Urban Lit is Literature
Urban lit writers are always viewed and oftentimes perceived by other writers as if literature is an isolated art form devoid of artistic value and therefore can only be transmitted to the masses through their voices only. How and when did their interpretation of what literature is become the Holy Grail? Literature is the art of written works. It is the work of one’s creative imagination which intertwines and meshes poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction. We read literature because it correlates with our spoken language, people, culture, and tradition. With that said, is it not fair then to write and tell stories beyond the realm of one’s imagination and life experiences that so many people have lived or heard of? What is wrong with maximizing the depth and extensiveness of literature through the urban lit medium?
Instead of the constant deleterious, toxic, and malicious attack that the genre has undergone since it has grown into a multi-million dollar business. Those that despise the genre should understand that a large majority of the stories are basically what one would see at the movies. Are people imitating and acting like “Nino Brown, Scarface, Al Capone, and so many other criminal and volatile elements that they see in the movies? No! Absolutely not! Furthermore, there is a direct correlation between gangsters/thug movies, and some urban lit novels, and that is you won’t find a hero or a role model for your child. What you will realize rather quickly is that the protagonist usually ends up in jail or the cemetery because he or she followed a destructive path. Is not that something one can learn from instead of blasting the genre and saying it does not contribute to the betterment of literature or our community? In my opinion it does. It is a form of Scared Straight. It is a known fact that a vast majority of inner city/urban youths are reading more than ever. What they are reading mirrors a lot of what they see on a daily basis and having access to these books that speaks their language gives them an opportunity to make better life choices, instead of perhaps making a decision they might regret for the rest of their lives. Thus, it is an insult to the writers of urban lit and their readers to assume they would subscribe to an endangering lifestyle.
Certainly, one can make the argument and say what about those who have taken the volatile, criminal, drug dealing, and misogynist approach. My response would be that those who took that path chose to do so on their own accord. It had nothing to do with any urban lit book that was ever written. Their decision was a personal choice.
Moreover, I have never come across an article, book, magazine, newspaper or news telecast that showed an urban lit writer criticizing, degrading or for that matter lashing out at any other genre of writing. The majority of writers write from their experiences and it would be unfair for writers who have been subjugated to a certain environment, knowledge, and lifestyle to write something relating to that which will not have an impact on one’s immediate surroundings. Perhaps, as they grow as writers, mature and develop their craft they will come out of their comfort zone and write about other issues as well as in other genre’s; and that’s if they choose to do so. Some of us will gravitate to it, especially if we have experienced or know someone who has led such lives. Others may gravitate towards it because it was written well; and in the same breath, there will be those who will find it disgusting and repulsive.
Surely, some of the books in urban lit could be better written and edited. The same can be said of all genres of writing. We cannot limit ourselves when it comes to our “stories” because it is endless, ever changing and filled with a vast array of beginnings and endings. Some will make you laugh, cry, understand, relate, and will be the life changer that will motivate you to be the best that you can possibly be. So why should we not expect to read another side of our plights, failures, redemptions and victories? As writers, we should all admire, love and respect what we do as griots because we know the hard work it takes and the love that we put into what we bring to life. In the end, literature is the tool that introduces us to different world experiences. It is the paradigm that no matter how analytical and belittling one behaves in analyzing literature, it will remain artistic and even when deemed ugly; its beauty will stand out.