Street Smart:Urban Fiction inPublic LibrariesInstructor: Vanessa Irvin Morris, M.S.L.S., Ed.D.Sponsor: Public Library AssociationWebinar, 15 May 2013
Goals of this WebinarToday’s Learning Outcomes:•Understand the evolution of street lit as we knowit today•Articulate the difference between urban fiction and streetlit•Refer to established resources for the purpose ofcollection development and readers advisory
Evolution of StreetLit(erature)• First question is: What is street literature about?• Life in city streets• Interactions / Communications• Relationships• Life experiences• Stories about the challenges of urban living for:• Middle- and/or low-income citizens• Immigrants• The Poor• So given these considerations, we can ask:“Where did these stories come from?” “How far backdoes street lit go?” “What’s the earliest traceable storyabout a low-income city dweller and their life experiences?”The earliest known street lit novel happens to be one of the first novelspublished in English!
Evolution of StreetLit(erature)• Defoe, D. (1722). The Fortunes and Misfortunes ofthe Famous Moll Flanders. London: Thomas.• The full, original title of the text says it all:• The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous MollFlanders, &c. Who was Born in Newgate, and during aLife of continud Variety for Threescore Years, besidesher Childhood, was Twelve Year a Whore, five times aWife (whereof once to her own Brother), Twelve Year aThief, Eight Year a Transported Felon in Virginia, at last grewRich, livd Honest, and died a Penitent. Written from her ownMemorandums.• The story is about:• A woman• Born in a London prison• Lived a criminal life• Found redemption• Then died.
Evolution of StreetLit(erature)• Daniel Defoe was one of the first novelists. Robinson Crusoe andMoll Flanders were originally serialized in newspapers.• The newspaper was the original “street literature” in the format ofbroadsides (think of scribes and town criers of yesteryear yelling,“Hear ye! Hear ye!”).• Street literature ephemera show that gritty stories were told:• Romance, Affairs• Community events, Politics• Crimes, Executions• Humor, Weather, Almanac info• The stories via:• Short story• Poetry• Ballads• Prose• Compilation of serialized stories from city newspapers andbroadsides became the novel.
Evolution of StreetLit(erature)• 19thC.: city novels coincided with Europeanimmigration wave to American cities (Dunlap, 1934)• Depicted citizens’ harsh adjustments to city lifewith the following themes:• City plagues and epidemics• Duelling• Alcoholism (Intemperance)• Poverty• Domestic violence• Crime• Religious life• Late 19thC. – early 20thC.: rise of the naturalism movement that exploredcity social conditions and effects• Charles Dickens: Oliver Twist (1834); Tale of Two Cities (1859)• Margaret Lee: A Brooklyn Bachelor (1886)• Jacob Riis’ photographic treatise: How the Other Half Lives (1890)• Stephen Crane: Maggie, A Girl of the Streets (1893)• Frank Norris: McTeague (1899)Small sampling of 19thCentury City Novels•J.T. Irving: The Attorney (1842)•George Lippard: The Quaker City (1844)•George Foster: Celio (1850)•Charles Gayler: Out of the Streets (1869)•Harriett Beecher Stowe: My Wife and I (1871)•Rebecca Harding Davis: A Law Unto Herself(1878)
Evolution of StreetLit(erature)• 20thCentury:• Migration patterns spawns new migrants to cities:• Paul Laurence Dunbar’s novel Sport of the Gods (1908)• Claude McKay: Home to Harlem (1928)• Henry Roth: Call It Sleep (1934)• Harlem Renaissance:• Richard Wright: Native Son (1940)• Chester Himes: If He Hollers Let Him Go (1945)• Anne Petry: The Street (1946)• 1950s-1960s:• Hurbert Selby, Jr.: Last Exit to Brooklyn (1957)• Mario Puzo: The Fortunate Pilgrim (1965)• Claude Brown: Manchild of the Promised Land (1965)• Malcolm X: Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965)• Piri Thomas: Down these Mean Streets (1967)
Evolution of StreetLit(erature)• 1970s Pulp Fiction• Iceberg Slim• Donald Goines• 1970s-1980s: Two worlds collide• Hip Hop (started in 1972: DJ Cool Herc)• The War on Drugs (decl. by Pres. Nixon, 1971)• 1990s: A Street Literature renaissance• Omar Tyree: Flyy Girl (1996)• Sister Souljah: The Coldest Winter Ever (1999)• Teri Woods: True to the Game (1999)• 2000’s: Current day authors• K’wan• Treasure E. Blue• Wahida Clark• Ashley and JaQuavis Coleman
My definition for Street Lit• My original definition:Contemporary Street Literature can be defined as a literarygenre "where the stories, be they fiction or non-fiction,are consistently set in urban, inner-city enclaves. StreetLiterature of yesteryear and today, by and large, depictstales about the daily lives of people living in lowerincome city neighborhoods. This characteristic spanshistorical timelines, varying cultural identifications,linguistic associations, and various format designations."- The Readers Advisory Guide to Street Literature, 2011,p. 2.
