Urban fiction is also known as street lit or street friction and is set in city landscapes. However, it is defined by the narrative’s content of soci-economic realities and culture of its characters as well as the urban setting. This genre is usually dark in tone with explicit violence, sex and profanity and is commonly drawn from the author’s own experiences. Largely written by African American authors, this genre covers the separation of their particular community and culture and the life experiences of its characters in inner-cities.
Earlier urban literature depicted low-income survivalist realities of city living, these included Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist (1838), Stephen Crane’s Maggie, A Girl of the Streets (1893) and Langston Hughes’ The Ballard of the Landlord (1940). These narratives did not just relay African American or Latino experiences but stories of diverse cultural and ethnic experiences.
In 1999 Sister Souljah’s narrative The Coldest Winter became a bestseller and with Teri Wood’s True to the Game there became a standard for entrepreneurial publishing and distribution of contemporary urban fiction.
Urban fiction has experienced a renaissance from 2000 boasting thousands of titles, which include the new Latino fiction novels. There is also a literary wave of hip-hop fiction and street lit, which take a more literary approach using metaphor, signifying and other literary devices. These books are also used for socially redeeming or classroom capacities, while maintaining love and positive outlooks.
In recent years, some urban fiction authors have joined with hip hop artists such as 50 Cent to further promote the genre by penning the musicians’ real-life stories.
Have you written urban fiction?
Have you read urban fiction?