Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Future of Street Lit

Will it disappear as it enters the mainstream?

From a piece in the Observer...

The genre, with its allegiance to all-or-nothing street politics and a firebrand code of ethics, was initially fostered by a cadre of authors like Ms. Clark who had actually lived the lives they narrated on the page.

Now that street lit seems poised to jump from the ghetto into the mainstream, it’s an open question whether that authenticity can survive. A major record label has snapped up several of the most popular authors, including Ms. Clark. Reality stars are co-authoring books.

Suddenly, a genre that built its cachet in the hearts and minds of voracious readers is wondering if it’s losing its soul.

And then there are academics like the writer Nick Chiles, who struggle with the notion that street lit is recognized as belonging to the proud, up-you-mighty-race tradition of the African-American literary canon. “Is street fiction some passing fad, or does it represent our future?” Mr. Chiles asked in The New York Times in 2006. “It’s depressing,” he continued, “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.”

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