Urban fiction, also known as street lit, hip-hop lit, gansta lit, or ghetto lit, tells the story of life in the inner-city, generally with a gritty, dark tone. The plot shines a light on the harsh realities of life in the city, including hard subjects such as drug use, gangs, sex, poverty, and violence. Stories are fast-paced and often focus on a young-adult protagonist overcoming adversity, surviving abuse and betrayal, and rising out of hard times. The writing often contains explicit sexual content and graphic violence.
Although not all urban fiction takes place in the United States, the setting is usually a large American city and the prose and dialogue reflect the language used in that area, including American regional dialects, African-American Vernacular English (AAVE), and hip-hop slang. Whether they are set in New York City, New Orleans, or Tokyo, the stories all include a variety of cultural, social, economic, and political facets.
The category of urban literature encompasses a wide range of books. While the term 'street lit' includes fiction and nonfiction subgenres, such as memoir, biography, and poetry, the term 'urban fiction' is more specific to novels and may blend with other genres, including romance, erotica, mystery, thriller, and science fiction.
Bestselling urban fiction classics include The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah, True to the Game by Teri Woods, and Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree. Other popular street lit authors include Zane, Ashley Antoinette, JaQuavis Coleman, Vickie Stringer, and K'wan Foye. The genre first emerged in the 1960s and 1970s and Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines are widely considered the pioneers of the urban fiction movement.
Urban lit is a popular and growing genre with many opportunities, especially for new, self-published authors. Many big name authors, such as Teri Woods, started as indie authors until they were eventually signed by a traditional publisher.
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