Monday, August 14, 2006

Zora Neal Hurston Had a Fight with Urban Fiction and Lost.


Hood Lit 101.
We have all seen them.

"Around the Way Girl 2."

"Homo Thug."

"Let That Be the Reason".

Its Hood Lit. Urban Fiction. Hip Hop Fiction.
You see folks reading them on the train. Ladies takin' they slow @ss time going up the stairs at 14th street because they are engrossed in chapter 5.

I have seen teenage girls, sharing a SINGLE book between the two of them, one flap on each of their laps, on the train ride to school.

Mean Sexy says people love 'em because of the marketing.

Which is partially true.

The cover images certainly do provoke a reaction.

I think it that it is the marketing and the accesibility of the language.
Kids like racy, sexual, street based fiction.
On top of that, kids have allways wanted to read and do sh*t that there parents did not approve of.

Urban fiction is racy and allows for teens to be quasi defiant.

When it comes to Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Be True to the Game,
I don't think we have to choose.

There is room for Urban Fiction and the Black Cannon. For Nikki Turner and Walter Dean Myers.

A View From Inside the Publishing I
The hood writers and the black cannon need to come toge
ther to see what they can learn from one another.

Malaika Adero, and editor at Atria says that the canon needs to up their grizzle,

But literary writers often invest less of their time and resources in learning how to promote their work, expand on and respond to the desires of their prospective readers, and associate themselves with all kinds of other writers and artists—not just the ones who teach at the right universities and have the enviable contracts with major houses. Commercial writers model for the artsy set new ways to cultivate and expand their audience, and fashion themselves into better business people.
She says that the urban writers need to get them writing workshops going,
On the other hand, so many of the commercially successful authors—once self- or small-published—are amateur writers, albeit with great storytelling and entrepreneurial instincts, and tremendous drive. They could learn from the example of their colleagues who study with and expose themselves to the criticism of their peers and academics; who discipline and challenge themselves to be more creative, rigorous and ambitious in the practice of their craft.
How I Feel About Hood Lit
As for my own personal taste.

I can't get into most of them. And trust me I try. Not because the stories are bad. The writing bother's me.

Most of the folks writing the books have great imag
inations and can weave a good story.

But the language is like walking barefoot on broken g
lass, in Howard Beach at night, in the middle of July. All bad.

Many of the writers need a writing workshop. Period. Point. Stop.

Peep what Nick Chiles had to say,

That leaves me wondering where we - writers, publishers, readers, the black community - go from here. Is street fiction some passing fad, or does it represent our future? It's depressing that this noble profession, one that I aspired to as a child from the moment I first cracked open James Baldwin and Gabriel García Márquez about 30 years ago, has been reduced by the greed of the publishing industry and the ways of the American marketplace to a tasteless collection of pornography.
Earth to NICK. The same thing that happened in Hip Hop is happening in literature. Why?

Because Random house, Simon and
Schuster, like Universal and Island Def Jam are obligated to please their SHAREHOLDERS not Black Readers.

Hate the game, hate the game.

Reading is Fundamental Fam

However, it is important to note that Black pe
ople are reading these books by the truck loads because they find them appealing.

I ain't mad at that.

Reading is reading is reading.

I hope that the books play a role in inspiring an entire generation of readers and writers of all genres.

Authors are Getting Money
In researching this article I came across this.

While she allready a publish writer, she freaked a p
seudonym, to get that urban lit cash.

Muy interesante.

I remember seeing that book cover earlier last
year and thinking that I liked it.


Jeff, I know you don't want to hear it, but our Beloved Cody's books on Telegraph
could have stayed open had it done two thing

a. Expanded its offerings on childrens books.

b. Offered more Hood books.

These two areas are explosive.

Think "Harry Potter". Think "Lord of the Rings. Think, "True to the Game". Think. "Diary of a Diva".

Kids would have been up in that piece.

Yes. They may have needed to hire a security guard, to keep the ruckus down,
but that is just the cost of doing business.

Just like the blaxpoitation era in the 70's saved Hol
lywood from bankruptcy, urban books are providing some well needed revenue to the publishing world.

White Folks Writin' Urban Lit

Even the majority is getting some of that Urban lit Cash.

I was on this site, looking for an image of one more book to add to this post. When I came across her.

Wrote this.

