hip-hop lyrics do.” Most of the books are “tragic morality tales” – wrongdoing is punished by death or prison – so overall message is positive Tremendous popularity – especially with urban teens and 20-somethings, who might otherwise not use the library or check out books Gets an audience of reluctant readers excited about reading Library Journals says: evaluate street lit in the context of its genre. Some titles are better than others, as in all genres. We need to serve the interests and needs of all patrons. Characteristics: Characteristics Often written by younger African-Americans, often first-time authors. Some authors are or have been in prison. Urban setting, often in housing projects. Popular cities include Philadelphia; Richmond, VA; Chicago; New York, New Jersey. Gritty; include plenty of sex, drugs, and violence. Drug dealing, or “the game”, is a common theme. Written in the language of the streets, with plenty of slang and four-letter words. Includes many references to brand names, especially expensive cars, designer clothing and shoes, etc. Characteristics: Characteristics Main female character is often shallow and self-centered at the beginning, but learns through facing hardships. Characters may profit from drug dealing, enjoying their wealth, but eventually most pay the price. Many titles end in tragedy – violent deaths, prison. Often self-published or published by small, independent presses. Generally published in a trade paperback format Covers often feature photos of scantily clad women, men with guns, expensive cars, etc. May have many grammatical errors and typos Often not reviewed in mainstream publications Timeline: Timeline 1969 – Iceberg Slim (also known as Robert Beck) publishes “Pimp”, then other titles including “Trick Baby and “Death Wish” – accounts of life on the Chicago streets, using authentic slang 1970s – Donald Goines writes “Dopefiend” and “Whoreson”, along with other titles, about the struggles of pimps, prostitutes, thieves, hit men, and drug addicts to survive on the streets. 1998 – Teri Woods, a paralegal in Philadelphia, self-publishes and starts hand-selling “True to the Game”, about a young girl who grows up in the projects and falls for a drug dealer, with tragic results. Woods goes on to found Teri Woods Publishing and promote other urban fiction authors. 1999 – Rap artist and activist Sister Soulja published “Coldest Winter Ever”, the story of 17-year-old Winter Santiaga, the pampered daughter of a Brooklyn drug kingpin. When her father goes to prison, Winter must try to survive of her own. Timeline: Timeline 2001 – While in federal prison, Vickie Stringer writes “Let That Be the Reason,” then sets up a company called “Triple Crown Publications” to publish other urban fiction authors. 2006 – Newsweek declares that “hip hop novels are hot” and notes that mainstream publishers want in, signing the top authors. Newsweek reports: "Hip-hop fiction is doing for 15- to 25-year-old African-Americans what 'Harry Potter' did for kids," says Matt Campbell, a buyer for Waldenbooks. "Getting a new audience excited about books." For more, see Feb. 2006 Library Journal article: Lessons from the Old School: Street Lit Pioneers http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6299862.html Popular authors: Popular authors Teri Woods – “True to the Game”, “Dutch” Shannon Holmes – “B More Careful”, “Bad Girlz” Vickie Stringer – “Let That Be the Reason” Nikki Turner – “A Project Chick” K’wan (Foye) – “Gangsta”, “Street Dreams” T.N. Baker – “Cream” Tracy Brown – “Dime Piece”, “Black” Chunichi – “A Gangster’s Girl” Wahida Clark – “Thugs and the Women Who Love Them” Keisha Irvin – “Hold U Down” 50 Cent (writes “with” other authors) Publishers: Publishers Triple Crown Publications Teri Woods Publishing Urban Books Macavelli Press Black Print Publishing Melodrama Publishing Q-Boro Books Ghetto Heat Collection Development: Collection Development Consider buying multiple copies – many titles are billed or missing Do displays or (at branches with high demand) set up a special collection Provide booklists and reviews Print out records or Amazon.com descriptions of new titles for binder Find new titles on publisher Web sites, Essence Paperback Bestsellers list, bookstores (Borders has good selection) Resources: Resources See Web page: www.teenlibrarian.com/streetlit Links to: Annotated booklist – titles at SFPL Library Success Wiki: Other booklists My VOYA article Newspaper and Magazine Articles Library school dissertation Publishers Resources: Resources Articles on Street Lit Library Journal Street Lit Takes a Hit Library Journal Selling Urban Fiction (article) Publisher’s Weekly, 1/06 Publisher's Weekly Library School Dissertation: Street Lit Novels and Triangle-Area Public Libraries: A Search through