Years ago during the height of Terry Macmillan’s “Waiting to Exhale” popularity I used to be an exclusive reader and lover of “Black” books. I would greedily scour the African American section of bookstores and libraries looking for the next great thing that I would be reading. For months all I would read were books that soon seemed to be repeats of themselves:
The main female character (MFC) was burned by love, heart of gold just caught up in some bad situation.
The main male character (MMC) was also burned by love; he either had baby mama drama, hootchie mama drama or something in between.
The main characters would also have best friends. The MFC’s best friend would either be the stereotypical hand on her hip, don’t need no man, can’t stand men, type or the love ’em too much and be a doormat type who would always, always interfere with the relationship of MFC.
MMC’s best friend would be some loser who would inevitably degrade some woman, cross his best friend, be henpecked by some woman or just such a caricature that he was almost cartoony.
The plots would either be something so absurd that halfway through I would be able to correctly predict the ending or would just be complete nonsense. Then there was the editing. Ugh! I realize that my blog has glaring spelling and grammar issues but dang! Some of these books would seem like they were the writer’s roughest draft just stapled and bound, and presented to the public. So I switched genres declaring that I would never read ‘those’ books again.
Fast forwards a few years and I am hooked once again. I have discovered that like other genres, Street lit, Urban books and the like have hits and misses. Some are really good and some get the ghost cheer: Boo! Unfortunately, unlike other genres these so called “Black Books” are often overlooked and not given a second chance because people tend to think that they perpetuate a stereotype, promote a gangster lifestyle and glorify drugs. And, to speak for myself, the books would seem so negative that it was almost a must to separate myself from the life of Pookie and ‘nem*
K’wan stayed and chatted and signed books for all of us!
When Vanessa asked me to be in her book group I was just flattered to be thought of as a colleague. When I found out that we were reading Street Lit, I thought I would just roll with it; as one of two I am often asked about “our Books” and I felt like I needed to get out of my rut of fantasy, mystery and wimpy kids.
Again, like some genres I found myself wondering how in the world some folks were published. I pondered who the audience some of the books were and I was exposed to K’wan. K’wan has written and published 13 books, is a motivational speaker and the CEO of Black Dawn Inc. He not only writes, he discovers and encourages up and coming writers to develop their talent and enter into successful writing careers.
My library didn’t have any of his books. Any type of Street lit, Urban lit, novel by popular Black authors unfortunately disappear within weeks of being catalogued so I had to request his book from member libraries. Hoodrat arrived first and after forgetting to take it with me, finishing up my other book and just being a bit intimidated, I picked it up. From the first page I was hooked! I felt like I was in Harlem right along with Rhonda, Yoshi, Billy and Reese as they loved, fought, lived. As I read, I found myself taken by just how wonderful the book was as well as wanting more. The characters seemed so real; they were vividly described and introduced and I found myself literally laughing out loud at some of the scenes or gasping during others.
When the book club met K’wan, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Most authors I have met are regular Joes and Josephines: people who’s job just happens to be putting pen to paper. There have been a few who love themselves but hey, if you don’;t believe in yourself then why should we? K’wan was neither. He was funny, shared himself and made me eager for more. He answered all of our crazy library questions and also shared some freebies from two of his new authors.
A young patron and I have been reading the books together. Eagerly she comes in to ask me about my progress and we discuss the characters. I am so happy to have been introduced to his works. Due to my past prejudice as well as my own stubbornness I would have missed a fantastic author, a fabulous series and an opportunity to connect with a patron.
Not hood but totally digging it,
*I’ve not read a book about anyone named Pookie but that seemed like a perfect example