Her profile qualifies as the racist item of the day.

Allison van Diepen is a high school teacher who is often mistaken for a student. She spent three and a half years teaching at one of Brooklyn's most dangerous public high schools.This is her first novel.

Its mad racist sh*t up in those three sentences.
a. Allison van Diepen is a high school teacher who is often mistaken for a student.

i. Read- she is young, impressionable and vulnerable in her Brooklyn Jungle of a high school.

She spent three and a half years teaching at one of Brooklyn's most dangerous public high schools.

i. Perpetuating hella stereotypes. Brookyln = Automatically Dangerous, right.

ii. Translation. She has spent 3.5 years observing niggerdom upclose and personal which qualifies her to write a book for teenagers about a teenage drug dealer. Excellent.

ii. Which I presume lends credibility to her novel. That statement is careless, irresonsible and self-serving.

iii. Even if the statment is true, the purpose of it being there is to give her credibility that she innately does not have.


Dang. That was a long post. Where erry body @?
*Miss Ahmad. I think you in Hawaii on vacay!?!?!
* J!?!!?!?!!? You moved back and lost yo innanet service?
* Vik. Well vik, you post more than me, so you stay busy.

* Ms. TPW. I got a hunch you in NYC right now.
*sticks out tongue. Runs out room*



Jason Pollard said...

Didn't you show me that Nick Chiles article a while back? That cat's a hater to 9th degree and I looked up his work on Amazon....let's just say that he won't be winning a Pulitzer any time soon. I read about the white chick a while ago, she def admmitted that her students provided inspiration for her books.

Hummingbyrd said...

First of all.

Yes. I showed you that Nick Chiles jawn.

Second HE IS HELLA Mad and Hatin'.

He on some, like Remy Ma, "I look to good to be on that bookshelf".


Even if she DOES CONCEED that the students inspired her, she comes across as insensitive, with that Brooklyn comment.

beautyinbaltimore said...

I read academic books and novels, but at the same time I like street lit too. The way I look at it is, at least these people are reading. Many may cross over into more academic material over time.

MMK said...

Hi. Your comment on my blog led me to find yours. Very cool.

1969 said...

If it gets folks to read, that's a good thing. However, now that we have them reading, let's encourage reading all genre's of fiction...not just street lit. Maybe it will encourage people to expand their horizons and pick up a Zora Neale Hurston or Alice Walker novel in addition to Teri Woods.

I also encourage you all to check out a great local black and family owned bookstore in Brooklyn...Brownstone Books at 409 Lewis Avenue. My best friend's store...**shameless plug**. Not everyone in Brooklyn is dodging bullets and selling crack :)

Hummingbyrd said...

@ ms. 1969,

Ain't nothing wrong w/ plugging a bookstore on MM.

Thats hella fresh that there is a BOOK STORE on LEWIS AVENUE in THE do or die.

Hummingbyrd said...

@ beauty in baltimore,

I am glad that you read both.

Thats hella fresh.

However, I do NOT think that people will cross over until the other books are marketed different.

Mainstream negro fiction writers do not wanna go to the beauty salons, stand on 125th street, go to barber shops, go to churchs, and hustle their books.

"They books to good for the smut bookshelf".

I am actually thinking of putting together a design and marketing time to redistribute old school negro books as the new hot fiction.

Why in the f*ck not.

There is a built in market. Right!

I am tired of Black people making MORAL arguments about economic issues.

mark said...

Yo Mrs. Fierce hot ass post. I have not read any of the street lit but like one of your other commentators said if it gets black people reading Im all for it.
Also keep this in mind between street lit and blogs, black folk will soon start developing even more writers who are the Michael Jordan equivalent.

As a straight black man I long for the day when brothas standing on the corners wearing dorags are discussing the latest Bernice McFadden, Walter Moseley or Mrs. Fierce books. Although I dont approve of some lifestyles of the thugs, drug dealers, ect I still would long for the day when you can have a discussion with these cats the way you would a movie.
Hot ass post Mrs. Fierce.

Miz JJ said...

I have mixed feeling about street lit. It gets people reading, but the stuff they're reading is crappy writing and is reinforcing negative stereotypes. It's like reading BET. I don't read street lit because I find it boring and predictable. Rarely are they able to surprise with their plot and I can usually tell the author is getting bored because they rush an ending. Interesting post.

