Omar Tyree Supposedly Retires
I guess I’m kind of taking a break from reading and blogging this summer. Please forgive me. As per Playahata.com, Omar Tyree recently announced his retirement from urban literature–a genre which he claims he originated. Sigh. I guess we can forget about Chester Himes, Donald Goines, and Iceberg Slim, right? I’m over this, but for those of you who are still interested, Tyree had the following to say:
For the record, I never called my work “street literature” and I never will. When I began to publish ground breaking contemporary novels with Flyy Girl in 1993, and Capital City in 1994, I called them “urban classics.” They were “urban” because they dealt with people of color in the inner-city or “urban” population areas. They were “classics” because I considered myself one of the first to start the work of a new era. But now, after sixteen years and sixteen novels in the African-American adult urban fiction game, I feel like the man who created the monster Frankenstein. Things have gotten way out of hand. So it’s now time to put up my pen and move on to something new, until the readership is ready to develop a liking for fresh material on other subjects.
To a degree, it now seems hypocritical for the man who self-published the first gold digger book with Flyy Girl, and the first drug-dealer book with Capital City, to turn around and cry wolf about a readership who-fifteen years later-seem stuck on the subjects. However, I never intended to remain on those same topics. And I didn’t. I moved on to cover a dozen other community issues through my work.
Nevertheless, the new young writers, who became inspired by my earlier work; Teri Woods, Vickie Stringer, Nikki Turner, Shannon Holmes, K’wan, and several others, related to my “urban classics” alone, and they began to match it, writing from their own sources of hardcore street knowledge. And I can’t knock them for writing their honest stories. I can’t knock them for wanting to be published. I can’t knock them for earning an honest living. But after awhile, as dozens of other new writers began to follow in their footsteps, creating more gold-digging, ghetto girl, gangster love, drug-dealer stories, I had to seriously ask myself, “Don’t we have some other things to write about it?”
This new form of “street lit” began to remind me of a similar destruction of hip-hop, where the same ghettocentric stories began to take precedence over the creative perspectives and multi-faceted voices and subjects of our urban music. All of a sudden, you could not succeed as a rapper unless you had sold drugs, committed violent crimes, and claimed to be an unruly gangster, who had done hard time in prison. You couldn’t rap about the normal joys of life anymore. These new kids on the block rejected how Ice Cube had had a good day, while preferring to hear how dark in hell it was for DMX.
That hardcore fact — of an urban audience’s preference for denigration — remains to be our most pressing issue here. The fact is, when I began to write about good black men with A Do Right Man in 1997, the importance of black family with Single Mom in 1998, the reality of black-on-black love with Sweet St. Louis in 1999, the indulgences of superstars with Just Say No! in 2001, the ugly face of New Orleans poverty with Leslie in 2002, or the challenge of positive feminine power with Boss Lady in 2005, few readers bothered to listen to me. (Read more . . . )