or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Not Your Grandmother’s Acclaimed Urban Fiction

   October 14th, 2015

So this happened at my library, and everyone got a good laugh out of it. One day in Tech Services, this array of books was delivered:


During the course of processing them to be put out for patrons, one of the Tech Services staff noticed that these books were on the, well, pornographic side.

Fifty Shades of Grey aside, my library generally doesn't buy erotica, so this got staff's attention. The question of "who bought these?" ran up the selector's chain, until they were handed to our fiction selector. She looked at them, and the content, and could not figure why she would have ordered them, or where she would have even seen them.

So she went back through various review sources, and eventually found a two-page spread in the 2015 November issue of Ingram Advance:


I did not know that "Urban Fiction" was a euphemism for erotica. The astonishing thing is that you can read the little descriptions below the books, and not once do they mention sex, strap-ons, or dripping anythings. And yet, flip just a couple pages into any of these titles, and you're already well into NSFW territory.

Of course, titles like The Panty Ripper seem to be a dead giveaway, but I really was surprised that Acclaimed Urban Fiction would be so entirely unlike my idea of what acclaimed urban fiction would be.

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7 Responses to “Not Your Grandmother’s Acclaimed Urban Fiction”

  1. Monica Says:

    Not MY Grandma’s, but… After Fifty Shades came out, a 20-something patron came in a little embarrassed, because her grandmother was asking for “more smut like that.” We had a good laugh, trying to keep her grandmother stocked in “smutty romances” after that.

  2. Jackie Says:

    Really? You didn’t know that Urban fiction was heavy into erotica? I find that amazing. Have you never read a Zane or Noire book? Really, I’m not trying to be mean or condescending. I’m just honestly amazed by this.

    Most Urban fiction books are extremely graphic — both in violence and sex. They also circulate like crazy.

    Also, if you all are anti-erotica, you might want to reconsider your Harlequin Blaze purchases.

  3. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Monica: That is a good laugh – but yes, definitely a little embarrassing too.

    @Jackie: no, I had no idea. I don’t select fiction and don’t read in that genre. Having violence in urban fiction wouldn’t have surprised me, but the hardcore sex and dominance stuff did – so yay for learning something new.

  4. Sunflower Says:

    In my best George Takei voice “Oh myyyyyyy”

  5. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Sunflower: that might be the best comment ever.

  6. Jackie Says:

    I really didn’t mean to come off as harsh. I apologize if it seemed like that. And, really, the comment wasn’t directed at you personally as much as it was to your library as a collective or an entity. Jeesh! Now it sounds like you guys are The Borg. Man, written language is a sticky wicket. You should read one sometime. They can be very fascinating. If you want tamer sex, go with Donald Goines. If you want some really racy stuff, read Zane. The self-pubbed stuff is even harsher but Goines and Zane are two big names in Urban Fiction. And, yes, Yay! for learning something!

  7. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Jackie: that’s no problem. We may have a much more varied fiction section than I know about, because I mainly work with non-fiction and teen, and only read for pleasure (and listen to in the car) what I’m interested in. Heck, we might even have urban fiction picture books in the kids section for all I know. But I do think our fiction selector is pretty good, and very responsive to patron requests, so if our community has an interest in something we’ll definitely build a collection to meet the demand.