Street Lit: Representing the Urban Landscape

Street Lit: Representing the Urban Landscape
Publisher: Scarecrow Press

Editor: Keenan Norris

“First… there is a young, mass, black reading audience of such size that a black author can write for it exclusively without giving a thought to being highbrow or literary or to crossing-over for whites. Second, the taste of the masses is distinct from, and troubling to, the taste of the elite in large measure because the elite no longer control the direction and purpose of African-American literature; it is now, more than ever, a market-driven literature, rather than an art form patronized and promoted by cultured whites and blacks as it had been in the past. The fact that blacks started two of the publishing houses for these books, Urban Books and Triple Crown, underscores the entrepreneurial, populist nature of this type of race literature: by black people for black people.”—Gerald Early, “What is African-American Literature?”

“Mainstream publishing houses contort themselves to acquire books that glorify wanton sex, drugs and crime. This fiction, known as street-lit or hip-hop fiction, most often reinforces the stereotypical trademarks African Americans have fought hard to overcome.“—Bernice McFadden, “Black Writers in a Ghetto of the Publishing Industry’s Making

You already know the topic and the controversy. We want to go deeper.

Our anthology will assemble a collection of scholarly essays, articles, and interviews about street lit. We seek to build upon the short-form commentaries of Gerald Early, Bernice McFadden, Karen Grigsby-Bates, Kristina Graaff, Mark Reynolds and others, and present a wide-ranging exploration of the topic.

This essay collection goes into more extensive and diverse detail than any critical work on the subject has thus far. Not only will we give voice to the competing sides in the debate around street lit’s artistic validity, but the collection also chronicles street lit’s history as a sub-genre within African-American letters about urban spaces dating back decades, the mechanics of its commercial emergence in the 1990s, and its contribution to current understandings of mass incarceration, poverty and violence in America.

Contributors include NAACP Image Award winner Omar Tyree, National Book Award winner Gerald Early, PEN/Faulkner winner David Bradley, NAACP Image Award, Phillis Wheatley Award and California Book Award nominee Arisa White, Cave Canem fellow Nikia Chaney, Harvard W.E.B. DuBois fellow Jaqueline Lima Santos and fellow Brazilian scholar Ana Lucia Silva Souza, UC Berkeley visiting scholar Bonnie Rhee Andreyeyev, University of Alabama doctoral candidate Kemeshia Randle, Texas Southern faculty Kimberly Fain, University of the District of Columbia’s Dr. Cherrie Ann Turpin, Howard University faculty Dennis Winston, poet Juan Delgado (CSU San Bernardino), novelist deb busman (CSU Monterey), African-American literature instructor Alexandria White, San Jose City College professor and UC Davis doctoral candidate Khalid White and actor/activist Lynel Gardner, among others.

Leave a Reply