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The mainstreaming of street lit.

NIKKI TURNER (top) now has her own imprint at One World/Ballantine. Turner, a favorite among fans of urban literature, is the author of A Hustler's Wife and A Project Chick (both Triple Crown), Tales From Da Hood (One World/Ballantine, January 2006) and Riding Ditty on I-95 (One World/Ballantine, May 2006).

CAROL SCHNEIDER, vice president and executive director for publicity and public relations at the Random House Publishing Group, announced the agreement to create the Nikki Turner Presents line this spring.

Turner will select urban fiction by other authors, two to three books a year, with an emphasis on original and authentic voices, Schneider said. MELODY GUY, senior editor of One World/Ballantine, has also acquired three more novels by Turner from MARC GERALD of The Agency Group, including a sequel to A Hustler's Wife for spring 2007. Wife sold more than 100,000 copies and has been optioned for film.

"Turner has proven herself to be a star in the urban literary scene," says Guy, "and we are pleased to continue and build upon our relationship with her."

At BookExpo America in May, Turner was the lone street lit author called on to defend the genre on the panel "Too Hood or All Good: The Impact of Urban Fiction on African American Literature," sponsored by the African American Program for Bookselling Professionals. NICK CHILES (second from top), the author and journalist who moderated, set the tone, starting with a question directed at Turner: "Does urban fiction represent progress in a sense, that we no longer care how we look to others in producing these books? Is the term 'embarrassment to the race' obsolete?"

It was on. Turner replied: "I am not interested in how we look to white people. I am interested in literacy in the community and being able to get people to read books who have never read before."

Chiles was the author of a New York Times Op-Ed piece lamenting that retail space in his suburban, chain bookstore has been swallowed up by urban lit with salacious covers under the banner of "African American Literature," relegating all other black books to obscurity.

Also on the panel were BENILDE LITTLE (third from top), author of four successful, more mainstream black novels, including Good Hair (Simon & Schuster, 1996), which has been optioned for film, and most recently, Who Does She Think She Is? (new in paperback, Free Press, May 2006), and MALAIKA ADERO, senior editor of Atria Books, whose projects cover the spectrum of African American literature. Their views on the phenomenon came out somewhere between Turner's and Chiles's.

By the time Chiles turned over the microphone for questions and answers, it turned into a hot testifying session for views on all sides of the issue, complete with "amens," with a few actual questions thrown in.

Turner told BIBR afterward that she was reading submissions for her initial offerings with an eye out for something fresh. "I want to publish street lit books with a twist of something else," she said. "I want to take it to the next level. I want to set the bar. I don't want any of my stories to march to the same beat as traditional street fiction."

"I am going through stories now and I am trying to find it, and it's so hard," she added. "I am just very excited to be able to handpick good stories because before I was a writer I was an avid reader, and I want to be able to give readers the things that they want."

In other Expo developments, actress QUEEN LATIFAH (bottom), the keynote speaker for the African American program, also came to support First Book, a literacy program, and to promote her first children's book, Queen of the Scene, a book-and-CD combo to be released in September by Laura Geringer, a HarperCollins imprint. The book is about self-confidence.

At one of the main Book and Author Breakfasts on Saturday, SENATOR BARACK OBAMA, Democrat of Illinois, discussed his forthcoming book The Audacity of Hope: Reclaiming the American Dream (Crown, October 2006), which is about the sources of his convictions and is the first of three new books he agreed to write under deals worth almost $2 million.

By Angela P. Dodson: E-mail your news to angela4bibr@aol.com
COPYRIGHT 2006 Cox, Matthews & Associates
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Title Annotation:between the lines: the inside scoop on what's happening in the publishing industry
Author:Dodson, Angela P.
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2006
Words:717
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