08 April 2011

April 2011 Guest Interview: Daniel Marcou, Founder, streetfiction.org

Image source: libraryjournal.com
StreetLiterature: You are the creator of the esteemed website resource, StreetFiction.org. What inspired you to start this website?

DanMarcou: Over four years ago when I started working as a corrections librarian, I had a basic understanding of urban fiction from a previous library job in the late 1990's, but the genre had really grown since then. I started my website to immerse myself in the world of urban fiction and explore it, so I could provide better readers advising for my customers. 

I also love doing web design and this was an opportunity to develop a useful tool for readers and librarians.

StreetLiterature: As a corrections librarian, how have you seen Street Lit make an impact on your library work? on your patrons?

DanMarcou: It impacts my work by initially bringing some customers into the library and constantly being in huge demand. Many of my customers are big fans of the genre, and by knowing about urban fiction, I've established a "street cred" with them. Creating the website has given me knowledge and the opportunity to get to know authors which allows me to have in-depth conversations about street lit with my customers. For example, one recently asked when K'wan was coming out with a new book, so I emailed the author and found out, and then told the customer the following week.

By sharing a mutual interest and respect for what my customers are reading, I hope that I am in turn promoting books, reading and the library as a positive option in their lives. Also, if a customer trusts me to pick out a new urban fiction title for them to read then perhaps they'll also trust me to help them with other information needs like how to look for a job after their release, housing resources, or books about other issues they may dealing with. Street fiction is one bridge into a much bigger world of books and discovery at the library.

Regarding the books and my customers, I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "I never read before I came to jail." On the positive side of street lit, the books create a reading opportunity that my customers tell me that they can relate to. Others say they were bored by books, but that these books are interesting, as one person told me, "they're like movies in my head." In talking about urban fiction with my customers who are avid readers, I'll sometimes observe them becoming more critical of what they read. Some grow tired of the genre. They tell me that the stories are all the same or they feel that the details aren't authentic - "it'd never happen like that on the street." I truly believe that readers of any genre begin to critically think about what they are reading and develop their own criteria for what they enjoy. The more someone reads in a particular genre the more likely they are over time to expect more from it, and if it fails, they seek something new to read.

StreetLiterature: What do you think is most valuable about Street Lit? 

DanMarcou: I think that it is an exciting genre with action-packed fast paced stories that appeal to an audience that publishers neglected for far too long. As a librarian and reader, it gives me tremendous satisfaction to see someone happy to get something they want to read or to have a conversation with them about how much they enjoyed reading it. It's that simple! I'm not on a mission to move someone upward a biased spectrum of "better books", but I do want my customers to know there's a big old WIDE world of books out there waiting for them.

I also think that there's value in the genre because it's motivated many people to write books. Reading and writing are two of my favorites things! So to see people empowered to write and get published (or self-publish) is a wonderful thing!

StreetLiterature: If someone came to you asking for Street Lit, who would you recommend and why?

DanMarcou: K'wan will always be my first suggestion! I love his books for their action and stories. His book "Hoodlum" reminds my of a hood-version of Mario Puzo's Godfather. Also, characters are big appeal factor for me in everything that I read, and K'wan has a special talent for crafting wickedly good anti-hero characters like Gator, Preacher and Animal in his books. 

I'm also a big fan of Kenji Jasper's book, Snow (2007). Again, the main character is big factor of why the book appeals to me, but Jasper also fills the story with wonderful details about the character like this:

“I stopped liking school, but I never fell out of love with reading. Way after I stopped going to school, I’d still go to the library and grab books off the shelves. I liked stories about places and books that taught you how to do things and books that made me thankful for the life I had, that let me know that things could be so much worse, that I was blessed.” (p. 65)

Besides those two authors, I would suggest Sister Souljah as well as exploring the rich history of the genre and the world of old school street fiction with authors like Donald Goines, Clarence Cooper, Jr., and Nathan Heard.

Dan Marcou is a corrections librarian in Hennepin County, Minnesota. He won the 2009 ALA Movers & Shakers Award, a recognition that highlights librarians who are emerging leaders in the field. To contact Dan, you can follow him on Twitter via: @StreetFiction.

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