Hummingbyrd said...

@ Mark,

I know I have a plat post when I get new folks AND the regulars posting.

Thank you for stoping by.

Hood lit is a jump off.

Becoming a reader involves cultivation.

Nick Chiles reminds me of one more negro criticizing, "IN PUBLIC" something that poor black people do, with any analysis or solutions.

I think that will be the name of my sh*t. (Analysis and solutions).

Becoming an avid reader does not happen on accident or through f_cking osmosis.

When you criticize what a reader reads, yo might as well talk about her momma.


Its that simple.

Hummingbyrd said...

@ ms jj,

Thank you for stopping by.

So many readers, such little time.

I LAUGHED out loud when I read your post because BET does have a company that publishes negro fiction under, Arabesque, if I am not mistaken.

It may not be hood lit but it is action/ romance lite, typically placed in urban settings.

Ya Boy J!!! said...

street lit isnt that hot. donald goines already had it on lock in the 70's. his books are straight, but very predictable and not really all the exciting in my opinion, but maybe i need to read more books by him, ive only read 2 titles. but the people that write these are no different than rappers that continue to rap or write about the same things, never really going outside the box. if some of these authors had a little more wit and serious humor, borderline woody allen, it probably could set some precedents.


ive been around, quit my job in ny, cause my boss is real 2 faced, but still working on the music thing. hittin up a wu tang concert tonight, should be hot. your recent posts been real spicy, you definetly put the right amount of adobo on it cause ive been eatin up. just to busy to comment cause my boss didnt like me surfing on the net. Guess what. FUCK HER!!! Im gettin paid right now to talk to you. hahaha. great post. good work champ


Hummingbyrd said...


You going to the concert?

F________CK YOUUUUUUU!. Like Redman.
Ain't it $50.

Let me borrow $10, I just moved.

I been wondering where you at.

Regarding the street lit, its economics.

Reading is intimate, personal, something that you can do almost anywhere, provided you have lights.

It was very affriming when I read "There Eyes were Watching God" because I finally found people who SPEAK THE WAY MY MOMMA DOES, in a book.

Folks reading hood lit, like the stories of n*ggas coming up, hood rats, comin' up, beatin' the odds.

If it isn't their story, its they momma story, their brother story or their cousin story.

I had a boss like that for two days this summer.

How you gon' keep a bloggerreader or writer of the innernet.

She ain't know this our crack.


Take pictures tonight and give Ghost & Rae my love.

-white peaches

J!!! said...

word, ill take pics, but how would i be able to send you the pics, email???? you know rae and ghost?? HAHAHAHHA

your right blogs are crack, especially yours, its got a nigga od'in hahaha. she wanted to show me what i was looking at on the net to prove what i was doing, even tho i knew what i was doing. and she basically printed out your whole site. im like IDIOT. i wonder if she read it.

anyway, keep the posts coming.

ill holla

-Swedish fish

Miss Ahmad said...

okay i'm know i'm late on this one but you know i still got an opinion.

First off street lit marginalizes our culture, in more ways than i will probably be able to list on this blog.

saying that it's good our kids are reading is like trying to convince me that kool aid and big macs are nutritous.


from the same people who made your daughters wanna have bracelet sex parties, and then give them free abortions while they test them for a disease called AIDS come a new genre of literature called street lit.

well it ain't new and while brothers like paul beatty are on the serious grind with joints like Hokum, white girls get book deals to tell our stories.

Welcome to Hollywood, check the list of writers on your favorite Black TV show and tell me how many of 'em have last names like horowitz!

Hummingbyrd said...

@ Ms. Ahmad.

Thank you for bringing up the economic aspect of this instead of focusing on the moral.

I am willing to conceed that yes, many of the books are as nutricious as a Happy meal, however, the fact that the young people ARE drawn to it cannot be minimized.

The fact that they see themselves in the stories cannot be trivialized.

I see the literature as a segue to engaging them, not as an opportunity to be derisive.

Think about it, as someone that loves hip hop as much as I do, many of the same arguements that people make about hip hop are being made about hood literature.

Hummingbyrd said...

@ J.. blog gettin' niggas in trouble...

She printed it out.

Hellllllls naw.



Thats deep.

Why is she micromanaging?

I have been reading this book about working with idiotas.

Son malo.


