Why Urban books? What classifies a book as an Urban book? Urban is defined as city-dwelling. By that classification, a large majority of books by notable authors such as James Patterson, John Grisham, Sydney Shelton, Vince Flynn, and David Baldacci (just to name a few) are Urban books. Aren’t Los Angeles, Miami, Washington D.C, New York City, and Houston cities? Aren’t their residents (characters) called urbanites? So why aren’t these authors’ books referred to as Urban?
It has become apparent that in popular culture, Urban has been adopted as a P.C. (politically correct) term for Black or Minority. Why do you think Rocawear, Sean John, 8732, and Crown Holder are classified as Urban clothing? Rap, as Urban Music? Because these products are not targeted for the Mainstream (Read: White people). The term, Urban, infers to the mainstream that these products are not for their consumption, that these products are plebeian; tainted by association. Ironically, the majority of “Black” music is purchased by non-blacks, the clothing manufactured and consumed by non-blacks, the books read voraciously by blacks and non-blacks alike.
In the book industry, it was books by Black authors about Black life that created the surge that kept the book industry afloat near the turn of the 21st Century. Six-figure (and sometimes seven-figure) deals were given out seemingly overnight to Black authors because of the viability of this genre of books. So how are Urban books deemed, with a conspiratorial wink, inferior?
Why can’t Black (Authored) books be categorized as Thriller, True Crime, Mystery, History, Sci-Fi, Alternate Reality, etc., just as other books are? Better yet, why aren’t authors simply referred to as good authors, rather than good “Urban” authors? Authors such as Sister Souljah, Leo Sullivan, Wahidah Clark, Shaun Sinclair, Ashley & JaQuavis Coleman, Meesha Mink, Shannon Holmes, and Teri Woods are just as good (if not better) than most of the mainstream authors, yet fail to receive the respect they deserve as long as they are known as Urban authors, exclusively, rather than authors, period.
Funny, I remember when Hip-Hop burst onto the scene in the early 80’s. It was skewered with the same prejudices by the mainstream, until the mainstream realized it was a vibrant, remaining commodity, capable of creating an entirely new business model utilizing prejudices as strengths. Then came your Russell Simmons, Easy E, Jermaine Dupri, Puffy Combs, Jay Z, and Baby and Slim, new-school entrepreneurial moguls. These men are seen, in retrospect, as visionary businessmen for their ability to recognize the power of the disenfranchised and capitalize on it.
I predict the same for Urban books in this new century. So call us Urban, Black, or Street-Lit authors. Lump us into whatever category you wish to ostracize us with. Just make sure you spell our names right on the checks!
Image Credit: chboothlibrary.org
By Shaun Sinclair
Shaun Sinclair is the author of “Forbidden”. A native of Atlantic Beach, South Carolina, the Army veteran has also worked as a Law Clerk for six years. He is called the Underground Sensation due to the sizeable following he had amassed without a book publishing contract. Now he is ready to make his impact on the literary world and show why he is the “next big thing.” Book coming 2013.
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Cover Photo Courtesy of http://www.thehaystackneedleonline.com/2009/08/organize-books-color.html