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New York Times Bestseller New York Times Editors' Choice O Magazine Best Summer Book Baltimore City Paper Best Memoir, 2016 Reminiscent of the classic Random Family and The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, but told by the man who lived it, THE COOK UP is a riveting look inside the Baltimore drug trade portrayed in The Wire and an incredible story of redemption. The smar New York Times Bestseller New York Times Editors' Choice O Magazine Best Summer Book Baltimore City Paper Best Memoir, 2016 Reminiscent of the classic Random Family and The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, but told by the man who lived it, THE COOK UP is a riveting look inside the Baltimore drug trade portrayed in The Wire and an incredible story of redemption. The smartest kid on his block in East Baltimore, D. was certain he would escape the life of drugs, decadence, and violence that had surrounded him since birth. But when his brother Devin is shot-only days after D. receives notice that he's been accepted into Georgetown University-the plans for his life are exploded, and he takes up the mantel of his brother's crack empire. D. succeeds in cultivating the family business, but when he meets a woman unlike any he's known before, his priorities are once more put into question. Equally terrifying and hilarious, inspiring and heartbreaking, D.'s story offers a rare glimpse into the mentality of a person who has escaped many hells.


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New York Times Bestseller New York Times Editors' Choice O Magazine Best Summer Book Baltimore City Paper Best Memoir, 2016 Reminiscent of the classic Random Family and The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, but told by the man who lived it, THE COOK UP is a riveting look inside the Baltimore drug trade portrayed in The Wire and an incredible story of redemption. The smar New York Times Bestseller New York Times Editors' Choice O Magazine Best Summer Book Baltimore City Paper Best Memoir, 2016 Reminiscent of the classic Random Family and The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, but told by the man who lived it, THE COOK UP is a riveting look inside the Baltimore drug trade portrayed in The Wire and an incredible story of redemption. The smartest kid on his block in East Baltimore, D. was certain he would escape the life of drugs, decadence, and violence that had surrounded him since birth. But when his brother Devin is shot-only days after D. receives notice that he's been accepted into Georgetown University-the plans for his life are exploded, and he takes up the mantel of his brother's crack empire. D. succeeds in cultivating the family business, but when he meets a woman unlike any he's known before, his priorities are once more put into question. Equally terrifying and hilarious, inspiring and heartbreaking, D.'s story offers a rare glimpse into the mentality of a person who has escaped many hells.

30 review for The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kelli

    This is someone's story, a memoir of a lifestyle as foreign to me as Ancient Greece. The language used throughout went past colloquial all the way to slang and the very short chapters were made up almost entirely of dialogue. This style of writing made me feel as if I were in the room or on the corner with these people. It made me feel uncomfortable but also a little bored of it all, which I'm sure was not the desired effect. Stylistically, the story undermined itself. In the end, I had no more This is someone's story, a memoir of a lifestyle as foreign to me as Ancient Greece. The language used throughout went past colloquial all the way to slang and the very short chapters were made up almost entirely of dialogue. This style of writing made me feel as if I were in the room or on the corner with these people. It made me feel uncomfortable but also a little bored of it all, which I'm sure was not the desired effect. Stylistically, the story undermined itself. In the end, I had no more understanding than I had at the beginning. I really wanted to understand. I needed much less dialogue and much more depth. This barely scratched the surface. The setting was bleak, the statistics devastating, but this felt more like diary entries than a story with soul. I applaud the author for removing himself from this lifestyle but this book didn't work for me. Sadly. 2.5 stars.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lynx

    "I saw it all" Watkins writes in his own voice, sharing his journey from Georgetown University hopeful to the leader of a crack empire on the streets of East Baltimore and how he found the will to turn it all around. Watkins raw honesty and intellect shine through every page, creating an engaging look into a world most of us will never experience. His keen self perception, which no doubt helped keep him alive while working the streets, is also the key to his writing. Fascinating, intense read fro "I saw it all" Watkins writes in his own voice, sharing his journey from Georgetown University hopeful to the leader of a crack empire on the streets of East Baltimore and how he found the will to turn it all around. Watkins raw honesty and intellect shine through every page, creating an engaging look into a world most of us will never experience. His keen self perception, which no doubt helped keep him alive while working the streets, is also the key to his writing. Fascinating, intense read from beginning to end. *Thank you Grand Central Publishing and Netgalley for this review copy.

