Week 14 Prompt

This is the kind of question where I have to decide what idea I like slightly more than the other, because I can make an argument in either direction for either urban fiction or LGBTQ works to be subdivided out. However, if I had to make the decision today, I'd likely separate urban fiction out while keeping LGBTQ integrated into fiction as a whole.

My biggest basis for this is, first and foremost, experience. In my job at Barnes & Noble, at least a couple of times a week I'm asked for the urban fiction, in some form or another. Often it's where our African American books are, but every time I've delved further, it's been urban fiction they're looking for. We keep African American non-fiction separated out, but not the fiction--and no one is ever looking for the non-fiction when they ask. On the other hand, if I'm asked for LGBTQ books, it's the non-fiction people want, which is also separated out. I've not once been asked for fiction by or about people who are LGBTQ.

Second, urban fiction can truly be classified as a genre, and Honig details the settings and themes for most urban fiction: African American characters, authors, and intended audience; urban settings; focus on street life and hip-hop culture elements. While certainly there are going to be outliers to this, the majority of works can fit into these definers. The works aren't simply defined by the race or sexual orientation of the person who wrote them or their characters, but truly by details of the works themselves. In contrast, with LGBTQ fiction, as Thomas says, "for every reader seeking a complex literary novel, there is another who wants a sexy beach read and a third who wants a cozy mystery." LGBTQ works can only truly be defined as works that feature LGBTQ characters and share that experience, and their actual genres can vary wildly--so subdividing these works outs would be contrary to most classification systems.

However, I have to sneak an argument against separating both, as well. Thomas says, "A separate section for gay and lesbian fiction might pose problems, making some readers feel exposed when browsing and others ghettoized." And I think this can apply to urban fiction as well. Just as I feel awkward sometimes walking around the romance section, feeling as if people are judging me for what I'm choosing to read, so can readers who want to read urban fiction or LGBTQ works. We should do everything in our power to make patrons as comfortable coming into libraries and getting the things they want, and that feeling is a detriment. A strong message of inclusion and acceptance is desperately important. This is where finding aids, displays, and truly knowing your patronage is vital--so my basic decision could change depending on where I am.

Honig, M. (2011). Introduction. In Urban Grit: A guide to street lit. Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited.

Thomas, D. (2007). A place on the shelf. Library Journal, (8). 40.


  1. I completely agree with your final point. Libraries are hubs of the community, and if people can't feel comfortable there, then where can they feel comfortable? If we separate out a section (LGBTQ, in this idea), then how comfortable are people going to be when they're actually browsing it. My library doesn't separate along this genre line, but we do separate based on Mystery, Western, and Romances--and I feel there's a stigma towards the Romances! One might see a patron walking down that aisle and just know there's a certain book they're looking for--and suddenly the judgments are flying! How much worse would that be for patrons when they're looking for LGBTQ materials? I feel like setting these items off on their own is its own sort of discrimination--heading toward the dangerous area of "separate, but equal (access)".

  2. Fantastic prompt response! You did an excellent job breaking down a tough argument and building a solid case for your reasoning! Full points!


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