My definition for Street Lit• My evolving definition:Contemporary Street Literature can be defined as a literarygenre "where the stories, be they fiction or non-fiction,are consistently set in urban, inner-city enclaves wherecity dwellers experience risky lifestyles that are oftenviolent and/or illegal in nature, for the purpose ofsurvival. Street Literature of yesteryear and today, byand large, depicts dystopian tales about the daily lives ofpeople living in lower income city neighborhoods. Thischaracteristic spans historical timelines, varying culturalidentifications, linguistic associations, and various formatdesignations."
Characteristics of Street Lit• Set in and depicting daily living of low-incomecity residents• Fast paced stories, often with flashbacksequences• Vivid depictions of the inner city environment• poverty• substandard housing• lack of access to civic resources• The street as an interactive stage
Characteristics of Street lit• Female and male identity formation (via intenserelationships, often romantic in nature)• Protagonists are often young adults (common age range 19 – 25)• Navigation of interpersonal relationships• surviving abuse• betrayal in friendships• fantastical revenge plots• Commodification of lifestyles• Surviving street life – overcoming street lifestyle – thechallenge of moving up and away from the streets• Which involves “risk”: Risky behaviors and lifestyles for thepurpose of survival
Characteristics of Street LitThese characteristics are not exclusive. Can blend across genres,such as:Romance Mystery Speculative Fiction Science FictionBlack The Bridge A Wish After Midnight Mind of My Mind(2003) (2003) (2010) (1994)
Latest trends in Street Lit• Hip Hop publishing Street Lit• eBooks and mobile devices
ResourcesCOLLECTION DEVELOPMENT / READERS ADVISORY SOURCES•Boyd, K.C. 2013. Urban Fiction/Street Literature Collection Development forSchool Libraries. Slideshare. Available: http://www.slideshare.net/kcboyd1/street-lit-collection-development-2013-18651891 .•Honig, Megan. 2010. Urban Grit: A Guide to Street Lit. Genreflecting AdvisorySeries. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.•Irvin Morris, Vanessa. 2011. The Readers Advisory Guide to Street Literature. ALAReaders’ Advisory Series. Chicago: ALA Editions.•Irvin Morris, Vanessa. 2009 - . StreetLiterature.com. Blog. Available:http://www.streetliterature.com.•Street Lit Collection Development Resources. 2011. ALA. Wiki. Available: http://wikis.ala.org/professionaltips/index.php?title=Street_Lit_Collection_Development_Resources
ResourcesONLINE REVIEW SOURCES•Saddleback Educational Publishing: Urban Fiction Series for Teens• http://www.sdlback.com/estore/search/•StreetLiterature.com: Bringing You the Word on Street Lit & Urbanity.• http://www.streetliterature.com•StreetFiction.org: Author Interviews, News & Reviews of Urban Books• http://www.streetfiction.org•Urban E-Reads: http://www.urbanereads.com/•Urban Reviews Online.• http://www.urbanreviewsonline.com/search/label/Latest%20Reviews•Urbania: Urban literature and arts magazine.• http://urbaniamag.com/•The Word on Street Lit: Book Reviews from Library Journal.• http://reviews.libraryjournal.com/category/collection-development/african-american-fiction-and-mor/•For more online review resources, see: http://www.streetliterature.com/p/parking-lot.html
