Re: RARA-AVIS: On Post 9/11 Noir

Date: 01 Jul 2005

Vincent wrote:

"Those factors seem to be the spur to increasing wave of "street lit" authors. The emerging genre, which seems to gain some respect now that white-owned publishers are picking up some of the bestselling authors, seeks to make sense of black ghetto life."

I've been wanting to check out some of this recent street lit, but I wasn't sure where to start. Can you recommend some titles and/or authors?

"The stories about drugs, prostitution, violence and prison are an indication for a style of novel that is more authentic to the African American mass culture, . . ."

However, I've got to quibble with this claim of authenticity (even beyond my quibbles with the whole myth of authenticity). While it may be "authentic" to some, even many, African Americans, I find the idea that there is one true African American experience very troublesome. When you figure that at least half of African Americans are middle class or higher, this concept starts to crumble. And you don't have to look very hard to see the intra-race, often inter-class, debate over African American culture, at least as far back as the Harlem Renaissance. It recently made headlines with Bill Cosby's remarks about poor Blacks, but his remarks were part of a long tradition, in many ways updating the WEB Dubois/George Washington Carver debate. For most of its history, hip hop has been a focus of and platform for this debate. And I wouldn't be surprised if street lit prompts similar divides. I do know that the shortlived Syndicate books, which planned to wrap hip hop soundtrack CDs with the books, caused controversy, with some claiming it was more glamorization of the street, while they countered it would get kids interested in reading (gotta argue it's good for you in Puritanical America -- just being entertaining ain't good enough).


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