Do You Know Them?
by Deatri King-Bey
Gangsta-lit, ghetto fiction, hip-hop lit, street fiction, street lit, urban pulp fiction—whatever you call these plots filled with pimps, prostitutes, drugs, violence, and gratuitous sex, they’re bringing in new readers by the thousands. Readers who are starving for rush of excitement from the streets. Debates rage! From one side we have those who believe anything that draws in new readers is a positive.
Readers tend to grow in what they read, thus grow in many other ways. On the other side we have those, such as Yolanda Young, author of On Our Way To Beautiful, who in a recent issue of USA TODAY had this to say about gangsta lit: “Reading literature is important because it expands one’s vocabulary, perspective and intellectual capacity. And though some might argue that any reading is better than none, the reader ingests poison when metaphor and imagery are replaced with sex, violence and expletives.”
Then there are folks who are smack dab in the middle, such as myself. I see both sides of the argument and agree and disagree with both sides on many points. We could circle this issue until the sun rotates around the earth and still not agree.
Let’s talk image for a few moments. Just like gangsta rappers, many street lit authors strive for a harsh, streetwise appearance. They play-up any time they’ve spent in jail, in gangs, living an illegal lifestyle. This gives their books more street-credibility and quite often stirs up the press—and we all know that any press is good press. But are these authors only about the drama-filled lives they write about. A few months back, I came across a blog that dogged out this book titled Dyme Hit List by Curtis Alcutt. I personally categorize his book as more of an erotic tale than street tale, but that’s just my opinion. This blogger was on him for everything from the spelling of dyme (dime) to the abundance of sex throughout the novel.
I guess what caught me about this particular post was the author not only gave her opinion of the novel, but also of Mr. Alcutt. An opinion based on the book and the “image” she’d made of him in her mind. Blogs are basically on-line journals where you allow others to read and comment on your musings. So her expressing her opinion was not a big deal, but she fell into the trap many of us fall into. The novel does not create the author; the author creates the novel. We get caught up from time to time, and the characters become real for us—which is a good thing from an author’s point of view—but Teri Woods is not hanging out at Dutch’s house (smile). She is a businesswoman who also writes fiction novels. Zane isn’t…well you get the picture.
Back to Curtis Alcutt and his smut-filled mind—just kidding. Seriously though, what did the author of the blog miss because she’d jumped to conclusions? She missed the fact that Curtis Alcutt co-founder of the non-profit organization WriteWay2Freedom, a non-profit organization that conducts workshops for aspiring authors, offers disadvantaged children an alternative to violence through books.
Gangsta-lit, ghetto fiction, hip-hop lit, street fiction, street lit, urban pulp fiction—whatever you call these plots filled with pimps, prostitutes, drugs, violence, and gratuitous sex, they’re bringing in new readers by the thousands. Readers who are starving for rush of excitement from the streets. Debates rage! No matter what side you fall on the issues, remember the authors are offering a form of entertainment. Do you really know the authors?
Deatri King-Bey is the author of Caught Up, Beauty and the Beast, Ebony Angel and Whisper Something Sweet, you can visit her website at: www.deewrites.com
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