The ‘One Drop Rule’ in Urban Fiction

The ‘One Drop Rule’ in Urban Fiction

Urban Fiction and the Black Author

When you google “urban fiction” it leads you to “street literature,” how do books make it into the urban fiction or street literature section? Is it because the main characters are black? Or is it because the author is black? Some might say its the content within the books, typically street literature books include a high volume of sex, drugs, gangs, etc. But not all urban fiction books are street literature, so where do they go? And then the question becomes how does one jump out of the category altogether? Is it possible to write a romance novel with black lead characters and it be considered a romance novel? What is the difference between a book about a fictional Italian mob family and a fictional gang lead by a black drug dealer? If I were to write a story about a crime boss named Victor Ganotti who sold drugs on Brooklyn streets but Ganotti was Italian would my novel be an urban fiction story because I am a black writer? Or would it be placed in the organized crime section because the main character is not black? How many black characters does a book have to include to be placed in the urban section? One, two, or are we using the one drop rule?

The "One Drop Rule" in Urban Fiction

I have had this conversation with a few black authors whose work is placed into the “urban section” but they don’t have street lit credentials. If I wanted to read a Christian romance book with black characters I wouldn’t find them in the Christian fiction section of the book store. I would have to mosey to the urban section or the African American section. And have you visited a public library lately? When you go to the African American section in the library it’s a joke. I found a street literature book sitting right next to an autobiography of Oprah Winfrey there were no sub sections. I found that quite interesting since we are in 2016, the least they could do is separate our books based on the genre.

How does a black author go from being viewed as an urban author to an American author? Should we care? Does it matter that “our section” has every genre in one aisle in the book store while books penned by white authors are visibly labeled under their proper genres and not lumped into the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ aisle. Are books written by African American writers fallen victim to seg-book-gation? Or should we just hush up all this talk and be happy that us black folk have a section in the good white folks book store?

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