Nawwww...I don't know, know them Wu cats,
but I allways treat artist like we long lost friends.

IT guess its just how I rock:)

Xavier said...

I'm adding you to my links!

Hummingbyrd said...

Why thank you Xavier.

-mz. f

C-Dawg said...

I found your blog by accident and I was shocked at all the conclusions you've leapt to in your criticism of this author and her book. Before slamming her about her book, you should over come some of your own biases. First of all, you leapt to racial stereo-typing based on a photo you found of her on the internet.
Interpretation of your impression of the author:
i. You make assumptions on people based on their outward appearance. That sounds an awful lot like prejudice. Wait... is that not the definition of prejudice?
ii. You make the assumption based upon her photo that she can have no experience with crime or the drug trade prior to moving to Brooklyn.
Sobering thought # 1:
There are other cities in the world. Most of them have drug problems. East Vancouver, Tokyo, Mexico City, Berlin. These are all cities with similar problems with the drug trade. Therefore this novel can be equally applicable and of interest to the people who live there, regardless of race.

Interpretation of the title of this entry in your blog:
i. white folks have no right to write urban Lit because they are in no way exposed to urban life. White people do not live in urban settings. Heck, Berlin is nothing but suburbs; Vancouver is actually a farming city. Hmm, maybe Mexico City is actually just a big camp ground. They certainly aren't urban settings populated by people of various races, including, yes, white people!
Translation: Assumptions such as the ones you are making are horribly naive and ignorant.
Final sobering thought: Believing that white people can not relate to, or contribute to urban lit is racist. Period. Or perhaps you choose to believe that different cultures should exist completely separate from each other, and that they have no influence on each other. Based upon your blog, I'd say you have pretty strong pre-convictions of white-people. Maybe it is just easier to lump them all together into one category so you can make sweeping conclusions about them in general. Whatever it is, I think you should broaden you perspective.

Hummingbyrd said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hummingbyrd said...


Glad you could stop by.

I find it interesting that you relied on critizing "my ignorance" instead of the actual text that I wrote.

There are a few things that I need to clarify for you.

A. I took issue with the language used in her bio on Simon and Schuster's website.

"Allison van Diepen is a high school teacher who is often mistaken for a student. She spent three and a half years teaching at one of Brooklyn's most dangerous public high schools.This is her first novel."

Below I have pasted info from her myspace page.

"Hey! I'm a writer and a high school teacher. I write edgy urban teen fiction. My first book, STREET PHARM, came out on July 11, 2006. The idea for the book came to me while I was teaching high school in Brooklyn. I'm now back in Canada, teaching at an alternative school and working on more teen books."

i. What do you think was the intent of mentioning that she taught at one of the most dangerous high schools in BK?
ii. Do you think that this perpetuates sterotypes about Brooklyn and about brown and black people?

iii. While the site mentions that she is Canadian, it does not mention anything else about her backround, hence my statment about her teaching in the hood as evidence of her hood credibility.

iv. I never said that she was unqualified to write what she wrote.

However, the bio COULD have said that she taught in brooklyn, the grade that she taught, the fact that she enjoyed it. The fact that she wanted to inspire her students. Or even that teaching drove her crazy.

But no.

It mentions that she taught in one of the MOST DANGEROUS high schools in BK.

D. I never said that the hood et al. is the domain of only black/brown people. Besides if you been to the hoods in BK lately, you will see they as diverse as ever. D-boys, yuppies, Carribean Grandma's, Hasidic jewish families, transplanted hipsters from Kansas, all chillen' together in Williamsburg/Harlem/Redhook/Dumbo. You get the picture.

Nor did I say that she did not have the credibility to write her book.

i. However, if she writes a book, as a white woman, about a drug dealer who inherits his business from his father.
If she states that she wrote the book because she wanted to appeal to them her former students.

My question then becomes,why not write about what it means to be a white teacher in the hood?

Why not write about how she coped day to day teaching a "dangerous high school in Brooklyn"?

Why didn't she write about what furstrated her, what gave her joy and what made her cry at the end of the day?

And if she does not write about that topic, I figure it could be at least mentioned in the bio.

My issue is with the bio and with the sterotypes it perpetuates.

And trust it is duely noted that you HAD NO COMMENT about the HOOD lit vs. The black cannon.

~ mz. fierce

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