Thursday, January 05, 2006

LET's TALK ABOUT IT - African America Literature vs. Street Lit

I read this interesting article in the New York Times.

Please take a moment to read and tell us your opinion.

Their Eyes Were Reading Smut

If you don't have access to NYT you might have to join. ITS FREE


Sylvia Hubbard said...

I truely believe that these are two different categories and should not be put in together.

I have no prejudices against the writing because if that's the way people like to read their stories, you really can't tell them they like the wrong things, but literature is a very prolific and strong word that has a standard. Street Lit doesn't.

Denise Jones said...

I agree wholeheartedly with Nick Chiles' article. In general, what I've seen in the "urban" or "street lit" genre glorifies everything that we as a people have worked hard to rise above. It's disappointing to say the least. The only thing positive that may come from it is that it may get some young people to read!

Denise Jones

Cheris F. Hodges said...

I'm going to take some heat for my comments, but--as an author who writes the same story over and over again, Mr. Chiles takes himself too seriously.
I wouldn't call his work literature either.
I think the problem is that just like when Waiting To Exhale was a hit, publishers pushed a lot of books through that were copies of Terry's ground breaking novel. I don't like a lot of the street fiction. But I'm not ashamed that it's out there. It's just like hip hop, you have your Nas's and you have your 50 Cent's.
We need to hold the publishing industry responsible for showing a broader range of black authors. If we didn't buy, they wouldn't print it.

Gwyneth Bolton said...

I agree with everything Cheris said and will add my two cents. The funny thing is that most scholars and cultural critics wouldn't call any of the new black fiction--from McMillan and the sista girl inspired novels to the street fiction--literature with a capital L. Most don't think that any of it should be on a shelf next to Baldwin or Morrison or Hurston. And if we look back at the Harlem Renaissance we'll find that there were some people that didn't find Hurston's work worthy because of her focus on "the folk"--the same with Hughes. Because we live in such a consumer driven culture anything that sells will be sold. They will flood the market until people aren't buying it anymore. I don't read enough street fiction to just make a blanket judgement call about it as a genre. I have read some--some good, some not so good. I've try to read widely. I do find it problematic that people want to criticize and critique something that they haven't read. It's like the people who make blanket statements about romance novels and they have never read one. But that's another story and I've said enough . . .


Dominiqua Douglas said...

I can understand Nick Chiles' point, but I also agree with Gwyneth's comments. I haven't read Street Lit. That's not to say that I won't, but so far, I haven't and I'm not sure if I ever will. I'll have to take a harder look at what's offered and see if anything grabs my attention. I don't like the idea of certain lifestyles being glorified and our kids/our future wanting to emulate it. I like to believe that we are more respectful for what Martin, Malcolm, Medgar, Rosa and others worked to achieve on our behalf. If publishers realize that AA authors have more to offer than that, then the writers have to produce what's inside them.

Minnie E Miller said...

I saw this article in Bronzeville by Raynard and sent it to several writing friends.

I'd like to add that a balance is needed in portraying the African American community. We are laying down words about us that will keep walking when we cease. Readers choose their genre and that's a good thing, but give them more than the raunchy side of our community to choose from. I surf the bookstore tables and see what's out there by AA writers. I look at some covers and keep walking because it's not my read. I admit that I may be missing a good story between the pages. I believe we can be a good street lit, erotic writer as well as a writer about the other side of our lives(I don't know what you call it but I think it's mainstream fiction). We didn't all come up in the same communities. Older writers can tell you that.

In my opinion, the only way to get this ball rolling is to vary our
writings, put out balanced books. We can do that for our children
and grandchildren. Many AA writers have. Above all, make it the best writing you can produce. Research outside of your communities--stories can come from anywhere.

Some of you who may know my writings might say, "She has a nerve to criticize." Yes, I do have he nerve and the right. I read some erotic books because I want to know how writers handle it. I've read some well written erotic scenes and take cues from them. My mind isn't completely closed, just selective.

I'm writing a novel about bisexuality and having a hard time "walking the Great Wall of China" as I see it. The story needs
to be told but it also needs balance, which is where my problem
lies. I don't want my book to be dismissed as just another DL story.
I want my great-grands to know what happened during this era, to
have a measuring tools for their future opinions. If you don't know
your past you're destined to repeat it in the future--or something like that.

My novel "Blue Lady Rising" is about prostitution and, this is
important to me, the young lady's rise to the board room. It's my
contribution to redemption.

Thank you for allowing my opinion.

Connie "zcque" said...

Unfortunately I couldn't read the article because I didn't get to my email until after it was archieved. However I have read several of the "street lit." One particular author is very good. My daughter is 18 and she read it and now she waits for the newest one especially the ones by Nikki Turner just like I wait for Brenda Jackson, Frances Raye or Beverly Jenkins.

I am glad to see young people read a book. My daughter got her friend hooked and she hates to read. So if that is what will make a young person pick up the written word, more power to it. This might lead to them reading other books.

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