"One of my freelance gigs is writing ad copy for “urban fiction.” As a professional writer, I’ll scribble just about anything for money, and formulaic novels make for easy work, so it would be wrong to say that I’m ambivalent about the job. As a reader, however, I have mixed feelings about the ascendancy of books like Ice Cream for Freaks, Candy Licker and Legit Baller
This stuff is often self-published, or it’s self-published work that has been picked up and reissued by a commercial house, and I’ve got nothing but admiration for the remarkable success of grassroots publishing in African-American fiction. And one might argue that these books reach an audience that wouldn’t otherwise be reading, and that reading something is better than reading nothing. It must be said, though, that this stuff is, more often than not, astonishingly crappy. It’s true that it’s not necessarily any crappier than most of the mass market fiction aimed at a whiter audience—although there do seem to be a lot more spelling and grammatical errors than one tends to find in even the cheesiest romance novel or thriller—but I feel that, if I were African American, I would be offended by the print iteration of blaxploitation. Of course, since I’m not African American, I feel kind of squeamish about having an opinion at all, particularly one that tries to encompass how I think I might feel if I were black. So, I write my ad copy, I try not to make icky faces while I do it, and I cash my paycheck.
Kia Gregory’s column on ghetto fiction in Philadelphia Weeklyis kind of thin, but she does say a few of the things I might say about the genre if I were going to say anything at all."