Saturday, July 26, 2008

Omar Tyree Should Do Us All A Favor And Retire From Writing Completely!

A few weeks ago, my blogging sista Wisdom Teaches Me dropped me an e-mail about urban street literature writer Omar Tyree's retirement rant. One of the reasons why I didn't write about it at the time is because I think Omar Tyree's books are pure trash. Unimaginative, poorly written, repetitive garbage. I tried twice to read his most celebrated book, Flyy Girl and I just couldn't finish it. I was completely bored.

I have always viewed Tyree as a master of book marketing, not a master of the written word. To his credit, Tyree has a great ear for street language and rhythm, but no skills at creating or sustaining an original story from beginning to end. I am always suspect of any author that is churning out books as fast as someone like Tyree. Same ideas, different book cover.

After reading Tyree's "retirement" announcement, my first thought was don't believe the hype. Reading between the lines, it sounded like Tyree's latest book was rejected by his regular publisher. That's the breaks and the business. Two, his announcement was nothing but a marketing ploy because Tyree is not claiming to retire from writing, but from writing "urban street literature." He was promoting his latest book by "shocking" everyone with a fake retirement announcement.

I also can't stand writers who like to tell folks that their books are "classics." The reading public and literary history decides that. And just because a writer sells a lot of books and has a loyal following does not mean what they write is classic, it just means one thing, their books are popular. Tyree celebrates himself too much and makes his role in the creation of modern street literature way too significant.

If you have too heavily and negatively downplay the success of other black urban writers to make your work seem more than it is, you are a legend in your own mind. Tyree bashes everyone in urban literature while failing to mention that the works of Terri McMillan, E. Lynn Harris, and Eric Jerome Dickey were all being published at the same time he came on the scene and helped with his success. Teri Woods made her own name without any help from Tyree, so he should kill that noise about opening doors for others.

Tyree singles out Sister Souljah's The Coldest Winter Ever for turning the heads of his core readership and that's just a damn lie. Souljah's one and only fiction novel, which was published in 1999, has probably sold nearly as many books as Tyree has sold in his entire writing career. Her book has become beloved by African American women of all ages and is one of the most anticipated books to be turned into a feature film. Her book was a urban literature publishing phenomenon and Tyree is completely disingenuous in suggesting her book was anything less than a major smash hit.

What disturbed me the most about Tyree's statement was his completely dishonest and sexist bashing of his core reading audience, black women. Tyree is mad at the sistas for moving on from his tired "been there, done that" ramblings and for reading other black urban authors. Instead of considering the fact that he has churned out too many books in such a short period or that his books are just no longer interesting to his reading audience, he takes them to task like he's somebody's daddy.

The hardcore truth is black women have made Omar Tyree rich and famous. He should have thanked black women for their nearly 15 years of support of his work instead of whining like a bitch because they are not buying his books now. Black women should help Omar Tyree into full retirement by never buying any more of his books in the future, period.


wisdomteachesme July 26, 2008 at 5:30 PM  

ok see,
i remember reading about this man, but i had forgotten all about him. probably because i don't read the kind of books that he writes.

and i agree there is a level of 'urban writing' that is nothing but trash.

i really don't read anything when it slanders, makes fun of or exploits a group of people. unless it is historically recorded facts. and truth. or one of the two. as facts don't always mean truth.

he has made quite a bit of money sucking on the the weaknesses of women. and i guess many of them got tired of it. it's not orginal writing. he copies. as i use to say when i was teaching. he copies.

Mista Jaycee July 26, 2008 at 6:27 PM  

Darn Professor Tracy,
That was a harsh completely agreeable critique. LOL
No, my take on Tyree and urban literture right now is that the audience does grow up, it can serve as great entry level reading but the audience does get more sophisticated. I love the fact that Zane was able to get hers even though I feel her take on erotica is lame and trashy. I've said quite brutally there's more to erotica than lets Fu*k!
In fairness Donald Goines, Robert Ice Berg Slim Beck, demonstrate creative fire and brillance for that genre and that time, not to be compared with Himes, Wright and James Baldwin. Let us never forget that at one time Holloway House was the only game in town for Black authors. Goines, Beck, Joe Nazel have all died. Odie Hawkins, my teacher and friend is the last of the core four, once called a modern Jean Genet because he refused to write just urban gritty street novels and wrote about everything and anything that he feels. Omar will write and maybe he will actually grow up and his writing will mature.
Thanks for letting me chime in.

FloridaGirl July 26, 2008 at 6:52 PM  

What Tyree may be struggling with is the continuing tide of younger, fresher writers who can do what he has been doing better than he has been doing it. The changing of the guard is inevitable. My guess is that he failed to thrive, to plan ahead. His choices are to become irrelevant or to retool his product for the current readers, not the ones from 15 years ago.

BTW, Flyy Girl was a great book. Try it as an audio book from the library for full effect. Everything after Flyy Girl just didn't satisfy.

Invisible Woman July 27, 2008 at 1:06 AM  

I read about 60 pages of one of his books, and oould not believe what my eyeballs were seeing. I just knew Baldwin and Langston were spontaneously combusting in their graves.

That's why I love blogs like yours; I still have hope for the Black writing world.

Black Artemis July 28, 2008 at 12:38 PM  

Prof. T, I knew if and when you'd blog about this, it'd be on point, LOL! Your last one bears repeating because if you go to Amazon, you'll see how many sisters continue to support this man. They write things like, "This book was terrible so I hope the NEXT one is much better." WTF? To be honest with you, I wonder how many of these same readers would be as patient with a sister author. And anyone who has read that nasty Essence column he wrote about his wife shouldn't be surprised that he'd turn his back on his female readers. Anyone who'd like to know more need only click on the following two links.

There was another instance -- I can't find it now though -- where he told a group of female readers, I'm paraphrasing, "Give my book to your man and refuse to give him some until he reads it." THIS coming from the dude who let the whole world know that he expects his wife to give it up on demand. The irony is that this goes go to show you that men recognize how much power women do truly have yet how often we choose to give it away to the worst of 'em.

tasha212 August 3, 2008 at 10:07 PM  

Professor Tracey,

I find your critique of Tyree hilarious. I read his first book back in '99 but I havebn't been able to get into any of his other books since then. I don't know, something is just missing from them. I was through with him after reading that editorial he wrote in Essence where he rung his wife out to dry for not giving him enough sex. I was through with him the. His arrogance is a slap in the face to all the sistas who continued to support him through 15 horrible books. I would think that he would write a letter of apology to his readers for feeding them bullshit. All I can say is Good riddence.

Professor Tracey August 3, 2008 at 10:43 PM  

@Tasha 212,

I didn't know about that trash in Essence. He really is not a nice person. What a way to embarrass and degrade your wife. He's disgusting.

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