We guess your reaction to this news depends on your opinion of the Street Lit genre in general, so we won’t delve into any diatribes on the issue.
Besides, Tyree’s done the work for us, in really arrogant, preachy, and suspect detail:
For the record, I never called my work “street literature” and I never will. When I began to publish ground breaking contemporary novels with Flyy Girl in 1993, and Capital City in 1994, I called them “urban classics.” They were “urban” because they dealt with people of color in the inner-city or “urban” population areas. They were “classics” because I considered myself one of the first to start the work of a new era. But now, after sixteen years and sixteen novels in the African-American adult urban fiction game, I feel like the man who created the monster Frankenstein. Things have gotten way out of hand. So it’s now time to put up my pen and move on to something new, until the readership is ready to develop a liking for fresh material on other subjects.
A few things strike us as eyebrow-raising about this opening paragraph of Tyree’s open letter to both his loyal reading audience and the retailers who’ve been primarily responsible for the sale of 1.5 million copies of fifteen of his arguably mediocre serviceable books.
- He’s calling his work “classic.” It isn’t. To prove it, find me ten teenage girls still reading and recommending Flyy Girl, fifteen years later. Right. By and large, the shelf life on Street Lit is only as long as its ubiquitous pop cultural references. And every time a new fashion trend, rap artist, or sexual position nickname emerges, so does a newer and more relevant book in the Street Lit genre.
- Tyree’s likening himself to Dr. Frankenstein? Brilliant. It’s just this kind of clever, original, “fresh” analogy that makes for great, timeless literature, right? Right?
- Tyree is insulting his readership by assuming that, because his readers complained about the content/quality of the fourteen books following his first two, they’re unwilling or unable to “develop a liking for fresh material.” Dude, you just admitted to writing sixteen novels in the “urban fiction game.” How can you gauge what other kinds of material audiences may prefer, when you’ve deepened the ridges of your own one-track rut for close to two decades now?
Isn’t it pretty foolhardy to pat yourself on the back for “breaking ground” and being “one of the first to start the work of a new era,” then complain about the successors to the era and heirs to that new genre?
We really wish we could post Tyree’s letter in its entirety without things getting to be too long and unwieldy, but here are few more choice gems, for your smirking pleasure:
This new form of “street lit” began to remind me of a similar destruction of hip-hop, where the same ghettocentric stories began to take precedence over the creative perspectives and multi-faceted voices and subjects of our urban music. All of a sudden, you could not succeed as a rapper unless you had sold drugs, committed violent crimes, and claimed to be an unruly gangster, who had done hard time in prison. You couldn’t rap about the normal joys of life anymore. These new kids on the block rejected how Ice Cube had had a good day, while preferring to hear how dark in hell it was for DMX.
That hardcore fact — of an urban audience’s preference for denigration — remains to be our most pressing issue here.
And our personal favorite:
So with my publishing contracts running out, I wrote my final adult fiction novel to be published in September, entitled Pecking Order, which is all about the innovation and hustle of making legal money. That’s what it all comes down to, folks. Either the product makes money like “street lit” and sex novels do, or it fades into obscurity like a VHS video tape machine. But if the only way I can earn a living now in African-American adult fiction is to sell my people the same poison that they’ve become addicted to, then I quit with my artistic integrity still in tact, while moving on to a more progressive mission.
Isn’t it cute how he thinks his artistic integrity is still ‘in tact’?