Sister Souljah Rejects ‘Street Lit’ Label

Over at The Root, the activist, emcee and author says that black authors shouldn't be pigeonholed.

By Thoai Lu Jun 06, 2011

Sister Souljah made it into the the Urban Book Source’s Top 10 Street Lit Authors list, but she isn’t sure if this is an honor.

Sister Souljah has retreated a bit from the media spotlight, but the novelist is back with her fourth book, Midnight and the Meaning of Love. Midnight is a character from Sister Souljah’s debut novel The Coldest Winter Ever in 1999, and the New York Times best-seller gives her the credit for "single-handedly rejuvenating the [Street Lit] genre during its dry spell." This description does not sit well with the author.

"I’m not in sync with this street-lit genre," she told The Root. "I think that when European authors or Euro-American authors write about urban, suburban or rural areas, it’s just called literature. So I call my work literature, and anyone who reads my books knows that it’s literature."

The author, activist and hip-hop artist came onto the political scene in the early 90’s. She made headlines when she commented on Los Angeles’ deadly riots in 1992: "If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?" This moment helped fuel a growing anti-hip-hop movement in conservative politics and was publicly criticized by then-President Bill Clinton.

It’s understandable why the term "Street-lit" is problematic to Sister Souljah. Her latest novel narrates a love story between a Sudanese-born, Muslim-immigrant ninja warrior and his Japanese wife , which demonstrates her influences beyond America’s borders. She has traveled to Europe, Latin America and Africa, and it shows in her work. Colorlines writer Almah LaVon Rice traced the history and controversy surrounding the Street Lit genre back in 2009.