I can't speak for every Black author on the planet, but I know I am not alone when I admit my disgust and dismay at the popularity of ghetto fiction (aka, Urban Lit). It bothers me that stories glorifying sex, drugs, violence and a moral code that would shock a cockroach, are being categorized as Black Literature alongside such greats as Toni Morrison and Alice Walker. Sadly, I don't know where to direct my anger; at the authors producing (notice I didn't' say writing) this schlock, the readers who pay money to buy the schlock, or the big greedy publishing houses pretending the schlock has merit so they can cash in and get paid. I often wonder if the mostly white publishing industry won't call Ghetto Lit schlock because they're afraid of being called racist. Well I'm Black and I'm saying it out loud, it's SCHLOCK!
But I understand it now. I understand why books like The Connection: Murder, Money, Sex, And a Warehouse Full of Cocaine by S.W. Smith are bestsellers. And I understand why there isn't more public outrage at their position in society as Black Literature. I realize it has to do with the music. You know, Black Music. Music that falls under the title of Hip/Hop and usually is code for music Black people listen to and White teenagers gobble up like candy. You know what I'm talking about. Well, much of this Black music, and I'm not saying all of it, is about as high quality as The Connection....So many songs have lyrics that glorify sex, drugs, violence and a moral code that would shock a cockroach, and the people singing these songs act like they're living the life of which they sing. Why wouldn't the publishing industry and the world at large make the logical leap that if we like to hear it in our music, we're going to like it in our books. And of course in our movies and TV Shows etc. Talk about Racist! It's because the Publishing Industry expects us to be happy with schlock that they give us schlock.
I may be a fascist but I don't think there is a need for Ghetto Lit or Music for that matter that glorifies a reprehensible lifestyle. I say build a bonfire and burn it all. Don't get me wrong, all artists create from experience and there are plenty of amazing books (and songs) that detail the most horrific ghetto lives, but there is no glory. It is what it is. The glory comes from surviving. I'm remembering Push by Sapphire.
Thank God there are more people in positions of power in the Publishing world who have higher expectations of Writers of Color. People like Colin Channer who started the Calabash Literary Festival and Malaika Adero who created the UpSouth Organization to give writers of color a platform to be praised and glorified. If you happen to be in New York City this weekend, check out the UpSouth Festival and see what Colored folks can create with words and music besides schlock.
And that's all she wrote.