I’m a bit delayed in posting this. I was so fired up when I began the draft of this post a couple weeks ago, so I made myself put it in draft purgatory until I could clearly express myself without resorting to name calling, insults and profanity. The title of this post can’t get any plainer, tbh. As you should know by now, I am a fervent supporter of Black writers. I live and breathe for their words. I am inspired by and of them. I still get a little giddy when an author that I love follows me on Twitter. I’m consistently reading and soaking up works by authors who look like me and have had similar life experiences so when I run across an article asking What Happened to Black Literature, I take it personally.
“Not a damn thing!” is my initial response. This article was tweeted into my timeline by one of my fellow book slores and we (along with others) kindly took to the comments to let the author know that not only is Black Literature (::sigh:: at this nomenclature, but that’s a fight for another post) alive & kicking, but it’s evolving and in need of support to help it do well. In the past few years, I’ve been working closely with some local literature festivals and the one thing I can’t help but notice is the lack of faces of color on this circuit. It frustrates me because there are so many out there writing works that are universal and amazing. People get stuck on this whole “it was written by a Black person, so it must be written for Black people” thing and it’s a never ending cycle of malarkey.
Couple days later, I see a post from Huffington Post Books called “20 Books That Every African American Should Read“. This one was apparently a Reader’s Choice type dealie that was voted on by HPB readers. I clicked through to see what the people were choosing and found myself impressed by a great number of books on the list until I got to one in particular, The Coldest Winter Ever. Pretty sure I nearly strained my eyes outta their sockets with the force of my side eye. I tried to give that book a chance, but even reading it as a teen, I was never really moved by it. Perhaps because my middle-class suburban upbringing, I could not find it relatable nor believable.
Which brings me to this next article that was posted within the same time period, It Might Not Be The Color Purple, But There’s Nothing Wrong with Black Street Lit. At first I was like, Teddy Riley’s mid 90s R&B is writing books now? But that was just my brain playing tricks on me and my desire to really hear “No Diggity” for some reason. In this article, the author makes a convincing argument for Street or Urban Lit. I completely get what she’s saying and was riding with her until I got to the last paragraph. I felt it was unnecessarily throwing shade at those who prefer not to read this type of stuff. In my experience (& yes I have read a little bit of Street Lit), these books tend to not be well written and thinly plotted. Again, it’s personal preference, but I prefer a story that’s a bit meatier.
I’m rambling, so let me try to bring this back a little bit. Bottom line is this, there’s no state of emergency in Black Literature. It’s out there in spades, likely not being as heavily promoted by works from their non-PoC counterparts. Do the work and you will find what you’re looking for and more.