Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The appeal of Street Lit

The post written before did not include the link to the previous article in the series. This does a great job of outlining the appeal of street lit!

The Word on Street Lit No. 1
By Rollie Welch, Collection Manager, Cleveland P.L. -- Library Journal, 2/7/2008 9:10:00 AM

Street lit, ghetto books, or urban fiction: no matter what you call this hot genre, its many incarnations seldom remain on library shelves and rack up lengthy reserve lists. For our purposes, we’ll dub it street lit, but what is it about, and why does it appeal especially to younger African American readers? Typical elements include a rags-to-riches theme, references to the hip-hop music industry, profanity, urban slang, erotic sex scenes, criminal activity, or violence that escalates to murder.

But that’s just part of it. Often the story line is circular so that plot points from the novel’s opening pages come into play at the climax. Loyalty to one’s friends and neighborhood is also given high value in street lit, and the characters often forge bonding relationships during their adolescence that become key to survival.

But most important, the story must connect to the "hood," or the streets. The action may move among various lifestyles, but the core value always reverts back to harsh lessons learned in the ghetto.

Most likely, black teen readers relish how many street-lit stories begin with lessons learned during adolescence. They can see themselves in characters who look like them or undergo similar experiences.

Don’t confuse the steamy African American romances published by Kensington’s Dafina line and contemporary "gossip lit" fiction like Tonya Lewis Lee’s Gotham Diaries that revolve around wealthy upper-class black characters for street lit.

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