I agree that most of Kevin's comments revolved around aesthetics, and
were based on actual books, which was why I mentioned his name (as
someone building from specific evidence). However, even he expanded to
social issues in his comments on the implications of the ubiquity of
drug dealers in the genre. At which point I mentioned the mixed
response to blaxploitation films in the '70s, even within black circles:
Was Superfly, for instance, an heir to folkloric bad black men like
Stagger Lee or a drug dealer being glorified? And even if he is nothing
but the latter, is cheering a coke dealer (or pimp) in a movie the same
as condoning real ones (for that matter, does wanting Parker to get away
mean a reader is soft on real bank robbers?). In other words, the same
debate that revolves around gangsta rap.
Still, my comments on generalizations referred more to those who
responded to Kevin who admitted to basing their dismissals on the covers
in the urban section of Borders or B&N. I agree, those are some pretty
sleazy and/or nasty covers. But if I based my reading on what I thought
of cover artwork, I never would have read anything from Dennis McMillan.
You're right to call me on cultural context, though. In fact that's the
whole appeal of crime fiction for me, safely dipping into a whole other
world. How boring it would be if we limited ourselves to reading
variations on our own experience. For example, and off the subject,
I've been fascinated by several YA novels I've read lately. And boy am
I not anywhere near the target demographic for them.
As for specific recommendations, it may not officially be urban fiction,
came out before the label, but I really can't recommend Jess Mowry's Way
Past Cool enough. It's about a small group of kids just trying to do
what they can to make life liveable on their block of Oakland.
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