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Older (Classic) Examples of Street Lit
Maggie: A Girl of the Streets by
This harrowing tale of a young girl in the slums is a searing portrayal of turn-of-the-century New York, and Stephen Crane's most innovative work. Published in 1893, when the author was just twenty-one, it broke new ground with its vivid characters, its brutal naturalism, and its empathic rendering of the lives of the poor. It remains both powerful, severe, and harshly comic (in Alfred Kazin's words) and a masterpiece of modern American prose.
Moll Flanders, an Authoritative Text by
Moll Flanders recounts the story of her extraordinary life, from her birth in Newgate prison to her declining years in married prosperity. After being seduced in the home of her adoptive family she lives off her wits and her beauty, as a whore, 'five times a Wife', and a thief, and is eventually transported to Virginia for her crimes. Rich and penitent, Moll reflects on a world that is both good and evil, just as the reader both abhors and admires her.
Oliver Twist by
Set against London's seedy back street slums, Oliver Twist is the saga of a workhouse orphan captured and thrust into a thieves' den, where some of Dickens's most depraved villains preside: the incorrigible Artful Dodger, the murderous bully Sikes, and the terrible Fagin, that treacherous ringleader whose grinning knavery threatens to send them all to the "ghostly gallows." Yet at the heart of this drama is the orphan Oliver, whose unsullied goodness leads him at last to salvation.
The Red Badge of Courage and Other Stories by
A vivid psychological account of a young man's experience fighting in the American Civil War based on Crane's reading of popular descriptions of battle.
A Tale of Two Cities by
Against the backdrop of the French Revolution, Dickens unfolds a masterpiece of drama, adventure, and courage featuring Charles Darnay, a man falsely accused of treason. He bears an uncanny resemblance to the dissolute, yet noble Sydney Carton — a coincidence that saves Darnay from certain doom more than once. Brilliantly plotted, the novel culminates in a daring prison escape in the shadow of the guillotine.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X by
From hustling, drug addiction and armed violence in America's black ghettos Malcolm X turned, in a dramatic prison conversion, to the puritanical fervour of the Black Muslims. As their spokesman he became identified in the white press as a terrifying teacher of race hatred; but to his direct audience, the oppressed American blacks, he brought hope and self-respect.
Native Son by
Right from the start, Bigger Thomas had been headed for jail. It could have been for assault or petty larceny; by chance, it was for murder and rape. Native Son tells the story of this young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic. Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Wright's powerful novel is an unsparing reflection on the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the country and of what it means to be black in America.
The Real Cool Killers by
Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones get personally involved in a gang dispute in The Real Cool Killers, one of the most provocative cases in Chester Himes’s groundbreaking Harlem Detectives series.
The Street by
The classic urban tale of a young black woman's struggle to raise her son alone amid the violence, poverty, and racial dissonance of 1940s Harlem.
City of Night by
When this explosive novel was first published, it became a national bestseller and ushered in a new era of gay fiction. Bold and inventive, Rechy's account of the urban underworld of male prostitution is equally unflinching in his portrayal of one hustling "Youngman" and his restless search for self-knowledge. As the narrator careens from El Paso to Times Square, from Pershing Square to the French Quarter, we get an unforgettable look at a neon-lit life on the edge.