I was looking forward to attending this PLA sponsored session at ALA and definitely wasn’t disappointed. I was familiar with some of the faces of the panelists (authors and librarians) but not all and walked away with feeling excited on learning more about all the resources they mentioned.
Much of the beginning of the session was focused around a discussion from the panelists on how they define ‘urban fiction’. Several authors were surprised to learn that they were writing what was being referred to as urban fiction as they didn’t necessarily set out to write it. As Kia Dupree said, she wrote what she knew. Some of the definitions from the panelists included:
• The definition itself is constantly morphing
• Stories that take place in urban environments
• Entertaining and fast-paced
• Realistic and escapist
• Subgenres are ‘chicklit’ and ‘streetlit’
• Usually contain direct comments about the system
• Speaks about experiences of people of color
• The genre that ‘gets jiggy’
Several of the authors said that at times the labeling of their work as ‘urban fiction’ was problematic. Author Coe Booth felt that when her books (Tyrell and Kendra) were highlighted in an urban fiction display they were being segregated from other books. While she (and others) said that it’s not a bad thing to include their books in such displays, but not to forget other opportunities such as displays on love and/or relationships as an example of a topic that libraries might frequently celebrate and are a common thread running throughout many urban fiction books.
The presentation was filled with resources and author recommendations. The presentation, panelist names, and some of the links are posted here: http://phatfiction.wikispaces.com/.
Other recommendations for urban fiction from the panelists included:
What Librarians Say About Street Lit (School Library Journal, 2009)
Street Fight: Welcome to the World of Urban Lit (School Library Journal, 2008)
Inner City Teens DO Read (Vanessa J. Morris, 2007)
Urban Grit: A Guide to Street Lit by NYPL Librarian Megan Honig (February 2011)
Favorite authors of the panelists:
Classics such as Native Son, Maggie, Girl of the Streets, and books by Dickens
YA Literature Review (Simmons College)