On the heels of my last post, this is the same thing in reverse.
Instead of lumping everything together because of a common denominator, black authors, Simmons Teen Reading writes about a librarian urging her colleagues keeping urban lit separated from the other books in the young adult section. I have to agree with the librarian. Better yet, I have a question for the librarian: Why would you put these books in the Young Reader’s section, anyway?
I wouldn’t dare let anyone under 18 openly have some of the books I come across. But then again, I wouldn’t suggest some of the music and movies that a lot of the youth have access to. Sex, drugs and violence shouldn’t be standard fare for a teenager’s reading supply.
Then, on top of that, why would the urban lit be in the kid’s section anyway? Like I said above, all of the urban lit I’ve read was absolutely adult in nature.
So to Simmons: Yeah, but naaaaah…
Christopher Chambers writes about the “blacks only” section popping up in many bookstores and supermarts. In his quest for Matt Johnson’s graphic novel Incognegro, he’s directed to the “black section”. Mixed in with the urban fiction is other classics like Richard Wright’s Native Son and Dorothy West’s The Wedding. ( must admit that I’ve only heard of and read Native Son.)
His frustration came from the fact that African American authors and pushed into one section regardless of genre, time period or quality of writing. This is how I feed about it. Until these big corporations start to care about black authors as authors, as opposed to African American authors, we can’t expect for them to include African American authors with the other “greats”.
But to be mad about the success of urban lit is…typical, yet natural. Urban lit follows the same pattern that other forms of entertainment in black America have taken. The best and most recent example would be hip hop. Black artists were making music that their people liked. Not every black person was down, but that wasn’t the point.
The point was that hip hop wasn’t tailor made for mainstream consumption.That didn’t stop the music from being made in makeshift studios. That didn’t stop the music from being sold out of the trunks of cars. That didn’t stop the music from finally making it mainstream. That also didn’t stop the music from being raped just like the jazz, blues and rock n’ roll that came before it.
And just like hip hop, urban fiction writer’s hustled their way into prominence. While the corporations swooped in to make some money from the trend, black writer’s of other genres tend to feel slighted and in return attack.
It makes me wonder if there is some literary Willie Lynch that held a big publishing event somewhere overseas. I bet it’s in a book. (Because we don’t read, right…) Pit the new African American writers against the old African American writers. Pit the intellectuals against the uneducated. Pit urban lit against African American romance…