  3. 4 out of 5

    J Beckett

    Title: The Cook Up Author: D. Watkins Hardcover: 272 pages Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (May 3, 2016) I am selfishly at a crossroads, perhaps a little flummoxed, maybe just enough of an editor to notice the small stuff. For just over a year, I have been reading the work of D. Watkins voraciously; from his articles in Salon to the two books he released. He is, in many respects, an urban (metropolitan) Charles Dickens, telling and retelling stories that are completely American, based on an Amer Title: The Cook Up Author: D. Watkins Hardcover: 272 pages Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (May 3, 2016) I am selfishly at a crossroads, perhaps a little flummoxed, maybe just enough of an editor to notice the small stuff. For just over a year, I have been reading the work of D. Watkins voraciously; from his articles in Salon to the two books he released. He is, in many respects, an urban (metropolitan) Charles Dickens, telling and retelling stories that are completely American, based on an America that is well known yet so foreign to most of America. It is for this reason that when reading his 2016 release, The Cook Up, the story of crack dealing and use in Baltimore, on my Kindle, that I was disappointed by the number of editing errors that appeared throughout the book. Still, The Cook Up was a tremendous literary voyage. His colorfully entertaining, but wholly true tales of drugs and life in Baltimore. Its characters, customs, and profound and unexpurgated vibe are, for me, some of the best emotional story-telling about real world issues in the little-big town of Charm City. Watkins pulls no punches; he instead battle-rams his points directly into your chest, with no apology. He writes about his world-- the world he knows best-- and his books, articles and interviews leave no doubt about who he is and where he's from. The Cook Up is drugs, sex, and cars, music, relationships, murder, blood, tears, and losing one's soul to the unknown; a memoir dotted with sandman bluesy sorrow and 'thug life' elation. It exposes the pain of being African-American in a city (country) that recognizes orange jumpsuit numbers before learning [and aknowleging] government or neighborhood names. It exposes the pain of being African-American in a city that remains divided by color, class, and education. Watkins is keen on relationships, forthright in the complicated variables that produce those relationships, and if you are confused, read the following exchange for clarity: Guy (Baltimore City police officer) and Tatter Man (Watkins' cousin) "My younger cousin Tatter Man, who never broke the law in his life, came through the block to get some money from me for his prom one night. I hit him with the cash and we walked down to the Chinese spot to get some shrimp fried rice and gravy, Tatter walked out the door in time for one of Guy's sweeps. 'What the -- is that your dinner?' yelled Guy to a confused Tatter. 'Yeah, I got some rice, what?' 'Boy, you being smart!' Guy responded as he knocked Tatter's food to the ground. I watched from the window as Guy used his boot to smash the rice into the concrete." The Cook Up is another wake-up call in the age of Trumpian political philosophy. It has exposed and, perhaps, reawakened the sleeping giant that lingered in waiting. Watkins speaks the language of his community, his friends, and those who want to be heard but have been silenced by irreversible circumstance. It is a story well known, with a history that still longs for a comprehensive audience. Thanks to Watkins, that audience is discovering the history.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Will