the OPACS (Online Public Access Catalogs)Street Lit Seattle Times, 2005 Hip Hop Fiction Drawing More Readers to Black Lit Seattle Times Wikipedia article on Urban Fiction Wikepedia Wikepedia Columbia News Service Street Lit Goes Legit Columbia News Service E! Online 50 Cent in Da Books G-Unit Books Philadelphia Weekly column critical of the genre Ghetto Fiction Christian Science Monitor article Gritty Street Lit Washington Post: New Books in the Hood Washington Post Article NY Times: Street Lit with Publishing Cred Street Lit NPR: Readers Embrace "Ghetto Lit" Genre NPR San Francisco Chronicle: Hip Hop Lit is full of grit  Salon: Candy Licker: A best-selling book about cunnilingus and thugs. Candy Licker Newsweek: It's Gangsta Lit Newsweek article Does urban fiction belong in the teen section?: Does urban fiction belong in the teen section? In my opinion, no – it would be hard to defend given the graphic content. I suggest shelving in adult. Do make it easily available to teens, though, by setting up displays in the library, providing booklists, or labeling/creating a special section. Middle school libraries – no. High school libraries – yes, depending on your community and support, but be ready to defend it. YA Books for Urban Fiction Readers: YA Books for Urban Fiction Readers Some teens who read urban fiction want only the adult titles, but others are open to also reading Young Adult books. School librarians, especially at the middle school level, probably can’t get away with buying it, so what can we do other (than direct them to the public library)? Favorite Teen “Urban” Titles: Favorite Teen “Urban” Titles Mercedes does everything to please her father until she falls in love with rising drug kingpin Dalvin. Mercedes and Dalvin fight her father's opposition and the dangers of the streets to be together. Dymond in the Rough: Dymond in the Rough Fourteen year old Dymond is at a pivotal point in her life... high school.When she falls for a guy, she lies to her mother (with the help of her girls) to be with him, but how many lies can you tell before it catches up to you? Bluford series: Bluford series www.townsendpress.com Upstate: Upstate "Baby, the first thing I need to know from you is do you believe I killed my father?“ So begins Upstate, a powerful story told through letters between the incarcerated seventeen-year-old Antonio and his sixteen-year-old girlfriend, Natasha. Tyrell: Tyrell Tyrell is a young, African American teen who can't get a break. He's living (for now) with his spaced-out mother and little brother in a homeless shelter. His father's in jail. His girlfriend supports him, but he doesn't feel good enough for her. Drama High series: Drama High series Proudly hailing from Compton, USA, sixteen-year-old Jayd Jackson is no stranger to drive-by shootings or run-ins with the friendly neighborhood crackhead. Street-smart, book-smart, and life-smart, she’s nobody’s fool—least of all KJ’s, the most popular and cutest basketball jock at South Bay High, aka Drama High. Street Pharm: Street Pharm Ty Johnson knows survival. Since inheriting his pop's business at sixteen, Ty's developed smarts, skills, and mad discipline. The supply game's in his blood. And life is pretty sweet when you're on top. But one slip -- or one serious competitor -- and life turns ugly fast. Imani All Mine: Imani All Mine Imani All Mine tells the story of Tasha, a fourteen-year-old unwed mother of a baby girl. In her ghettoized world where poverty, racism, and danger are daily struggles, Tasha uses her savvy and humor to uncover the good hidden around her. Imani In Young Love. . . : Imani In Young Love. . . Every ACTION has a CONSEQUENCE. How high of a price are you willing to pay for that action? Five teenagers, Imani, Fatima, Bhriana, Tyler & Steven, individually & collectively discover the answer to that question. Broken China: Broken China China Cup Cameron might miss school or fall asleep in class sometimes, but she's trying hard to be a good mother to Amina, her two-year-old daughter. When tragedy befalls the small family, China must quit school and work full-time to make ends meet. But the only place in town that's willing to hire a fourteen-year-old high-school dropout is Obsidian Queens, a strip club, and China is forced to make some difficult and potentially self-destructive decisions. Walter Dean Myers: Walter Dean Myers Alan Lawrence Sitomer: Alan Lawrence Sitomer Emako Blue: Emako Blue From the moment she stands up in chorus auditions and her heavenly voice fills the room, Emako Blue profoundly affects anyone who meets her. But even as Emako draws together new friends and catches the attention of an important record producer, the streets of South Central Los Angeles are never far away, where everything changes in one horrific instant.