The Urban Teen Source
by Jarold Imes
I thought about my defense of this street/urban/hip-hop genre over the past few years. Thought about the authors I’ve met and continue to meet. I thought about some of the editors who continue to drop gems in my ear in spite of the fact that I’m not signed to their publishing houses. Something Noire recently told me has really stuck to my mind. Sat in my spirit for a minute and actually got me to thinking about some of the things I have said, done and most importantly, where I want to be in the next ten years of my literary career. I’ve thought about my past and some of the good and bad I’ve done.
So I officially announce that I have chosen to chill from the adult street/urban/hip-hop genre for a minute. After all, I’ve spent just as much time if not more arguing for and defending this genre as I have promoting the books I’ve written for this genre. I want to do something different if you don’t mind.
First, I went back to the first two books I published, NEVER TOO MUCH & THE RHYME, THE STORY N ME. I remembered how twelve and thirteen year olds would walk up to me seeking my autograph and telling me how they could relate to the characters in my books and that they wished the books were written for them. So as part of my teen series, I have revamped, split up and refurbished many of the stories that appeared in those two books. Then I found some books I had published online for several companies that never saw print (although I promised my readers at one site they would be in print and feel bad that I didn’t get to make that a reality at the time).
Next, I came up with the concept for OurTeenVoices.com. I interview up to three authors and promote their books as well as other books for readers 10 – 17. Although I intended for this publication to be a monthly feature… I had to scale back to bi-monthly temporarily so I could also focus on the teen books I am writing and publishing.
Now, I have asked the editors of UrbanBookSource.com to create a special column in their magazine for Young Adult Readers. As an educator, I can confirm that at least 25% of the readers of the street/urban/hip-hop genre are between the ages of 10 – 16. While I love this genre and will always feel some connection to it, I do feel the urge and the responsibility to promote and encourage authors and teachers to promote the new wave of Young Adult fiction for African American teens. It is no secret that it takes MORE money to promote a teen series than it does a book for adults. Also, up until the last year, it has been harder for a black African American teen writer to get a deal than it has for a white one.
Non African American teens enjoy series like GOSSIP GIRLS, A-TEEN, THE IT GIRL, THE PRINCESS DIARIES, SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS and other series. There weren’t that many books by African Americans until now. L. Divine’s DRAMA HIGH series is getting a lot of praise as well as KaShamba Williams’s PLATINUM TEEN series is continuing to garner awards. Harlequin Enterprises is investing an estimated half a million in the nurturing, creation and support of KimaniTru, which will publish young adult titles for African American teens and there are rumors that several other publishing houses will eventually follow suit.
So where do I fit into all of this? I hope as one of the few African American male writers committed to this genre, I can serve as a voice for young African American men everywhere. I hope that through my HOLD ON BE STRONG teen series, I can bring our issues to the forefront and begin conversations that are long overdue. I also hope to publish thought provoking as well as some controversial teen fiction so that adults will reinvest and have hope in our kids again.
In closing, it would not be right if I ended this article without giving you just a partial list of books you could be supporting now. I’m taking it a step further that started with my first book signing in February to showcase and support as many African American YA authors as I can, regardless of who they are published by, and I publicly thank Katina King for the books and promo material she gave me for RIDE WIT’ ME.
Partial List of Books to Celebrate and Share with Your Teens:
Harlem Summer – Walter Dean Myers (Scholastic)
Jarold Imes is a contributing writer for The Urban Book Source and author of Hold on Be Strong; he is the creator of online soap opera: Hold on Be Strong (www.holdonbestrong.com), can emails to:email@example.com
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