I have so much respect for writers. As an avid reader, I would love to be a writer myself. To hold the gift of storytelling in your hands and to be able to spread it to anyone who chooses to take it is magical to me.
But Omar Tyree, who clearly has that gift, is leaving the business that has made his a household name because he doesn't like the direction that "urban" writing has taken. I tend to agree with him in the fact that "urban" readers and writers tend to migrate toward street life, drug dealing, sexcapades, and whatever else sells books. Heck, even 50 Cent has written some gun and drug-soaked gangsta novels. I'm sure, based on his name alone, that they are selling like hotcakes.
But I think that Tyree is missing the boat on this one. I understand that he wants to be an inspiration to his devotees, but maybe his marketing team is directing his new brand of novels toward the wrong readers. Maybe he can keep writing good quality novels that just happen to contain black characters and sell his books to the mainstream. Maybe he doesn't have to pigeonhole his titles on the African-American shelves. Why can't he put them out there on the mystery, fiction, thriller shelves? Because that's where I look for books.
Don't get me wrong, I've read books by a myriad of black authors; not specifically because they were black, but because they were good writers. I'm still waiting for Marcus Major to come out with a new one. His characters are definitely among my favorites. But I also like Dickey, Baisden, Harris, McMillan, Hurston, Weber, and Channer.
I've also read books by Zane, Roby, Karen Grigsby Bates, Stephen L. Carter, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison and even "The Coldest Winter Ever" by Sistah Souljah. Once was enough for me of those authors. (Sometimes it clicks with me, sometimes is just doesn't.)
But I didn't grow up in the "hood." Gangsta life is something I see on TV and in the movies. If you look at my Shelfari shelf, you can clearly see that I also enjoy fantasy (MacHale, Sage & Rowling), humor (Evanovich & Rivenbark), thrillers (Patterson & Deaver) and chillers (King and Koontz). None of these are found in the African-American section. And I am a black woman who loves books.
And although I've never read a book by Omar Tyree, I hope that his "retirement" article was just written in the heat of the moment. I hope that he continues to hone his gift and to realize that he's not the one that needs to change. Maybe it's just his audience.