Urban fiction is a genre of African-American literature that depicts the trials and tribulations that people of color, particularly Black folks that live in the inner city, have to wrestle with on a regular basis. This genre also goes by the name of “street lit” or “hood books”; the author is usually someone who has been in the streets themselves and has decided to tell their stories through literature. Writers such as Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines are known by many as the founders of urban fiction and are well respected by many writers to this very day. This genre was what personally made me fall in love with reading and eventually start writing and publishing stories of my own. I want to make the case for high schools and colleges to work with urban fiction authors and include their work as part of their curriculum.
I personally tried to do this with my former high school The Eagle Academy for Young Men in the Bronx back in 2012 with my self-publishing debut “By Any Means”. My intentions were to have it included in the curriculum for the 12th graders; I left a copy of the book with Principal Johnathon Foy and was set to meet with him two weeks later. When I finally met with him he told me that my book was too realistic for the students due to its explicit language, sexual content and violence. Additionally, the fact that one of my teachers accused me of using her name for one of my characters made it clear that my book wouldn’t be included in the curriculum for the school. It was unfortunate that it couldn’t be accomplished, but I would later have my books put into Monroe College’s library.
The reasoning behind having urban fiction in high schools and colleges is to illustrate to students how the current landscape and society’s flaws impact and shape people of color’s lives. In regards to high school students, the literature can be used to showcase to them how street life may not be the route in which they ought to travel. In regards to college students, it can be used to showcase the societal issues that need to be addressed and give them insight on what solutions are needed to solve these problems. If students are continuously forced to read other genres of literature, both in high school and college, I think it will elevate the way in which they view not just their communities but their own personal lives and help mold their views on life in general. I don’t see the harm in reading books from authors such as myself, Silk White, Wahida Clark, K’wan, Al-Sadiq Banks, and many others. The point of reading is to help one tap into their imagination, to take something from the literary work and apply it to their own lives to help benefit society in the long run. Undoubtedly, reading urban fiction does just that.