A new type of fiction is flying off the shelves at libraries and bookstores - these books are about African-American hustlers, prostitutes, gangsters, drug dealers and hit men. This new genre is sometimes called "urban" or "street" fiction; sometimes it's "hip-hop." However, as Boston Globe staff writer Vanessa Jones put it, "Urban books are nothing new. The godfathers of the genre, Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim, brought their cult stories about gangsters, pimps, and drug dealers to the public in the 70's. Then Sister Souljah's 1999 book, The Coldest Winter Ever hooked readers with a gripping tale about the spoiled daughter of a drug kingpin who becomes involved in that world after the arrest of her father." The paperback version has sold almost 400,000 copies in the past 3 years, and it rarely sits on library shelves long enough to cool off. Its success has recently been followed by a new generation of writers who tell stories that reflect the gritty urban experiences of many African Americans.
Controversial content, yes, but judging by their popularity, these books have definitely lit a spark for a certain group of readers. Here is a list of authors representative of the genre. Here is a list of authors representative of the genre.
Prepared by the Nashville Public Library staff, 2011