A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown

10382547Cupcake Brown’s memoir, A Piece of Cake, is a literary tour de force- not so much because of her writing (as captivating as it was) but because of her unbelievable tale. Cupcake Brown lets down her walls for the first time, untangling all the lies she’s learned to tell throughout her life in order to protect herself, and jumps through a hurdle of debilitating fear to bring us a fiercely raw, wildly suspenseful, no-holds-barred and intimate story of how she came to be the woman, motivational speaker, lawyer and survivor she is today.

Cupcake begins her journey detailing vivid memories of an idyllic life she once lived and what that could have afforded her had the most traumatic event in her life (at the age of 11) not occurred– the sudden passing of her beloved mother and discovering her lifeless body. Instead of seeing a young, vulnerable child fumble through her youth lost without the unconditional love and commitment of a dedicated mother, we see Cupcake Brown go down a dangerous, unpredictable and treacherous path that involved substance abuse of every drug in the book, violence, domestic abuse, gang activities and child prostitution. Her story of survival, in the unforgiving streets of California’s most notorious neighborhoods, is nothing short of a miracle.

What makes Cupcake’s story stand out from most memoirs is her candid and brutally honest voice- only ever telling it like it is- and at times wrought with an embarrassing, self-deprecating clarity. She writes from the perspective that she has a responsibility for her life’s story; that her actions are not only the result of the circumstances that were handed to her but that ultimately her regrettable decisions were hers and hers alone to make (often heavily influenced and driven by substance abuse and the sometimes misdirected anger at the system that she believes failed her).

This is not just a memoir- this is an important coming-of-age tale that needs to be read by every single adolescent (whether you are White, Black, Asian, rich, poor, well-adjusted or awardterribly lost) because not only is this a warning for what can happen to a life interrupted but this story is a message of hope- that it is never ever too late to do what is right, no matter the cost. 

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

This book made me angry. It enraged me and elicited emotions I long buried. Ruth Wariner was born and raised into a polygamous family.  Her mother, the former wife of a church leader who was later murdered by one of his brothers in the fight for power, remarries another church follower.

the-sound-of-gravel

Ruth’s engrossing narrative begins here- with a meager life of helping her mother with domestic chores such as cooking, cleaning and raising her growing number of siblings and half-siblings. In her memoir, Ruth recounts the despicable and painful details of the neglect and abuse she suffered at the hands of the very people that she entrusted the most. The depth of Ruth’s familial loyalty, her brave young soul and her ability to forgive are what is truly inspiring but it is also what ends up hurting your heart- page after page. For every former child who has ever felt the enduring failure of a parent, this book will test your spirit of forgiveness and may reignite those long forgotten memories. award