    D. Watkins is an inspiring guy, a man, an educator, and a mentor who has undertaken what is one of the most persistent and difficult tasks in Baltimore: to improve the lives of young people in our great city. D writes about his life on the streets of East Baltimore, dealing drugs after his older brother Bip was shot dead by rivals. Bip never wanted D to throw his life away dealing drugs, but for a young man growing up in East Baltimore, with no role models, a horrible education system that incul D. Watkins is an inspiring guy, a man, an educator, and a mentor who has undertaken what is one of the most persistent and difficult tasks in Baltimore: to improve the lives of young people in our great city. D writes about his life on the streets of East Baltimore, dealing drugs after his older brother Bip was shot dead by rivals. Bip never wanted D to throw his life away dealing drugs, but for a young man growing up in East Baltimore, with no role models, a horrible education system that inculcated a hatred of reading in him, and drugs on every corner, he had no option but to set up his own outfit. Last night I attended an event at Red Emma's, a lefty bookstore/coffeehouse/worker cooperative that hosts incredible, socially conscious events, always free and open to the public. D spoke candidly about his message of helping young black people break through the oppressive system that assumes they can only achieve failure and a life of crime. 98% of those born in poverty here die in poverty. D's life is a tale of caution – and hope – for young black Baltimoreans, showing that there is a way out, but that they can't do it on their own. While The Cook Up will definitely inspire young black men to escape the trappings of the system and all of its hypocrisies, D's book is written so forcefully, completely without pretension or haughtiness, that it should be assigned to high school classrooms across the country. After reading about dope fiends, splattered brains, the good people of the hood, and the grandmas who hold disintegrating neighborhoods together, it is hard to imagine that his words won't affect the reader and radically alter their perspective about Baltimore and systemic injustice. But D, a product and forever resident of the hood, doesn't whine. He presents his story as what it is, and he makes use of its power. While the writing lacks cohesive form and suffers from some poor editing, D's work is intensely readable. This is the book (along with Ta-Nehisi Coates' work, and not the patronizing The Other Wes Moore,) that should be handed out to kids by the crate. D is a Baltimore icon, and he will continue to bring the city's segregated communities together. More passionate and street-hardened writers like D need to be given a platform to share their views. I was lucky enough to exchange some words with him, and I'm fully convinced that with the future of the city's youth under D's guidance, Baltimore has a bright future ahead.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Laura.125Pages

    This review was originally posted on www.125pages.com The Cook Up by D. Watkins provided a gripping insight to how a person on the right path ends up following a dark and dangerous pathway instead. D. is a young man striving to escape his neighborhood in East Baltimore with an acceptance to Georgetown University. He has seen the life his older brother has as a drug dealer and wants a different life for himself. Then, the death of his brother starts a series of events that leads to him cookin This review was originally posted on www.125pages.com The Cook Up by D. Watkins provided a gripping insight to how a person on the right path ends up following a dark and dangerous pathway instead. D. is a young man striving to escape his neighborhood in East Baltimore with an acceptance to Georgetown University. He has seen the life his older brother has as a drug dealer and wants a different life for himself. Then, the death of his brother starts a series of events that leads to him cooking crack in an abandoned building and having a vast crew of dealers and thugs underneath him. After a few years of drug abuse, drug sales and seeing many unnecessary deaths, D. finds a light in his darkness and begins the long road to transformation. I was fascinated by the life of D. Watkins. The Cook Up was an intriguing and engaging look into a world of violence, greed and addiction. The timeline did cause me some confusion as it jumped around a bit, but that did not detract from the story telling as a whole. There was a surprising amount of emotion in the book; Watkins was able to transfer his feelings into the words. The world of East Baltimore was wrapped in and through the narrative. It was almost a character they way the locations were so prominent. The Cook Up is the type of memoir I feel is important as it helped open my eyes to the struggles and triumphs of others. D. Watkins did not have an easy life and he was able to rise up and accomplish a great deal. I particularly liked that he did not shy from his past, but rather embraced the lessons of loss and hardship to create his future. Favorite lines - It took twenty-three years for me to figure out that money and love are two different things. Until that point, my whole life had been centered around what I had, what I could do for others, or what I could make. My friends and family felt like me—we all share the same bullshit-money-equals-love mentality. We are all equally flawed.  Have you read The Cook Up, or added it to your TBR?This book was most likely received free from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Anita Pomerantz

    Fascinating memoir from a former drug dealer in Baltimore. Watkins really doesn't hold back as he lays out the specifics of how and why drug dealers operate. It's an eye opener. It's also heartbreaking as it becomes clear that the intelligence required to create a successful drug dealing operation could readily be deployed in some more traditional pursuits, but the money, and almost as importantly the "prestige" is seductive. I love memoirs that give insight into something you know little or not Fascinating memoir from a former drug dealer in Baltimore. Watkins really doesn't hold back as he lays out the specifics of how and why drug dealers operate. It's an eye opener. It's also heartbreaking as it becomes clear that the intelligence required to create a successful drug dealing operation could readily be deployed in some more traditional pursuits, but the money, and almost as importantly the "prestige" is seductive. I love memoirs that give insight into something you know little or nothing about, and this book does that in a gritty, no holds barred voice.

