Stories Written on Concrete
Understanding & (Re)Imagining Street Lit and Culture; 1990-2007
“Stories Written on Concrete: Understanding and Re-imagining Street Lit and Culture, 1990-2007,” coalesces around stories of urbanity and coming of age at the turn of the twenty-first century. As the Hip Hop generation reflected on the social, economic, and cultural shifts of the 1980s and 1990s, they took up paper and pen to immortalize the conflicting duality of the gritty and glamorous experience of growing up on a concrete cityscape in America. I interrogate how street lit disrupts normative literary representations of black life in print. Specifically, I consider how urban fiction writes against the African American literary canon in style, subject, and publication. In the process, my work has become a cultural site of hetero-normative resistance, as it calls for the widening of acceptable black narratives. Street lit novelists, some of whom were previously drug dealers, pimps, prostitutes, gangsters, and incarcerated persons infuse their personal experiences with poverty, crime, and violence into their fantastical depictions of a shifting urban terrain. This project illuminates the other side of African American literature, provides another access point to Hip Hop cultural production, and helps to validate the kind of popular fiction that is often left out of academic discourses. The genre has existed and thrived on the margins of popular literature and the academy for thirty years. But now, street lit receives its due.