BA (U Washington); MA (U Chicago); MA, PhD (U Virginia)
Office: Frandsen 31
Telephone: (775) 682-6373
Street Poison: The Biography of Iceberg Slim. New York: Doubleday, 2015.
American and African American literature and culture, crime fiction, critical theory, popular culture, and cultural studies.
My research and teaching focuses on redrawing the boundaries of African American literature by arguing for the importance of what I call the "shadow canon" of black fiction. My first book, Pimping Fictions: African American Crime Literature and the Untold Story of Black Pulp Publishing, exemplifies this interest by reconstructing the lost history of street fiction, America¹s most popular genre of black literature. During the Civil Rights Movement, black novelists, artists, and essayists ushered in an underground renaissance of black street fiction as a form of populist protest against white racism and urban segregation. A recovery project firmly grounded in literary and cultural studies, Pimping Fictions investigates the ambiguous representations of pimps, sex workers, and revolutionaries in American ghettos and prisons, and it connects these depictions to the constrained position of the black pulp writer in the white-controlled literary marketplace.
Working in the disciplines of American and African American studies, I am dedicated to a theoretically and historically informed public intellectualism. Over the past decade, I have compiled a massive archive of research materials not found in any library‹over a thousand vintage paperback novels and magazines; interviews I conducted with publishers, editors, and writers of black literature; FBI files and prison records; unpublished novels and personal writings‹in order to create meaningful connections between academia and the public sphere. This archival approach to cultural studies has resulted in my new book, Street Poison: The Biography of Iceberg Slim. A biography as well as a social and cultural history of black America from the Great Migration to the present, Street Poison reveals how pimp-turned-writer Robert Beck (a.k.a. Iceberg Slim) became a bestselling novelist who shaped blaxploitation film, gangster rap, and street literature.