Literary writers in search of publication often find themselves stuck between paying the bills and honestly representing their artistic vision and their skill as writers. This proves especially true for writers of color. Preconceived notions, regarding what various ethnic and racial groups should be, cloud the issue as editors determine which books could or would sell successfully.
I'm not a fan of street lit;I think that most of it is trash. Then again, critics said the same of Shakespear and Alexandre Dumas in their day. I don't believe in literacy at any cost, and I'm pretty flexible; I'm more concerned with content than genre or format, sci-fi, graphic novel, fantasy, novella, romance....all acceptable as long as a solid plot and well developed characters are present, and the rules of English grammar are mostly observed (gotta leave room for creative license).
I believe that there is room for vernacular narratives and campy writing, but street lit makes me cringe. It lacks context. Where one may pickup a Zebra paperback and acknowledge that they are about to indulge in some over the top escapist reading--street lit too often receives a stamp of authenticity, that proves problematic when the genre reinforces negative stereotypes of African Americans and women. If we are what we eat--meaning consume--what are the consumers of street lit doing for their mental health?
The Rise of Street Literature
By Almah LaVon Rice
IN PERCIVAL EVERETT’S NOVEL Erasure, Thelonious Ellison is a college professor who writes novels that are more praised than read. His work’s engagement with French post-structuralists and ancient Greek literature impresses and baffles reviewers, who wonder what those subjects have to do with the African-American experience. Frustrated by his latest novel’s seventh rejection and angered by the success of the street-lit hit We’s Lives in Da Ghetto, Ellison dashes off a novella parodying the “true, gritty real stories of [B]lack life” that he has been advised to write. This satiric tale, which is included in Erasure in its entirety, is peopled with stock characters like the perennially scowling thug and the vapid baby mama. It is sent to Random House as a protest, but to Ellison’s amazement and chagrin he is offered a $600,000 advance for his “magnificently raw and honest” account. Compromised, disgusted and rich, Ellison creates a reclusive, ex-con writer persona that the literary world celebrates as a “real! live! scary! Black male!” writer in their midst. Read more>>>>