Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Second Chances: Book Review for Cupcake Brown's "A Piece of Cake"


Warning: Spoilers Below the Divider!

I’ve been collecting a lot of memoirs lately. My favorite used bookstore boasts a proud selection featuring Amy Tan, James Frey (eh his work is a bit inaccurate), Mary Karr and many more. A co-worker noticed my new kick and suggested I read something a bit more riveting. She told me about a memoir by an author named Cupcake Brown.

Stop.
Rewind.
Play.


“You want me to read a memoir by a woman named Cupcake? What’s it about?”

She laughed at me, “Rough foster home, drugs, prostitution, gangbanging, etc. It’s a compilation of all the things this woman has been through. She’s a lawyer now, despite her circumstances. It’s a great read though.”

I raised a stereotypical eyebrow, “Uh-huh. I’ll think about it.”

I never thought about it. In fact, I didn’t even place it in the sacred space of my journal entitled “Must Reads.”

Sigh.

On one of our date night Barnes & Noble trips, the boyfriend headed to the biography/memoir section for Steve Jobs’ book. I was annoyed because they didn’t have Aimee Bender’s “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake” in stock. I glanced over the sections features. A sprinkled pink, green and orange cover caught my attention immediately. Sure enough, it was “A Piece of Cake” by Cupcake Brown. A “New York Times Bestseller” at the top of it solidified the sale it for me.

Oh what the hell? I was looking for a book with cake in its title anyway. I made my way to the register and bought it immediately.

I didn’t judge a book by its cover, but I did judge it by its synopsis. I’ve decided that this is equally wrong. I’ll never do it again.

____________________________________________________


Brown’s book is a voyage. I haven’t encountered this much madness since Sista Souljah’s “Coldest Winter Ever.” I’ve even ditched my car for an entire week, so I can use the hour train ride to read. It’s that serious. Every chapter will have you yearning to know how she combats her next issue.

Cupcake, or La’Vette (her alter ego), greets tribulations galore after the untimely death of her birth mother. Along the way she tries to poison a sadistic foster mother, becomes a Los Angeles Crip, is molested, dabbles in prostitution, struggles with domestic violence and still manages to advance in the legal profession.

Bonkers.

I’m only on chapter 38 out of 53, but the book already gives me great hope. One of my closest childhood friends suffers from several of the addictions Brown highlights in her memoir.

At nine, she was helping me perfect my script legibility and trying to convince me of the homosexual undertones in Langston Hughes’ work. At twelve, we’d visited Chinatown and my jealousy reared its ugly head while she explained immigration and its effect on NYC to my mother. At fourteen, I watched her (she was 6’2) scare away the bullies that had followed me home with the intention to jump me. She was my idol, a warrior in her own right.

She was such an intellect and skilled individual, that it didn’t surprise me when she started to mastermind criminal professions.

Around our sophomore year of high school, things drastically changed. She became involved with many of the things that Cupcake had to face. (Yikes, my iTunes just started to play J. Hud’s “Still Here”…crazy coincidence.) We eventually grew apart as her interests began to endanger my life. Over the years we’ve caught up every now and then; her stories weighing heavily on my heart, I’d always try to lend a helping hand.

After a manic episode, a call from a local rehab and listening to her mother’s tears; I decided I could no longer deal with the anxiety of our situation. Her phone calls would send me into crying fits. I would continuously worry about her and it kept me up until the wee hours of the morning.

I had to let her go.

That was six years ago. I’ve heard whispers about her through family members and mutual friends. Today she struggles with some of the same things, but has slowly started to get back up on her feet. She is far wiser about life’s hardships than most in their early twenties. I pray that she’ll use this knowledge to navigate the turbulence up ahead.

Cupcake Brown’s book retaught me about starting over. She’s given me back the faith I’d lost in a friend and some associates, along the way. This week, I’ve decided to give my long lost friend a call, find out how she’s doing and give her this book. Whether or not her change is permanent, the chapters in this read will remind her of second chances.
& in the inscription I’ll write…

“To Life and living; third time’s a charm.”

-riv-

PS: Shout out to Erika for copping the book upon my suggestion! #readerlove

7 comments:

Christa said...

I will be getting this book soooon! Thanks for sharing great stories.

riva. said...

No problem! Look out for one every wednesday. :)

CAM said...

First, I have to say...I'm loving your blog! Since Belle tweeted about your review on her book a couple of months ago, I've been sort of stalking your blog. lol! I look forward to reading what you have to say!

I read "A Piece of Cake" a few years ago, I randomly came upon it at the library while I was looking for another memoir. It's one of the best memoirs I've ever read!
Funny enough, the cover caught my attention, then I read the jacket. It really is such a heartbreaking yet powerful story, and anyone who reads it will be inspired.

riva. said...

@Cam It is such a heartbreaking story. I'm still trying to finish it today....

Keep stalking! I'll add your blog to one of the many I need to check up on! ;-)

Erika D. Coldman said...

I'm not even a good 10 chapters in and my heart hurts from reading this woman's story but, at the same time, I don't want to stop.

I have to constantly remind myself that this is not a fiction story. It is very, very unfortunate that a lot of children who are placed in the system have to deal with what she went through. Definitely makes me appreciate my family, especially my mother, and how I was raised.

Through Brown's eyes we get a glimpse into the world of social work. I found myself yelling at the social workers in the book many times. I was just confused as to why they kept sending her back, even when the signs were obvious.

I used to work with at-risk teens at a youth center and to say that they are "rough around the edges" is an understatement but I get it. They have to be that way in order to survive. Just as Brown. She had to grow up quickly and because she felt she was all alone, she didn't give respect easily. Children like that are living for that day. Hell, maybe even the next few hours. Dreams of the future are far from their minds.

I am thankful that Brown was able to be delivered from that tumultous chapter of her life. I am also glad that she found the courage to share her story with the world to be inspiration for the next person.

Definitely a great read (judging from the few chapters I've read). Great recommendation Riv ;) Be on the lookout because I'll be raiding your virtual library from here on out lol

riva. said...

Oh man! You were yelling at the social workers too? So I was I! God damn they were naive.

Thanks for the love Erika. If you want to stalk my virtual library, check me out on Goodreads. My screen name is Rivaflowz.

Veronica said...

This sounds interesting. I'll have to add this to my reading list. I do have 100 books to read in the next two years. Thanks for sharing!