Pathfinder Repository

Urban Literature

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Urban Literature


This pathfinder is designed as an introduction to a literary genre written primarily by and for
African Americans with an urban setting.


Joyce Carolyne Cobb wrote this definition for the Hennepin County Library, MN website:

These gripping stories of the Inner City frequently involve young protagonists who are involved in crime, drama, struggles, and survival. In many cases, the protagonists are trying to live in a hostile environment which may include violence and poverty. Profanity and sex are often explicit.

Vanessa Irvin Morris, librarian expert on the genre, defines Urban Fiction as:

A subgenre of African American fiction that depicts the survival lifestyles of inner-city residents in major metropolitan areas of America. The stories are often cautionary tales that are graphic and unapologetic in their depiction and characterization of the inner-city and its residents as intense, passionate, and real. Many authors use the genre as a means of shedding light on the struggles and inequities, but also the hope and possibilities of daily life experiences in inner-city enclaves.

Additional search terms

Street Lit, Street Fiction, Hip Hop Fiction, Ghetto Lit, Gangs Fiction, Gangsta Fiction, Harlem New York (N.Y. ) Fiction, East Los Angeles (Calif. ) Fiction or Street Life Fiction.

Remember to ask a librarian for assistance in finding Street Lit!

Where is urban fiction located in the library?

Urban fiction can be found in the young adult or adult areas of the fiction collections, or African American fiction, if such a designation exists in your library. In some collections, Street Lit may also be found in the “Romance” area. It is rarely separated into a category of its own. Individual series may be split between young adult and adult areas, making them difficult to recognize.

Urban fiction author sites

Urban fiction title “must haves”

Brown, Tracy (2003). Black: A street tale. Columbus, OH: Triple Crown Publications.
Brown, Tracy (2007). White lines. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.
Goines, Donald. (anything by) Holmes, Shannon (2003). B-more careful: A novel. Meow Meow Productions.
Holmes, Shannon (2007). Dirty Game. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.
Jones, Solomon (2001). Pipe dream: A novel. New York: Villard/Strivers Row.
K’wan (2003). Gangsta: An urban tragedy. Columbus, OH: Triple Crown Publications.
(and anything else by K’wan)
Slim, Iceberg. (anything by)
Souljah, Sister. (anything by)
Stringer, Vickie (2006). Dirty red: A novel. New York: Atria.
Stringer, Vickie (2002). Let that be the reason. Brookly, NY: Upstream.
Stringer, Vickie (2008). Still dirty. New York: Atria.
Swinson, Kiki (2005). I’m still Wifey. Bellport, NY: Melodrama Publications.
Swinson, Kiki (2007). Life after Wifey. Bellport, NY: Melodrama Publications.
Swinson, Kiki (2008). Still Wifey material. Bellport, NY: Melodrama Publications.
Swinson, Kiki (2004). Wifey: A novel. Bellport, NY: Melodrama Publications.
Teague, Kwame. (anything by)
Tyree, Omar (2005). Boss Lady. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Tyree, Omar (1996). Flyy girl. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Tyree, Omar (2000). For the love of money. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Williams, KaShamba (2003) Blinded. Columbus, OH: Triple Crown Publications.
Woods, Teri (1994). True to the game: A Teri Woods fable. Havertown, PA: Meow Meow Publications.
Woods, Teri (2007). True to the game II. New York: Grand Central Publishing.
Woods, Teri (2008). True to the game III. New York: Grand Central Publishing.

Author and book lists

Street Fight: Welcome to the World of Urban Lit
This article written for School Library Journal by Amy Pattee lists recommended street lit titles for teens and adults, in both fiction and nonfiction. It appeared 7/1/2008.

Urban Lit: Tough Tales From the Streets
This list of nonfiction and fiction teen literature was composed by Beaverton City Library, OR.