ResourcesRESEARCH TEXTS•Gifford, Justin. 2013. Pimping Fictions: African American Crime Literature andthe Untold Story of Black Pulp Publishing. Philadelphia, PA: Temple UniversityPress.•Ratner, Andrew. 2009. Street Lit: Teaching and Reading Fiction in UrbanSchools. Practical Guides Series. NY: McGraw-Hill.•Sweeney, Megan. 2010. Reading Is My Window: Books and the Art of Readingin Womens Prisons. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.Upcoming Research to watch out for:•Graaff, Kristina. 2013. (forthcoming). The Street-Prison Symbiosis: A SpatialAnalytical Tool to Interlink Literary and Material Spaces of Marginality.Doctoral dissertation. Berlin, Germany: Humboldt University.•Norris, Keenan. 2013. (forthcoming). MARGINALIZED-LITERATURE-MARKET-LIFE: Black Writers, a Literature of Appeal, and the Rise of Street Lit. DoctoralDissertation. Riverside, CA: University of California.•Norris, Keenan, ed. 2013. (forthcoming). Street Lit: Popularity, Controversy &Analysis. NY: Scarecrow Press.
ResourcesStreet Lit on SOCIAL MEDIA• Blogs• The Audacious Librarian• PHAT Fiction• StreetLiterature.com• Facebook Groups• Urban Hip-Hop & Street Literature Books• Urban Street Lit Book Readerz• Urban Reviews Facebook Group• K’wan’s Readers• My Urban Books Club• Street Fiction Ebooks• Readers’ Advisory Guide to Street Literature• Goodreads• http://www.goodreads.com/group/show_tag/103123-urban-fiction-review?name=street-lit• Pinterest• http://pinterest.com/Bilbary/street-lit/• http://pinterest.com/search/pins/?q=street+lit• Social Network• Street Lit Review: Urban Literature Arts & Poetry• Twitter• @myurbanbooks• @urbaniamagazine• @urbanlitreview• #streetlit• #urbanfiction
Book Award for Street LitStreet Lit Book Award Medal (SLBAM)•Convened in 2011•National committee of librariansand library workers•Includes non-fiction, fiction,young adult, and author categories•Has become highly anticipatedaward; awards published viaLibrary Journal, SLJ, and majorlibrary systems•Retroactive SLBAM winners to1999 at: http://www.streetliterature.com/p/slbam.html
It’s been a pleasure…Thank you for your time and attention today.•Contact Information:• Vanessa Irvin Morris, M.S.L.S., Ed.D.• Email: firstname.lastname@example.org• Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vanirvinmorris• Twitter: @vanirvinmorris• LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/vanirvinmorris• Blog: http://www.streetliterature.com• Website: http://www.vanirvinmorris.com
Credits• Dunlap, George Arthur. 1934. City in the American Novel, 1789-1900: AStudy of American Novels Portraying Contemporary Conditions in NewYork, Philadelphia, and Boston. NY: Russell & Russell.• Irvin Morris, Vanessa. 2011. The Readers’ Advisory Guide to StreetLiterature. ALA Readers’ Advisory Series. Chicago: ALA Editions.• National Library of Scotland. 2004. The Word on the Street. Website.Edinburgh, Scotland. Available:http://digital.nls.uk/broadsides/index.html• Online resources:• Google Images. Various images.• Gutenberg Project. Various sources.• StreetLiterature.com. Various articles.• Wikipedia. Various articles.
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