Post #28 – Women’s Memoirs, Book Raves – Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett
Review by Tracy Kauffman Wood
Cupcake Brown’s memoir is so much more than A Piece of Cake. It is an entire meal with courses that one would never wish to order or digest. Bitter tears, unbearable sadness and endless disappointment comprise the ingredients of her young, orphaned life starting from the age of 11. When her mother dies, Cupcake is forced from the arms of a loving, extended family into the clutches of a brutal foster parent and the dispassionately dysfunctional California foster care system.
What follows is a living hell of a childhood, sweetened only by the short-lived comforts of alcohol, drug abuse and street gang camaraderie. But don’t turn away in distaste from this authentic portrait of hustling, gangbanging, prostitution and homelessness because this is a story of learning to listen to the quiet voice beneath the confusion and walking back into the life you deserve, regardless of where you have been. The meal of this book becomes nothing less than a triumph of the spirit with a sweet, redemptive and just dessert, as Cupcake graduates with honors from the University of San Francisco’s School of Law. I collapsed in happy tears at the end of all three reads.
Cupcake’s voice – personable and funny, comes through to the reader, with an authenticity reflecting each phase of her life. Whether she is a protected child, a street-smart gang member or a recovering alcoholic, we feel an intimacy, diminishing the distance between reader and writer. For example, in the beginning we learn from 11 year-old Cupcake just before she tries to awaken her mother who has died in her sleep, “It was January 1967. Wasn’t no school that day. But Momma still had to go to work. So, while Momma was at work, I was goin’ over to Daddy’s house to play with Kelly, the daughter of his lady friend.”
When Cupcake speaks of her 15 year-old life as a gang member in South Central Los Angeles, she admits, “So I had no fear of dying and continued working on earning a rep for being a down Gangsta bitch: robbing, thieving, shooting, stabbing, fighting. I put in work to earn the respect and admiration of my homies. …there was no time for guilt. I was becoming a ghetto star. …I decided I wanted to die a ghetto star-that is, till those bullets hit my ass.”
And as Cupcake humbly finds her way toward recovery she expresses, “It was then that I realized why God had chosen V to be the one to mold me and teach me. She had the challenging task of changing someone who society would argue was unchangeable. Of loving someone who society would say was unlovable. And she was entrusted with the arduous task of teaching someone who society was convinced couldn’t learn a damned thing.”
Writers of memoir will enjoy this. When Cupcake Brown wrote her book, she was practicing law at a prestigious law firm in San Francisco. Since A Piece of Cake has become a New York Times bestseller, Cupcake’s got a brand new bag! She is a motivational speaker commanding thousands of dollars per engagement. Who needs to practice law? She has a popular website, and a telemovie is in the works. Her homies would be proud, but then so would her momma.
Tracy is a professional photographer and is currently writing a memoir. You can follow her at: http://www.whocanstopadream.blogspot.com/