Barely Time to Read or Write
So, I haven’t found much time to write this weekend but I have found time to think. Mostly I have been thinking about this article because it has recently come to my attention how big of a hold ghetto lit is in the black community.
The other day a black mother came to me with a stack of books and I asked her if she also picked up Hotlanta. She confided in me that she had been giving her 14 year old daughter ghetto lit to read because that’s what she has been reading and she has come to realize that all the sexual themes may be bad for her daughter’s psyche. I gave her a couple of other black books that I absolutely adore and began to wonder how many other black kids preteens and young teens have turned to ghetto lit because they think that is the only thing that is written by black people.
She is not the first black mother I’ve encountered who think that way. I respect mothers who want to find stories that reflect a black pov but I wonder if this is really the way to do it. A few years ago I sent a friend of mine an article about how books by Donald Goines and Iceberg Slimhas been making a resurgence. My friend likes to read herself (not necessarily street lit) and after reading the article thought of picking up one of the pimp lit novels for her straight laced 13 year old son who didn’t like to read.
“Which one do you think I should get him? Which one do you think he’d like, what do you think?” she queried.
What is the message young black readers are getting when they walk into bookstores and the African American book section is bursting with urban lit titles and crowding out books that doesn’t have heated scenes or provocative covers? Although I’m worried about our literature legacy I can’t in good faith call for a book burning of titles I think are demeaning. All I can do is hope and recommend more age appropriate books to mothers who come in for advice in hopes that one day young readers will grow to be just as prone to pick up Pearl Cleage as they are a Vickie Stringer book.
It can happen.