Urban/Street Lit Fiction Reading List Suitable for Public Library Collections
This list was compiled by Vanessa J. Irvin Morris, librarian and professor at Drexel University. It is the first annotated booklist that addresses collection development for public libraries. There is also an annotated booklist for school library collections at her website:, click on “urban fiction. ”

Selected Peer-Reviewed Scholarly Articles available in Journals and Trade Publications

Doyle, M. (2002). Tough girls: fiction for African American urban teens.Voice of Youth Advocates 25(3), 174-5.

Hill, M.L., Perez, B. , & Irby, D. (2008). Street fiction: What is it and what does it mean for English teachers? English Journal, 97(3), 76-81.

Honig, M. (2008). Takin’ It to the Street: Teens and Street Lit. Voice of Youth Advocates 31(3), 207-11.

Morris, V.J. , Hughes-Hassell, S. , Agosto, D.E. , & Cottman, D.T. (2006). Street Lit: Emptying Teen Fiction Bookshelves in Philadelphia Public Libraries. YALS: Young Adult Library Services, 5(1), 16-23.

Pattee, A. (2008). Street Fight. School Library Journal 54(7), 26-30.

Rosen, J. (2004). Street Lit: Readers Gotta Have It. Publishers Weekly 251(50), 31-5.

Wright, D. (2006). Streetwise Urban Fiction. Library Journal 131(12), 42-5.

Articles available on the web

From the Streets to the Libraries
Anne Barnard wrote this article about street lit’s popularity with many (but not all) librarians and readers. A print version appeared in the New York Times on October 23, 2008.

Street Lit Takes A Hit
This editorial was written by Francine Fialkoff for Library Journal, 2/1/2006. Although African American writer, Nick Chiles, opposes the genre, several librarians defend it.

Subscription databases

Enter these databases through your library website. You will probably need to give your library card number if you are working outside the library. For assistance, ask a librarian, whether online, by phone, or in person!

Search these databases for journals and periodicals regarding titles, authors and publishers of
urban fiction.

Galegroup’s General OneFile                            EBSCO Host MasterFILE Premier

These databases have listings for Donald Goines, Iceberg Slim, Sister Souljah, Teri Woods, and others.

Galegroup’s Biography Resource Center           Novelist by EBSCO


The Word on Street Lit
This monthly column in Library Journal is authored by Rollie Welch, Collection Manager, Cleveland Public Library and Vanessa J. Morris, professor of library science at Drexel University, alternately.

Street Fiction
Created by Daniel Marcou, a corrections librarian, creative writing instructor, and author, this site is dedicated to reviewing street fiction and includes an extensive list of urban fiction publishers. This site is a multimedia site where readers can submit their own reviews, view author videos, sign up for a newsletter, and more.

Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki
Designed by Meredith Farkas, librarian and Head of Instructional Initiatives at Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont, Library Success urban fiction area includes book lists, reviews, discussion and more.


Urban fiction publishers are significant because historically many authors have self published or published through smaller, genre-specific companies. The purchase of these companies by larger publishing firms, particularly Simon and Schuster appears to be a growing trend. A sample follows.

Gorilla Convict Publications
GCP “is the publishing house where the edges of fiction and reality collide. Founded by prisoners for prisoners and the world…”

Precioustymes Entertainment
“Originated in 2001 by KaShamba Williams, Precioustymes Entertainment continues to serve as
an invaluable literary resource for urban communities…”

Strebor was founded in 1999 by national bestselling author Zane. It was recently purchased by Simon and Schuster, under the Atria label.

Triple Crown Publications
Triple Crown Publications was started in 2001, with the self-publishing of Author Vickie Stringer’s debut novel…”

Urban Fiction Video on YouTube
Search YouTube using search terms “urban fiction” or “street lit. ” You can also begin with the following videos, and then proceed to “related videos” located on the lower right side.

Terri Woods, author of the classic, True to the Game, located at:

K’wan discusses writing in this interview:

Additional Sources

Author Biography
This IPL pathfinder displays biographical information on authors in print and internet resources.

Wikipedia – Urban Fiction
This article in Wikipedia is updated often.

Pathfinder created 12/08 by Ann Fleer for INFO650, Public Library Service, Drexel University.
With assistance from Vanessa J Irvin Morris, Assistant Professor, Drexel University.