  7. 5 out of 5

    YupIReadIt

    3.5 pretty good. Thought it would be more emotional but still good

  8. 5 out of 5

    Amber

    The Lowdown: Dwight "Dee" Watkins tells a harrowing tale of his life as a drug dealer on the streets of East Baltimore in the aftermath of his brother "Bip's" death. The Good:This book was gritty, visceral and real. Watkins minces no words as he describes the drug life, the murders, the flashy lifestyle, the strip clubs, the grinding poverty. The portrayal of East Baltimore is a sad reality and testament to the devastating effects of housing segregation, crack cocaine, economic depression, strict The Lowdown: Dwight "Dee" Watkins tells a harrowing tale of his life as a drug dealer on the streets of East Baltimore in the aftermath of his brother "Bip's" death. The Good:This book was gritty, visceral and real. Watkins minces no words as he describes the drug life, the murders, the flashy lifestyle, the strip clubs, the grinding poverty. The portrayal of East Baltimore is a sad reality and testament to the devastating effects of housing segregation, crack cocaine, economic depression, strict federal drug sentencing guidelines, failing schools and overall lack of resources that plague many predominately black and brown communities. The Bad: While The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir is marketed as a memoir to me, as a reader, it felt much more like a collection of short stories and vignettes. Most of the writing came across as a bit disjointed e.g. Watkins would be describing how he and his drug crew were hanging in the cut, drinking, smoking weed or breaking down bricks and then the next minute Watkins would be at the strip club or buying a new whip. I was also disappointed the author didn't delve deeper into his life after the streets. He mentions briefly in the very last pages of the book that he wants to be a teacher in E. Baltimore and, to my surprise and delight, I find in his duskjacket bio that he went on to earn two master's degrees and is a professor at University of Baltimore! A few chapters on his transformation from drug dealer to college professor would have been compelling. Also, my Kindle edition was fairly rife with errors. Small grammatical errors that any good editor worth his or her salt would've caught. Not sure if the print edition has the same problems. You should read this if: -You're a fan of The Wire, David Simon's Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets or The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood (all of these are great, btw) -You like when a memoir "keeps it one hunnit" and doesn't gloss over harsh realities Don't even bother if: -You can't handle Ebonics or what I like to call "urban patois" or heavy slang and find this type of stylistic writing distracting. I think one reviewer said something to the effect of she felt like she was in the room or on the corner with "these people." (eye roll...that was the whole point). So if you have to look up what "sherm," or "yak," mean in the Urban Dictionary and find this too taxing...don't bother. Overall, a 3.5 star read. Disjointed in some places but a quick yet disturbing look into the reality of life in East Baltimore.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Kumor

    The Cook Up by: D.Watkins is a book I really liked because it had things that I am interested in. To begin with this, book is about Dee Watkin’s life growing up. It all starts in Baltimore with his friend/role model getting shot and killed. This book had many important details. “Brock grabbed the gun and we tussled.” 50 Also there parts when they make profit and hustled on the streets. “I have cooked up the other half of the brick.” 52. Others may argue that the the violence in the book is not a The Cook Up by: D.Watkins is a book I really liked because it had things that I am interested in. To begin with this, book is about Dee Watkin’s life growing up. It all starts in Baltimore with his friend/role model getting shot and killed. This book had many important details. “Brock grabbed the gun and we tussled.” 50 Also there parts when they make profit and hustled on the streets. “I have cooked up the other half of the brick.” 52. Others may argue that the the violence in the book is not appropriate for the teen audience. However, we need to know that the real world the world isn't always been nice and the things you do doesn't always go the way you wanted to go. All in all, I really liked this book. I'm really interested in how people had to survive the struggle and had to hustle to make a living in Baltimore, MD. I would give this book a 5 star rating because it has lots of reality and I love the language that this book has. It can really change the mood of the book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    amie

    3.5 This was a quick read but a lot of it is tough to read. This is the closest glimpse I’ve taken into selling crack and hustling and I can’t imagine a more credible source than D. Watkins. Parts of the story seemed underdeveloped, especially toward the end. I pulled this out of a Little Free Library last year and will put back for someone else to find.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Eleven

