Any fans of urban fiction out there? Recs needed

I’m not a fan of urban fiction, by which I don’t mean that I dislike it but that it’s a genre I’ve a near perfect ignorance of. However, I would like to know what the “classics” and who the most popular authors are to make sure my library is well stocked.
There are of course official bibliographic sites to go to and I’m using those, but would love to hear some recs from “real folks”.

So can anybody recommend some favorite urban fiction?

Thanks for any info


I guess I don’t read much urban fiction that isn’t fantasy or sci fi, so I’d say Mark Twain.

If you’re willing to throw F&SF into the mix (or that’s what you meant anyway), I’ll say Butcher’s The Dresden Files novels, and (for mystery) the V.I. Warshawsky mysteries by Sara Paretsky.

Can you explain what you mean by “Urban Fiction”? Any story that takes place in a city?
(In which case, I recommend *The City And The City *by China Miéville for its intriguing, creative premise)

Or is this a more complex classification?

The Dresden Files.
The Dresden Files.
The Dresden Files.

It’s an awesome series about a wizard who is also a private investigator. A lot of the most awesome bits are rather spoilery, so I’ll just leave you with one of the best opening lines I’ve seen in a novel:

Like the OP I am not a reader of urban fiction, but someone who goes to a library and asks for urban fiction recommendations almost certainly is not looking for The Dresden Files or China Miéville. They are looking for gritty and at least semi-realistic stories about life in lower-income urban neighborhoods, usually by and about African-Americans.

Urban fantasy, yes! Love the stuff! Try to find “New York By Knight” by Esther Friesner. This book would also qualify as “urban fiction,” because a lot of it is about a poor Puerto Rican family in the slums of NYC. But there’s a dragon, too, so it’s also urban fantasy.

Charles De Lint, most definitely.

Yes, please do, Sampiro, because if you don’t half the recs you get aren’t going to apply. So are you asking for more like The Dresden Files or Native Son?

I keep refreshing this window, hoping for clarification.

But maybe he’s too embarrassed to come back and say “Oops – meant to ask about urbane fiction…”

Catcher In The Rye.

I’d never heard the phrase “urban fiction,” and had to look it up. Good thing, or I’d have recommended all kinds of great novels that take place in gritty urban settings (James T. Farrell’s Studs Lonigan trilogy, for example), but don’t really qualify.

In essence, “urban fiction” is shorthand “black ghetto fiction,” much like “urban contemporary” was once a euphemism for “soul/r & b music.” “Urban fiction” writers are people like Sistah Souljah.

Oh lord, you guys are funny. “Urban fiction” is, like, In Love With a Thug and the Wifey Chronicles.

Honestly, Sampiro, BUY IT ALL. Because it gets read to hell and what doesn’t walk out the door you’ll have to weed for condition, and then buy it all again. The big classic of the genre is Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah. Seriously, we have hundreds of titles in the catalog and they’re all either missing or out, so the actual collection is just a couple shelves. Buy it all and keep buying it, because people LOVE it. We legit cannot buy enough of it.

(Once had a lady come up to the desk with a toddler and a little baby in a stroller, very well dressed, very proper, and she asked where the “adult books” are. I tried to get her to clarify, did she mean adult nonfiction, adult fiction? She leaned in really close and whispered “I mean where are the nasty books?” She meant the Urban Fiction section. Left very happy.)

Yikes! I had all sorts of reccs for Sampiro (figured it was payback for all the great family stories he told us back in the day)…

But I don’t know nothin’ 'bout no nasty books!

I’ve heard it said that “urban fantasy” is much like “supernatural romance*” except that it does not presume a happy ending (and often has a dark one).

It’s a very popular genre these days

*Note that “romance” these days is far more spicy than the genre used to be. I picked up one and discovered it was filled with explicit sex scenes that would be worthy of porn except that the language avoided being blunt. There was a sex scene in this one where I realized the author was describing anal sex on the first encounter with the demon (and the woman loving it).

Iceberg Slim is pretty much the creator of the genre - his stuff is pretty dated nowadays (and emotionally difficult to read, for this white girl), but worth finding for historical reference. They’re the literary equivalent of the Blaxploitation movies of the 70’s, and intriguing for the same reasons.

Well, nobody’s perfect.

I think that’s specifically urban romance/erotica, which I understand to be a subgenre of urban fiction, although for all I know it’s the biggest or most popular type of urban fiction. I don’t deal much with fiction at work, but what little I’ve picked up about urban erotica from patrons is that Zane is a very popular author.

To others reading this thread, please note that I have (again) provided a Wikipedia link. I hope that we can thus avoid a bunch of “Oh, you mean the main character in Piers Anthony’s On a Pale Horse!” or “Are you talking about Western author Zane Grey?” type posts.

An edge case, given the links above: Black Water Rising and Pleasantville. Edge cases because the protagonist is an attorney, poor for an attorney but not in poverty; however, he comes from an African American neighborhood in Houston, a neighborhood descending into poverty. They’re crime thrillers with a lot on their mind.

And not especially nasty.

Generally, like romance, “urban fiction” (god, what an awful genre term) seems to be divided by publisher. Harlequins go in “romance”, books with romantic themes but from Penguin go in “fiction”.

But now they’ve decided to pull out “African American” in our library, which I think is an awful idea because how exactly can you tell if a book is black enough? Does it have to be a black author? Do there have to be a certain number of black people on the cover? Is this not gross to anybody else? Seriously, it gives me the horribles.

So anyway, the gangsta books are right next to “Af-Am”, but it’s like this: Toni Morrison goes in Af-Am. Colson Whitehead goes in Fiction. Wahida Clark goes in Urban.

I should say, to temper what I just said, that patrons do frequently ask for African American fiction/fiction by African American authors. So that’s always a give and take - people like that kind of genre pullout, but there’s always going to be issues with it, even in areas that aren’t already kind of fraught. Like in Mystery, you end up with a ten book series where three are in Fiction and seven are in Mystery because, you know, different jobbers and whatnot. So while I personally don’t like the idea, it’s not that it doesn’t have popular support among patrons.