Urban Fiction

Publication Date


Document Type

Contribution to a Book

Publication Title

The Encyclopedia of Contemporary American Fiction 1980–2020


Patrick O'Donnell, Stephen J. Burn, Lesley Larkin




This entry chronicles the development of urban fiction from 1980 through the present day. Late-twentieth-century and early-twenty-first-century urban fiction is a subgenre of African American literature which is sometimes referred to by the narrower monikers of “street lit” and “hip-hop fiction.” Linked to hip-hop by its unstinting focus on the lives of socially marginalized Black people living in American inner cities, the subgenre is inseparable from hip-hop. The urban fiction novelists who emerged in the early and mid-1990s were African American writers who did not seek validation from the traditional mainstream publishing industry, nor from the network of MFA programs across America. Instead, an audience for urban fiction emerged in the 1990s from a primarily urban African American readership. Sister Souljah, Terri Woods, Vickie Stringer, Shannon Holmes, and K'wan Foye are among the African American writers who came to prominence in the 1990s and 2000s and who continue to produce novels for a devoted readership. The entry also chronicles the rise of Black-owned publishing presses. It also references the works of Aya de Leon, Daniel Serrano and other Afro-Latin writers who have somewhat diversified the street lit genre, bringing to the fore narratives of the lives of Latinos and Afro-Latinos in urban America.


urban, street lit, hip-hop fiction, African American, Sister Souljah, Omar Tyree, Black-owned publishing presses, K'wan Foye, Cash Money, Afro-Latino/x


English and Comparative Literature