I was recently browsing the shelves in the Barnes & Noble at Yale and was intrigued by a sign for section called "Urban Fiction". Now, since I consider myself to be an urban artist, painting scenes of city life, I was a little excited to think that maybe there was a larger trend going on, that authors as well as artists were exploring life in cities.
I was disappointed when I took a glance at the books in that section. "Urban" seemed to be a code word for African American trashy novels. As if the only African American experience is that of the city, and as if only African Americans live in cities.
I've done some research since then, and I see that there is a decades-old history behind this literary genre, and that there are some good novels within the genre, but something about it still doesn't seem right.
It seems like there is a sort of segregation going on in the literary world. Take, for example, one of my favorite authors, Tananarive Due. I have not read all of her books yet, but the ones that I have read are clearly of the horror/suspense genre. Try to find her books in the horror, or thriller, or even mystery or fantasy sections of a bookstore and you'll be out of luck. Her books are always in the African American section. Why? Because she and many (but not all) of her characters are African American.
I guess I'll have to stick it all in the category of things that don't make sense to me. My image of "Urban" includes everyone, of every color and nationality, because that is what cities actually are--a place where everyone comes together. Cities are the melting pot of the world.