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I am a mommy, scribe, and middle-school English teacher. I am trying to cope with being separated from my beloved. DoUWantMore? email me: theprisonerswife@gmail.com

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can't knock the hustle

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 7:43 PM

(i actually liked the cover of this book because i have a strange affection for the A-train. i gave it a shot, but just couldn't get into it)

ok, i'll admit it....i'm a book snob...and i'm tired.

last night, before heading to the grocery store, i stopped off at Borders to pick up a few Curious George books for the munchkin. i used to love going to Borders and browsing for hours. it was nothing to find me there on a saturday night perusing the african-american lit section looking for good reads. you see, unlike the old saying, i DO judge a book by its cover.

when i'm trying to find something to read, i don't run to the NY or LA Times book section to see the bestsellers list, i browse. i pick up books, check out the cover to make sure it is devoid of all cheese, then flip it over and read the back jacket. if it seems interesting enough, i'll crack it open and read a few pages. many books have found their way to my bookshelf via this shallow-yet-effective method. Waiting in Vain, Blues Dancing, and Black Girl in Paris all managed to past the test and become some of my favs, but these days i'm finding it hard (very, very hard) to find a book that even warrants a second look.

i used to love the African-American Literature section. i always preferred Borders over B&N because they (Borders) segregated their books. they made it easy for me to get to the books that i REALLY wanted to read. books filled with interesting, colored characters that looked like me. books that transported me outside of LA, outside of my home, and my life. books filled with intelligent, upwardly mobile black folks with STORIES to tell. i loved that. loved how i'd get lost in a book for days, always trying to get the picture of the characters in my head. but today, every time i browse the Afro-American Lit section all i see are hood novels.

now, i'm all for black people reading, and i don't knock anyone's (legal) hustle, but damn...how many more sexually explicit, violent, and baby-mama-drama books can possibly be written? i remember when i first moved to Harlem and i'd see people on 125th St. pushing self-published books for $5. i admired their drive. as a writer that longs to be published, i understood and appreciated their hustle. i'd see people on the A train reading books with titles like Around the Way Girls and B'more Careful and i'd think...wow...look at all these black folks READING! it was a site to see. but now, as the hood lit section has swallowed the African-American Literary Fiction section WHOLE, i am dismayed.

sometimes i ask myself, am i just a hater? have all of my years of reading, writing, and analyzing literature turned me into a bourgeoisie reader, out of touch with my own community? or do i just expect more...more from my books, my literary brethren, my people?

whatever the case may be, i'm tired of the book section looking like a in-print version of BET Unkut.

11 Response to 'can't knock the hustle'

  1. Lovebabz Said,
    http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/05/cant-knock-hustle.html?showComment=1212097200000#c9153249236479986172'> Thursday, May 29, 2008 2:40:00 PM

    You are not a hater. I was wondering the same thing. I used to love wandering around bookstores, but all this ghetto/urban lit is at best boring. I appreciate a sex tale. I love erotica, I even like porn. But Golly how many thug/mistress/Ho/Video Vixen/Sex Chronicles can you read before they all become...predictable.(yawn)

    The good thing is I run a Black-owned bookstore, where we do not carry the urban/ghetto lit. We can order it. But we don't stock it. It does hurt the finances at the end of the day. But the owner has made a commitment to not showcase it. I applaud her.

    There are good books out there written by US, they just don't get the shelf time or the PR they deserve.

    I have a plan...and I am working on it! Stay committed to reading the good stuff.


  2. Christina Said,
    http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/05/cant-knock-hustle.html?showComment=1212108240000#c3016886807976718430'> Thursday, May 29, 2008 5:44:00 PM

    You know I agree with you. It seems borders is worse than b&N these days. I like a sexy story too, but our choices for those have even gone down.

    Guess you bedda git on it gurl! :)

    I have to admit I like the cover to that book, for the pictures sake.


  3. rohit Said,
    http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/05/cant-knock-hustle.html?showComment=1212123060000#c2051593487370357272'> Thursday, May 29, 2008 9:51:00 PM

    What a clever writing style you have. I really like the way you described your not-so-loved items, and the slideshow was brillo. I saw Mud's slideshow yesterday with the spotty tights, and loved that, too.


  4. CapCity Said,
    http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/05/cant-knock-hustle.html?showComment=1212212100000#c8846795728544545997'> Friday, May 30, 2008 10:35:00 PM

    AMEN! NO, U r NOT HATING - U R HONEST! I feel U & it's pushing me to be a better writer! I think in all this crap the cream is floating to the top -- at least that's what I'm naive enough to think:-)...


  5. Anonymous Said,
    http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/05/cant-knock-hustle.html?showComment=1212242460000#c7033786470834628431'> Saturday, May 31, 2008 7:01:00 AM

    Maybe you are not hating, just perhaps there is nothing worthwhile reading. Maybe it is now time to read Black diaspora, how about looking to Caribbean writers? The choice is endless and the writing mostly beyond reproach.....is that British enough?...LOL...
    Anyways, I find it hard to read Black American writings....my background is Caribbean...so maybe that's the reason I can't connect.



  6. http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/05/cant-knock-hustle.html?showComment=1212250800000#c6633914166389628982'> Saturday, May 31, 2008 9:20:00 AM

    lovebabz: hmmm, when i get published, can i have a book signing at your store? LOL

    Xtina: ain't that the truth. i don't really do B&N..seems too stuffy for my blood.

    Cap: i feel you. i recently picked up a story i started back in Nov. let's hope something good comes of it!

    Gem: thanks for stopping by. i read Caribbean Lit too. i love Colin Channer, Kwame Dawes, Edwidge Danticat, Earl Lovelace, etc. etc....i just love a good story, period. it's just that, being an American Negro (with roots in the Carib.) i'd like the quality of our fiction to be a bit higher. i feel that there ARE well-written African-American novels out there, but they're being outshined (or outsold) by this hood lit. i guess all things move in cycles...if there was more balance, i don't think i'd have a problem with it.


  7. http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/05/cant-knock-hustle.html?showComment=1212267000000#c3133267268574783183'> Saturday, May 31, 2008 1:50:00 PM

    u should read one of my bokks then


  8. sista gp Said,
    http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/05/cant-knock-hustle.html?showComment=1212416100000#c3134527263695658495'> Monday, June 02, 2008 7:15:00 AM

    Now I know I need to get my book self-published and continue working on the second. Once I get completely moved in, I should be able to get back to work.


  9. http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/05/cant-knock-hustle.html?showComment=1212439800000#c6659433364098319430'> Monday, June 02, 2008 1:50:00 PM

    Waiting in Vain and Black Girl in Paris...OMG, back when reading was fun! For the exact reasons you described (and many, many more), it's not only no longer fun, it's exhausting. *sigh*


  10. http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/05/cant-knock-hustle.html?showComment=1212546960000#c231542875176581712'> Tuesday, June 03, 2008 7:36:00 PM

    torrance: you always pushing yourself lol

    sista gp: girl, you know you need to hurry up! i look forward to reading it once you're settled.

    so wise sista: i am waiting for Colin Channer's new book "lover's rock"...it's supposed to drop this year. and reading WAS fun! we need to bring reading back, yeah!


  11. M.Dot. Said,
    http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/05/cant-knock-hustle.html?showComment=1213830840000#c202609289452215718'> Wednesday, June 18, 2008 4:14:00 PM


    Man. Book snob. No shit sherlock.

    Truth be told "we" are errything snobs.

    Food. Books. Schools.

    I blame it on learning how to read.