The Word on Street Lit: Payback Time

E.L. James’s self-published juggernaut, Fifty Shades of Grey, may be the successful exception to the thousands of books that are being printed without going through an editing process. Typos and strange phrasing often pop up in street lit, and here are examples of recent stumbles. It’s your call if snafus destroy the genre’s credibility.

  • ‚Ķweighed 160 pounds soak and wet.
  • ‚Ķlacked good sence.
  • ‚ÄòI wasn’t envious of him per say‚Ķ
  • You’re out here gun hoe (gung ho)
  • I can’t get my grove on?
  • Yeah, they would feel her raft through the harm she would inflict.

Literary purists may recoil in horror, but loyal street lit readers will shrug and counter with, So what, this stuff is real!

This month’s column includes titles with urban fiction building blocks: betrayal, violence, drug-dealing, teen pregnancy, and a laser-beam focus on getting cash, lots of cash.

Pick of the Month
Williams, Eyone. Secrets Never Die. DC Book Diva Pubs. 2012. 230p. ISBN 9780984611072. pap. $15. F
Niya is an 18-year-old girl with problems. She lives in a Washington, DC neighborhood where the sound of gunshots around the way was no big deal. But it becomes a big deal when her beloved older sister is shot to death as she sits behind the wheel of her parked Range Rover. Niya is distraught. I was mad at the world. Out of a job. Rent due. Refrigerator on E. I couldn’t win for losing. When she’s fired from her bookstore job, she hits the streets. Jay, her sister’s former boyfriend, recruits Niya to mule coke to New York City for $2000 a run. There’s much more to know, but Jay guards his secrets. He tells Niya, Ay, Niya, remember that some things we gotta take to the grave wit’ us. Indeed.
VERDICT Demonstrating a sharp ear for pure street slang, Williams’s (Lorton Legends; Hell Razor Honeys) writing bursts from the pages. Readers will be right in step with Niya as she tries hard to avenge her sister. But like many street women, the deck is stacked against her. Buy multiples.

Azarel. V.I.P. Confessions of a Groupie. Life Changing Bks. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9781934230251. pap. $15. F
Royce and India are friends, but they are also bitter rivals. Both gold diggers seek a lavish VIP lifestyle by either prowling Superbowl parties or using recording artists to get what they want. Trae Harris, an NFL receiver, is Royce’s target since she’s his baby momma, or is she? India could care less which guy she ends up with; she’s all over anyone who flashes money, and she has memorized NFL contracts, figuring out who has seven-figure incomes. Sex scenes are few, but they tend be something else, especially when India crawls in bed with Xavier, her dream pro football superstar. His weight held me down as he pounded me like I’d stolen something from him. Hmmm, maybe he took your self-respect?
VERDICT Lots of promise, but ultimately Azarel’s (Daddy’s House; Carbon Copy) crowded plot fails to stand up. Past scandals pop up in both Royce and India’s life, and it’s unclear to readers which characters are important versus those folks who are just passing through. Still these women are shiesty (sneaky) and full of attitude; their adventures will move this title off shelves.

Farley, Jeff. You Get What You Play For. Atria: S. & S. Aug. 2012. 304p. ISBN 9781451674286. pap. $15. F
On the day of her high school graduation 16-year-old Charisse Hawkins, who dreamed of becoming a doctor, finds herself not hanging with her Brooklyn girlfriends but in a hospital waiting room with other pregnant girls. No guys are present though. Charisse figures the boys had done enough by bringing us all together for the SYB, a.k.a. Stupid Young Bitches, summit. The father of her baby is 23-year-old Jamal Butler, a player who gets off running mind games on Charisse. Soon enough she finds herself frustrated with Jamal’s lack of support. I made love to him, but he screwed me.
VERDICT Farley (Illegal Ambitions) has written a sobering coming-of-age tale that will have female readers nodding, uh huh, I know that’s right. It pairs well with Sister Souljah’s The Coldest Winter Ever or Connie Porter’s Imani All Mine as titles featuring a female teen struggling to survive on her own. However, I fussed over Farley’s passion for playing 1990s name dropping and Charisse’s struggles that go on and on for 12 years. Still I admired his protagonist’s determined battle to provide for her child. This title will move with some hand-selling.

Sykes, Dorian. King of Detroit: A Different Kind of Street Tale. RJ Pubs. 2012. 252p. ISBN 9780981999883. pap. $15. F
Sykes’s (Going All Out) hood tale is set in 1987 Detroit when crack began its death grip on the inner cities. King David runs his block and is a solid father to his 12-year-old son, Coach. Early on in the novel King David’s second, Dump, abducts him in a stunning act of betrayal leading to King David’s torture and death. The snake then has the nerve to lie to Coach while taking over his father’s street empire. Coach later comes of age not in the school of hard knocks but in prison for manslaughter. After pulling his five-year bid, Coach returns to Detroit as an 18-year-old man bent on revenge and looking to hit it big. Nobody, especially snitches, will stop his brutal payback.
VERDICT Rough scenes of no-holds violence brand this title straight from the streets. Sykes’s prose, while unpolished, depicts an authentic gangster lifestyle‚ from chopping up coke to brawling in prisons. A solid addition to any street lit collection.

Tnicyo. Hood Symphony. G Street Chronicles. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9781937442988. pap. $15. F
Members of Maryland’s La Familia crank up the drama as they position themselves to take over the drug business. Three couples are deep in the game, but the scorecard gets jumbled. Tree is with Nina but sexes up Tiffany, who is wifey to Jay. Jay is creeping with Shay as Diamond and hubby Von are on the sidelines. To make it more complicated, Nina and Tiffany are sisters, while Diamond is Tiffany’s cousin. This isn’t a welcome home family reunion. Tiffany is pissed with Shay and pays her a visit. She walked up to Shay and punched her so hard she fell back. A diva, yes, but always a street bitch first. Street lit fans know already there’s no way out of the game, and when Tree and Von want to retire from the $200 million street business, bullets begin to fly.
VERDICT Tnicyo’s writing comes across as awkward and garbled especially when she attempts to transition scenes. Relationships are overly complicated and confusing. Components of the basic street lit formula‚ backstabbing, wild sex, and high stakes cash‚ are here, but this mediocre novel isn’t a necessary purchase.

SELF-eLearn More
SELF-e is an innovative collaboration between Library Journal and BiblioBoard® that enables authors and libraries to work together and expose notable self-published ebooks to voracious readers looking to discover something new. Finally, a simple and effective way to catalog and provide access to ebooks by local authors and build a community around indie writing!


  1. The Real Book Reviewer says:


  2. tnciyo says:

    Good evening. Thanks for the review. There are a couple of errors in the events of this review. Nina and Tiffany are not sisters and Tiffany did not punch Shay. Actually Nina and Shay are sisters and you are right Tiffany and Diamond are cousins. Jay and Tiffany were in a relationship but when she meets Tree she had been out the relationship for sometime. When Tree and Tiffany get together he has already broken up with Nina. Again thanks for your feedback and review.