17 May 2011

New Reads: Ice-T, Woods, & Souljah

Street Lit heavyweights are hitting the bookshelves this season with titles that will undoubtedly be of great interest to those who enjoy reading this wonderfully diverse literary genre. Here are my book reviews for 3 newly or soon-to-be-released titles:

Ice-T and Douglas Century. (April 19, 2011). Ice: A Memoir of of Gangster Life and Redemption from South Central to Hollywood. NY: One World/Ballantine. ISBN-13: 978-0345523280 | $25.00 hardcover | 272 pages.

Readers will enjoy Ice-T's straight-from-the-hip swagga in his memoir, Ice: A Memoir of Gangster Life and Redemption from South Central to Hollywood. The book is an intriguing insight into Ice-T's life as an only child born and reared in New Jersey, but sent to California, upon the death of his parents, to basically fend for himself as a young adult. Ice-T recounts his days as a young hustler and pimp on the streets of Los Angeles, his experiences in the US military (very interesting) and his subsequent entry into Hip Hop where he made his mark as a pioneer of Gangsta Rap

What is really refreshing about Ice-T's book is that his honesty and rawness doesn't hurt: it doesn't scar, it doesn't traumatize. He tells his truth as it T-Ice is, and he does it with a finesse that solidifies him as an "Ol' G," who commands much respect for his life choices and his willingness to understand and learn from his own decisions. This memoir conveys a depth of warm wisdom within the man, Ice-T.

Additionally, Ice-T shares interesting tidbits about his novice acting experience while filming the 1990's-era hit movie, "New Jack City." He also gives readers an understanding into how he, a former criminal, reconciles portraying a police detective, on the hit series, Law & Order: SVU. Ice-T offers a sober glimpse of Hollywood as a town of real people, not larger than life - just everyday good people with large, complicated jobs. Ice-T's memoir is a welcome addition to the Street Literature biography shelf. His story is worthy to be shelved alongside his idol's books, the original Ol' G himself, Iceberg Slim.

StreetLiterature.com recommendation: Highly recommended for all public libraries - A/YA. Academic libraries may find this book to be a valuable addition to the biography collection. Note: The book also received a starred review from Booklist. - Vanessa Irvin Morris.

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Teri Woods. (May 25, 2011). Dutch III: International Gangster. NY: Grand Central Publishing. ISBN-13: 978-0446551540 | $14.99 paperback | 240 pages.

Although author Kwame Teague released his version of Dutch 3: The Finale in 2007, I highly recommend Teri Woods' final installment in the ever-popular Dutch series.

Dutch III: International Gangster is an enjoyable mix of contemporary Street Lit and Bourne Supremacy-type espionage, with all the elements Woods has become known for - fast action, an educative yet intriguing plot that offers insights into legal and illegal socio-economic infrastructures, as well as larger than life characters (men and women) who are also characterized with vulnerabilities. 


What's exciting about Woods' Dutch III is that we are re-introduced to characters from the Nigerian scene, aaaannnnddddd, the old gang is back: Dutch, Angel, Craze, and Roc! With the old crew covering each other's backs, no one tells Dutch's story, like Teri Woods. It is evident that Woods cares about the readers' connection to her characters - she makes sure to tell a complete story: no one is forgotten; no one is left behind. And of course, there are crazy plot twists and unexpected surprises that are signature Woods style.

I anticipate that Street Lit fans will come looking for Dutch III: International Gangster once it drops on May 25, 2011. Since it is being released in paperback, I suggest purchasing multiple copies as this title may become a Street Lit hot pick.

StreetLiterature.com recommendation: Highly recommended for all public libraries - A/YA. University bookstores carrying Street Lit may do well with this title. - Vanessa Irvin Morris.

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Sister Souljah. (April 12, 2011). Midnight and the Meaning of Love. NY: Atria. | ISBN-13: 978-1439165355 | $26.99 US hardcover | 624 pages.

As you may recall, I greatly anticipated the release of Sister Souljah's new novel, Midnight and the Meaning of Love (MML)in my blog post, a few weeks agoHowever, upon reading it, I am disappointed to report that MML is not the longly anticipated prequel/bridge novel to the classic, Coldest Winter Ever (CWE), but rather, it is a sequel to Midnight: A Gangster Love Story (MGL) . 

Note: this review, henceforth, contains *SPOILERS* to MML.

Midnight and the Meaning of Love (MML) continues Midnight's coming-of-age with the 15-year-old ninja warrior traveling alone to Japan to find his kidnapped 16-year-old bride, Akemi. 

The bottom line to this tale - Midnight finding Akemi - turns into Midnight also finding a second bride, 16-year-old Japanese/African American Chiasa, who is a lethal swordfighter, fluent in Japanese, and  interested in learning about Islam. 

The novel is a 624-paged quest,  taking readers on an international trek through the cultures and languages of Japan and South Korea, before Midnight and his 2 pregnant wives head back to Brooklyn - all within less than a month's time. 

With Midnight and the Meaning of Love, Souljah fans are still left with unanswered questions and missed-understandings about the story of Winter Santiaga and Midnight in CWE. The only time Souljah respects the readers enough to give them some answers to the unfinished story they've been anxiously awaiting reconciliation for over a decade (CWE was published in 1999) -  is when she depicts the first meeting of Midnight and Ricky Santiaga in MML's Book One, Chapter 22 - the chapter entitled, "Ricky Santiaga." 

Readers looking for a connection to CWE need only read the "Ricky Santiaga" chapter in MML to get a sense of continuity between Midnight and his affiliation with the Santiaga family. It is hoped that at some point in the near decade, that Sister Souljah will revisit the Santiaga family and unpack their story so that readers can learn from Souljah, whatever truths brought the Sudanese warrior Midnight half way around the world, not just once, but now twice, only to ultimately end up back in the hood as a lieutenant thug.

Note: Sister Souljah interview on Midnight and the Meaning of Love: 

StreetLiterature.com recommendation: If possible, wait for the paperback. If you must, purchase one copy and/or enough to meet readers' demands. A/YA (caveat: graphic teen sex scenes). - Vanessa Irvin Morris.