After reading 1 star reviews on Amazon.com, I realized how the depiction of urban life is still not considered an art form due to racial and ethnic reasons. The negative comments pertaining to Sista Souljah’s classic 1999 novel “The Coldest Winter Ever,” and the ones that upset me where not the one stating issues with liking Winter ( the main character) or the genre (Urban Fiction/ Street Literature) not being their cup of tea. The ones that bothered me were the comments that the book was not well written, that the author was a rapper uses fiction to spread more filt into the “proper” world. I have a problem with the reviewers that said she glorifies stereotypes, explicit language, and drugs. In my opinion these are people that have no idea about urban life, or the ethnic American experience.
The usage of language is beautiful, although the language is not. What these critics fail to realize is that although those words aren’t standard English, they are proper language for the tone, setting, theme, and culture Sista Soujah captures. She uses slang, which is an actual language (some slangs words are actually in the dictionary now) contrary to ignorance educated people’s beliefs, because that is how some white and ethnic people talk in real life. She also uses African American Vernacular English (which is an actual language too) to set the story in a realistic world, and to connect with her target audience, which was African Americans, and other ethnic groups living in the inner city. If Sista Soujah uses standard english like a novel in other genres her novel loses its authenticity, and it’s connection to hip hop culture.
The comment that upset me the most was, “Hip Hop Culture isn’t an art form.” This statement is almost laughable, and probably true for those who live in quiet cul-de sac is suburban america where nothing ever goes wrong, and the people are perfect. The critic who made this outrageous claim, said Sista Soujah’s novel also isn’t art. The people also accused Sista Soujah of written a novel that was subpar because her audience is uneducated and wouldn’t know better ( if that’s not racist, then I’m out of my mind). Sista Soujah is intelligence, whether or not they have a college degree. Intelligence is contextual, and I promise you Sista Soujah novel is written very intelligently. I can also promise you the audience realized this ( that’s probably why this novel is rated 4 and a half stars). To make a comment like that you can’t be very smart or just racism.
What these critics fail to realize is that genres like hip hop and urban fiction don’t glorify violence, drugs, and sex. They glorify how negative decisions have negative consequences. A message that is clearly stated throughout Sista Soujah’s novel, and the hip hop culture. Sista Soujah depicted a reality that is unfamiliar to me, which happens to have violence, drugs, and sex in it ( your reality does too, but you’re probably in denial about that too). If these critics were smart they would analyze their biases before they tried to deconstruct an urban art form like they are reading classical literature. As mind blowing as it seems they are lessons in urban literature that most people learn when they read authors like Sista Soujah.
If you critical of Sista Soujah word choice, character development, and/ or plot structure that is okay, because not everyone is going to like an author’s style, but to say Sista Soujah, “The Coldest Winter Ever,” is an shallow, ghetto, and stereotypical then she is over your head, and you probably need to educate yourself about the culture, and the people she represents. White America does not understand Black culture (and vice versa). The simple fact is that is why ethnic groups have created their own genres despite racial driven criticism, obstacles, and politics (Harlem Renaissance). When critics attack the culture of ethnic people in literature doesn’t that spell out racist. Why else would people tried to tear apart the language, the characters, and the intelligence of the author who is considered a pioneer in this genre they don’t understand. I’m not saying all of White America is racist or that racist is at it’s peak, but what else could be the cause of such disrespectful opinions. (You Tell Me?)
Critics say only African American are concern with race, and color, and that is why African American can’t climb the social ladder, but the truth is color, and race affect ethnic people’s lives everyday, while White America has no idea about the benefits they receive (this concept is know as white privilege). When Sista Soujah characterizes skin color issues within the African American community she is depicting something that is is real and is caused by American society, not just African Americans. Africans Americans are responsible for this, but Americans are as well. I believe Sista Soujah wrote this novel for African Americans, and that is why she included the descriptions she did. It’s like people forget this novel is urban fiction, that means it will contain urban elements.
I just wanted to take the time out of my day to defend Sista Soujah and the Hip Hop culture from once again being unfairly criticized, when in actually it provides African Americans and other ethnic groups an opportunity to have a voice. I understand if Sista Soujah gets a 1 star for people not connecting with the character, or the genre, or theme, or for just not liking the novel or Sista Soujah’s writing. However, criticizing Sista Soujah intelligence, or their involvement with hip hop culture isn’t acceptable, and is clearly due to lack of understanding and knowledge about people from different background than their own. These type of negative critics must become of aware of their racial, cultural, and economical biases.