Sunday, June 04, 2006
The Miseducation of the Negro
Sometimes, I find myself making the same mistakes. For example, whenever I go to the African-American interest section of bookstores, I get disgusted by the abundance of 'street literature' -- books about gangstas, pimps and the drug trade. I visited this section again recently at Borders when I found a book in that genre called 'I Shot Ya, M***F***.'
That's not the name of the book, but the title was pretty offensive. I'm not printing the name of the book because I don't want to give it anymore attention than it deserves. On the back cover, the author wrote, ''this is about a fly n___, who had all the money, b____es and clothes that a n_____ could want. Then he tried to go against Big Tony. And that was the end of life for that n____.' I flipped through a couple of pages of the book and I stumbled upon a love scene. I use the word 'love' loosely. It went as follows: 'I liked to f*** and so did she. I stuck my d*** in her dripping p*** and she laughed.' (I'd like to say I'm exaggerating here, but I'm not)
Books like this are especially troubling for aspiring writers like me. I dread the day when I meet with some editor who criticizes my work for not being 'black' or 'street' enough, as if the words were interchangeable. I hate going to bookstores where I see a ton of Toni Morrison and Alice Walker's novels line the shelves, while novels like 'Pimp that Ho' and 'Shoot that B***' sell out almost as quickly as they are published. These days, street lit is saturating the black fiction market.
I shouldn't lump them all in the same category, since I have been a fan of some street lit. Sister Souljah's 'The Coldest Winter Ever' was a really good book and I did like some of Donald Goines work as well. But what sets their work apart from all the reformed thugs writing today's crop of street tales, is the overall message. Neither writer glorifies drugs and violence, nor shows it as the only way of life for black people. They show the reality of these poor choices and demonstrate how their characters suffer as a result. I beg the author of 'I Shot Ya, M***F***' to read something by Souljah or Goines before picking up his pen again.