The Word on Street Lit: 2012 Street Lit Book Award Medal Winners; Plus, Trash Talk

Launched last year under the guidance of former “The Word on Street Lit” columnist Vanessa Morris, the Street Lit Book Award Medal recognizes the best of urban fiction and nonfiction. Selected by a volunteer committee of librarians and paraprofessionals who take into consideration the popularity of books as read by the public in school, academic, and public library settings, the 2012 awards honor titles published in 2011. The winners are as follows:

Adult Nonfiction

Common with Adam Bradley. One Day It’ll All Make Sense. Atria: S. & S.

Adult Fiction

K’wan. Eviction Notice: A Hood Rat Novel. Griffin: St. Martin’s.

Teen/Young Adult

Ni Ni Simone. Upgrade U. KTeen/Dafina: Kensington

Special Category

Emerging Classic G. Neri. Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty. Lee & Low Bks.

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Speaking Their Minds

Back in the day, Mae West pulled off bawdy double entendres such as, Too much of a good thing can be wonderful and I’ll try anything once, twice if I like it, three times to make sure. But there’s no second guessing when street lit characters speak their mind. Here are some examples of straightforward thoughts found in this month’s selections:

  • Best way to get over a man is to get under one.
  • Look, bitch, call it what you want to. But you ain’t flaunting your illegitimate child in my face.
  • I wanted to hawk and spit in her face.
  • So I got up and shot him in the other leg just in case he was thinking about trying something.
  • I will want to bust this home-wrecking heffa upside her head, then pull a Jackie Chan on my husband.

Pick of the Month

Stringer, Vickie M. Low Down and Dirty. Atria: S. & S. Mar. 2012. 312p. ISBN 9781451660869. $23.99. F
Raven Gomez, better known as Red, is described by a thug as a lying, thieving, backstabbing, cold-blooded, selfish, heartless, scandalous bitch. Red (Dirty Red; Still Dirty; Dirtier Than Ever) has relocated to Scottsdale, AZ, and is chilling by her pool, surrounded by wealth. That is until Catfish, a thug from Detroit, shows up intent on killing her. Red flees into the desert, and the chase is on. Everyone‚ cops, the FBI, and even her ex-lover Q‚ wants her dead. Where’s the best place to go when trying to hide? Sin City, baby! Las Vegas proves deadly, so Red heads south of the border to Acapulco. Sure, everyone is out to get her, but these folks have their eyes on moving heroin and cocaine across the border. Red’s ruthless, me-first attitude and her use of her sexuality to manipulate men mark Stringer’s latest blockbuster.
VERDICT Readers will have to suspend their disbelief as her pursuers repeatedly stumble upon Red in Vegas, L.A., and Acapulco. I mean, really? Still, Stringer’s street dialog is pitch-perfect and enhances the story’s quick pace. Red is a great antiheroine, and her latest adventure is certain to fly off the shelves. Urban libraries should plan to order and reorder to keep up with demand.

Clark, Wahida. Payback Ain’t Enough. Cash Money Content, dist. by Atria: S. & S. Apr. 2012. 268p. ISBN 9781936399116. pap. $14.99. F
Fellas running the Detroit drug game live by the philosophy of M.O.B. (money over bitches), but when kingpin Forever Thompson is murdered in prison, his throne is up for grabs. Why not a woman leader? Tough girl Shan can’t believe her good luck when packages of money and dope show up for the taking. She figures she now has the upper hand, but competition arises from Janay and Sharia‚ and that’s just the girls. Worse yet is Shan’s man, Briggen, a ruthless thug poised to take over the game. Toss in sadistic killer Dark with his own agenda, and nobody is sure who is scamming whom. Fans expect hard-hitting action from Clark (Payback with Ya Life; Payback Is a Mutha), and she doesn’t disappoint.
VERDICT Shifting first-person points of view from more than a dozen characters make this story line tough to follow. But these folks are willing to sell anyone down the river, and violent acts interspersed with intense sex will satisfy readers. Buy multiples, especially where Clark’s Payback series is a hit.

Rax, Cydney & others. Reckless. Dafina: Kensington. May 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780758265418. pap. $14. F
This anthology features three novellas by popular African American authors. In Cydney Rax’s (Brothers and Wives) Desperate Housewife, Carmen Foster should be overjoyed by her 5000-square-foot McMansion and a supportive husband in Forrest. But is he really sleeping with his baby mama from 14 years ago? Carmen desperately tries to win him back but ends up messing up her marriage by sexing up her own ex-boyfriend. Hmmm. Doesn’t sound like she’s too desperate to save her marriage. Nioba Bryant’s (Mistress No More) Sinful opens with psychotherapist Bree Baily figuring she’s had more than 100 lovers. The irony is that she runs a sex-addiction group! Bree says she doesn’t need the emotional baggage men bring. Ha! But she sure thinks about sex all the time. Bree has sex in a hotel, in her office, in a parked car‚Ķthe beat goes on and on. Brace yourself for break-all-the-rules erotica, which some may call pornography. In”L.A. Confidential,” Grace Octavia (Should Have Known Better) takes her readers behind the scenes of TV show Black & Bourgeois starring diva Silver Stone. What’s kept confidential is the nastiness off camera. Silver is married to Alex Coin, a producer who controls her and the show, but she loves King Colson, a powerful player in L.A. Keep your eye on young Melanie, a naive girl from Mississippi who steps in as Silver’s assistant. Drama leads to jealousy, then violence.
VERDICT Street lit fans looking for gangsters won’t find them here. Instead there’s plenty of reckless sexual and romantic jealousy. Take a shot on purchasing. There’s an audience of readers who love extreme backstabbing and wild soap opera plots.

Renee, Chris. Wealthy & Wicked. Life Changing Bks. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9781934230336. pap. $15. F
Tracey Robbins thinks of herself as the It Girl of St. Louis and maybe she is‚Ķon the surface. She owns the trendy magazine Totally Chic and treats those beneath her like something nasty she stepped in with her Prada pumps. She’s all bougie but has a street attitude about men and sex. After a rousing drinking session at a party, Tracey wakes up groggy from an evening with thug Tez, wondering how she ended up in his bed. He explains, I was banging yo back out, and you was feeling it. Well, now! Soon enough, Tracey dumps fiancé Anthony, but Tez doesn’t always answer his cell phone. Tracey’s girlfriend Christian seems shady, new employee Shanice is a hot mess, and the men are all studs. It’s a wild mix as Tracey muses, Drama is my first, second, and last name.
VERDICT Many complicated twists make for a winding path to the climax, and readers may experience plot fatigue. But the outrageous betrayals will have folks shaking their heads at these rich folks’ shenanigans. Not top-of-the-line street lit but still a worthy purchase.

Tucker, Pat. Party Girl. Strebor: S. & S. (Zane Presents). 2012. 320p. ISBN 9781593094027. pap. $15. F
Hope Donovan has spent five years on death row in Texas. Her fingerprints showed up on a murder weapon, but she simply was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pushing for her execution is Adena Binnaz, the widow of the man who supposedly died by Hope’s hand. Alternating narrative voices fill in Hope’s past and how she landed on death row. It seems she wasn’t so loyal to her husband, Brendon, and Hope’s sexual desires ruffled more than a few feathers including sister Chastity and sexy neighbor Stacy. When Hope withdraws all appeals, wishing to expedite her execution, things get more interesting on both sides of the jailhouse bars.
VERDICT At times Tucker’s novel reads like an editorial on Texas execution laws and moves away from the juicy love sessions going on with Brendon and women outside the prison. The Zane Presents label will stir demand, though.

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