Sunday afternoon in Harlem, and as churchgoers spill out on to the pavement in their Sunday best, street vendors hawk their wares. Among the stalls displaying mixtapes, incense and T-shirts is a table of neatly laid-out books whose covers contain images of rolled dice, women in tight video-vixen dresses and black boys in hooded tops. Then there are the titles: Triangle of Sins; Alibi and Midnight: A Gangster Love Story; Diary of a Street Diva; No Disrespect. On every other block, this scene is repeated, and two authors’ names repeatedly jump out at you: Teri Woods and Sister Souljah.
Open up a Woods book or any other from this genre and it’s clear that they’re not for the fainthearted. The “n word” makes a frequent appearance, the opening pages kick off with lines such as “Pop, pop, pop … Gun shots?”, the characters sell drugs on the street corner and carry guns as if it’s going out of style.
Sorry to blast the long post, but it’s an important discussion.
I had to read Black, by Tracy Brown, for my YA class a couple years ago. It was not an easy read (particularly the troubling morals of the story and the rampant lack of copyediting), but it has helped make me a crusader for stocking these books in the library. We are asked for them all the time, and we don’t have a master list or a label (like we do for romance and sci fi/fantasy), so I created a pathfinder that is currently our most popular.
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