For over a decade, novelist Wahida Clark, also known as the “Queen of Street Literature”, has brought sidewalk books to the forefront of every popular best-seller list, including the New York Times, and USA Today subsequently shedding a light on alternative subject matter and situations set in inner-cities. Her most recent novel Payback Ain't Enough—the third installment in the Payback series was recently released much to the delight of street lit readers everywhere. The story picks up where Payback With Ya Life left off, with Shan and Biggen finding themselves in a whole new set of high risk conflicts and self-revealing situations where revenge, ambition, and deadly secrets collide head-on.
Clark began writing fiction while serving a nine and a half year prison sentence, and since then has rapidly escalated in the literary ranks, creating a niche for herself and following authors who felt a need to illustrate the colorful urban lifestyles and characters historically excluded from the literary canon. The overwhelming response from readers has proved that street literature is here to stay and, having sold over 150,000 copies from her Payback series and 300,000 copies from her Thug series, Clark—who joined the Cash Money Content roster last year, seems intent on remaining in the game for years to come. From the provocative covers displaying images of seductive vixens and hard-as-rock street soldiers to the around the way language and suspense-driven plots, each novel written by Clark comes chock-full of enough drama, scandal, sex and other juicy elements that readers inevitably become hooked for life, eagerly devouring one book after the next. Thugs, drugs, and hip hop often take center stage, starring characters that seem much larger than life—and yet surprisingly so recognizable that readers garner glimpses of themselves and others.
Of course, anytime images of Blacks are portrayed in literature, film and television, the creator of that image is placed under a considerable amount of scrutiny and suspicion, as they're often expected to cast individuals in a positive, yet realistic light—a combination that is as difficult as it is contradictory. Depending on where one falls in this heated debate, readers of Clark's fiction either proudly herald the author for keeping it real with her accurate portrayals of the street or consider her works to be guilty pleasures, indulging in each narrative with equal amounts of discretion and delight. Still, street literature, such as the works of Clark, Sister Souljah, and Terri Woods, have the power to provide agency to often underrepresented communities— subsequently breathing life and validation into particular life experiences and realities. Everything may not be for everyone—but then again, as the age old adage goes, we shouldn't judge a book by its cover.
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Patrice Peck is a writer and journalist whose work explores the intersection of race, culture, and identity. Her work lives at www.patricepeck.com.