The Rise of Urban Fiction

October 2005
by Jenny McCune

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Black urban fiction has been
around for the last three or four years, as W. Paul Coates observes. But lately
it’s started to hit the mainstream. Coates, who is the director of Black
Classic Press and a PMA board member, has watched as self-published fiction
marketed solely by word of mouth and sold on street corners in minority
neighborhoods began selling enough copies to attract the attention of big book
publishers, which are now busily signing on urban fiction writers and picking
up rights from smaller publishers of books in the genre.

The label black urban
fiction—also known as street, hip-hop, ghetto lit, or ghetto
fiction—is ascribed to the subset of black fiction associated with the
streets. Don’t think Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale,
or Alice Walker’s Color
Purple. Instead, think of the literary equivalent of rap or
hip-hop.

Last year, Simon & Schuster
reportedly signed two prominent writers of the genre—Vickie Stringer and
Shannon Holmes—to “six-figure” deals, according to an article posted on
Stringer and Shannon’s Triple Crown Publishing site. In August of this year,
St. Martin’s published Hoodlum
by K’wan Foye under its Griffin imprint. And at this writing, Barnes &
Noble has reported that sales of black fiction, and particularly black urban
fiction, are up.

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