Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Value (de-value) Of Street Fiction

There has been much debate, sometimes heated over the surge of street/urban fiction into the marketplace and its impact on the black literary market. Much of it is self-published, poorly written on several levels and tend to applaud the lifestyles of drug dealers, hustlers, prostitutes and the like. Of course, there are a few that are relatively well written (rare).

The concern however is not the staggering numbers of these books but rather their content and the impression that they leave on the most vulerable of readers--young adults who buy these books in mass.

Are these urban books yet another reflection of the fall of black cultural society? Is it indicative of who we are and what we have become, or is it simply yet another fad that will at some point fade from view?

Many advocates tout that "they are just happy that black folks (especially kids) are reading. Bullshit. That's like sitting your kid down in front of hip-hop videos for hours with the vulgarity of the language and the exploitation of women and not expect those visuals to have an effect on the viewer.

But again, these urban books are about the all-mighty dollar, no matter the effect it has on the population. It is the same mentality of drug pushers--"it's not personal just business and if you happen to get hooked well I'm more than happy to keep supplying you."

It's a problem.

What are your thoughts?


Demetairs said...

This definitely has been a hot topic as of late. It really doesn't surprise me that urban street fiction has taken off the way it has. What disturbs me though is the fact that we (black people) can't seem to pick up on patterns. Folks take the mud out of your eyes. Haven't we seen this before? We've seen it in movies, we've seen it in music, and now this filth has found it's way into literature. I firmly believe that some of the writers of these stories are taking advantage of a trend and that's all it really is. They're are like the studio gangsters. They've never lived the life that they write about, and they don't care what effect this kind of writing will have on our children. Some of the writers look at writing these type of stories as a legit hustle but folks, some things should not be for sale. For those who write or are thinking of writing a story along the lines of the street life, just remember that you have a responsibility along with your talent. Also keep in mind that your novels go beyond the 'hood. People all over the world read your material and is this what you want people to think of black folks? That we're criminals, drug pushers, pimps, hoes. Following trends is easy. Challenge yourself if you truely look at yourself as a writer and write abouot some of the positive things that blacks do, there's plenty of it. Stop selling your souls for the sake of earning a buck.

Dee Savoy said...

I couldn't agree with you more, Donna. It's just one more way for blacks to show their ignorance and one more excuse for the rest of the world to look down on us.

Street fiction has been with us a long time. I remember reading Down Thee Mean Streets by Piri Thomas a million years ago when I was a kid. But that book was two things these current books are not: well written AND a cautionary tale against that sort of life.

I didn't walk away from that book wanting to be that character or have his life experiences. I was happy to live in my nice home in a quiet neighborhood. The kids and young adults reading these books today want to be the people they read about and act like the people they read about.

It's a sad day, that's all I can say.

tastes like chicken said...

I see your point of view and it makes full sense to be protective of impressionable young readers, because they very well might be influenced in one way or another---either accepting or rejecting the images they come across, depending on whether they are naive or discerning. This could apply to street fiction or rap videos.
The marketplace is open for rubish as well as for quality work. It would be nice and beneficial to see more of the good stuff that people can see the difference and choose.

Roslyn said...

I think there's another important point to all this. The publishing industry, will, as corporate America always does latch onto this 'publishing phenomenom.' They'll want to duplicate this success, and every black author will be encouraged to write 'street fiction.' Anything other than that won't be considered 'black enough.' I've already come across some publishing guidelines that indicate that they want 'sassy' characters like those in Girlfriends and Waiting to Exhale. I have no beef with either, but it becomes problematic when that's ALL they want to see. And as you know, they only want to see what's hot at this very moment.

Personally, as a black woman who grew up in the rural south, I'm already annoyed by the prevalence of urban culture. Somehow it has become the default 'black culture' and all others are dismissed as also rans. I can certainly see this viewpoint being amplified by the success of 'street lit.'

Cheri said...

I love this blogsite! I am in agreement with you. Xenia Ruiz and I were at an event in a Library in Chicago and a 12-year old stated that the last book she read was something like, "Hustler's Wife" and it was street lit. There was young man who was thoroughly into justifying the need for folks to tell their experiences. I can't get with it though. First of all the writing is really bad in some of them. As a first-time author I know that I have room for growth, but these books have some of the worst grammar that I've ever seen. Youth I've worked with don't need to see that, because they think it's correct and too many already have poor writing skills. Additionally, just like some rap it glamorizes a lifestyle that those who are writing are trying to get away from and that some of the authors have never led. To me there's a word for most it and it's 'triflin' and we don't need no more triflin' stuff being peddled to our kids...

Dallas Maxwell said...

Hello Donna,

My name is Dallas Maxwell, i'm a young black teen who has written over 200 novels. I statred this Company with several Teenangers in the hopes to provide entertainment but hope even in the ghetto's.

I feel that most of what's available to us is trash with no heart or substance. But should we try to find a way to support them or tear them down,my books are in Japan, China and Africa. Any black trying to ride this thing should but it shouldn't be at the expense of our minds and souls.

We've forgotten how to be and get rich without killing one another.

Dallas Maxwell said...

Hello Donna,

My name is Dallas Maxwell, i'm a young black teen who has written over 200 novels.

I statred writing hoping i'd make a differences and give us a voice other than the excuse that everyother black books has made.

I feel that most of what's available to us is trash with no heart or substance. But are we wrong for trying to support our people who other than sports and drugs or robbing a bank, now are able to live very well. Yes, i've read books by whites that were just as poorly written as black books. Anyone trying to ride this thing should but not at the expense of our already defeated minds and souls.

We've forgotten how to be and get rich without killing one another.