    The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir In The Cook Up, we find D. Watkins at the center of the mass hysteria that is East Baltimore. Following news of his brother’s death just days after being accepted into Georgetown University, Watkins suddenly found himself in a position that his brother had fought extremely hard to keep him away from, the drug game. Although Watkins wasn’t a dealer when his brother was alive, he certainly made a nice transition into the culture as he quickly became one of the elite The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir In The Cook Up, we find D. Watkins at the center of the mass hysteria that is East Baltimore. Following news of his brother’s death just days after being accepted into Georgetown University, Watkins suddenly found himself in a position that his brother had fought extremely hard to keep him away from, the drug game. Although Watkins wasn’t a dealer when his brother was alive, he certainly made a nice transition into the culture as he quickly became one of the elite hustlers known to Baltimore on Madeira Street and Ashland Avenue. With a crew that consisted of childhood friends and newly acquainted talent such as Uncle Gee, Hurk, Nick, Long Tooth and Dog Boy, Watkins’ wealth only increases as his crew began to cement their brand of “Rockafella” crack as the best dope that East Baltimore had to offer. As a result, Beamers, Benz’s and lavish materialistic items become as standard for Watkins and his crew as a white man jogging in the suburbs on an early Saturday morning. It isn’t until Dee meets Soni, a girl around his age that is conscious, knowledgeable, and well educated that he contemplates life on the street for the first time in a while. While in conflict with this, Dee spends some time selling coke in safe communities with a former Loyola college buddy named Tyler and a friend named Troy who worked at a dialysis unit and craved the type of money Dee was making. Overtime, Dee realizes that selling coke isn’t the answer as well and delves into real estate. From there, he invests and sells everything from bars, condos, and numbers from his own slot machines to sustain the way of life that he had been living on the streets. It isn’t until uncle Gee shoots Dog Boy that Dee realizes he needs to make a complete break from his friends once and for all. Quickly after, he renounces drug culture in its entirety and pyramids schemes and decides to enroll back into school. Once back in college, he enrolls at the University of Baltimore and finds a strong passion for reading. This connection leads Dee into the path of teaching and being an educator. Although many classmates discouraged him from the matter, he makes his point by saying that he doesn’t want to be another crab in the barrel bringing a brother down and that “I had made tons of money in the streets during my time as a drug dealer and it never brought me happiness”. All this to show that by story’s end Watkins had found himself. Even from his time dealing crack and being an overseer to his operation, Dee had always been there to educate and guide his friends while rationalizing the means of what it meant to be a black man in urban America while staying alive long enough to tell the tale.

  12. 4 out of 5

    M R

    I picked this book up from the library on a whim because I think I remembered seeing reviews and wanting to read it. First, this was a quick read for me. I liked the episodic way in which D tells his story, but I will say that because this a story about a drug dealer I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop (something bad to happen to him i.e. jail or a near fatal shooting) and some of the chapter titles made me jump to some unnecessary conclusions. The lifestyle that D details in this book are I picked this book up from the library on a whim because I think I remembered seeing reviews and wanting to read it. First, this was a quick read for me. I liked the episodic way in which D tells his story, but I will say that because this a story about a drug dealer I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop (something bad to happen to him i.e. jail or a near fatal shooting) and some of the chapter titles made me jump to some unnecessary conclusions. The lifestyle that D details in this book are glimpses into a life that I've seen a few moments at a time while I've waited for the bus/train in neighborhoods of Chicago that resemble East Baltimore. The lifestyle he describes sounds both glamorous and scary - an uneasy dichotomy that I know I could not sustain. I did find it quite interesting that he was able to get out of the hood without getting bogged down by all the people and circumstances (those created by him or created by drug/crime policies) and much like Jay-Z, who he references throughout the book reverentially, take his lessons from the street and apply it to legit business ventures. I will admit that even with a voice as authentic sounding as D's I was still skeptical of just the sheer amount of money and events that he depicts which I think is also stoked by the fact that he seems to be the only "smart" or "lucky" ones of his crew to make it out. Although he does speak about his brothers/street family with what I read as awe/respect/love - it's still sometimes hard for me to accept that life is often only as complicated as a coin toss and things that one person can do for a long time will never suffer any consequences while someone else can do it once and immediately suffer negative consequences. There were certain moments where it almost *almost* made me think that I should get with a d-boy and then I was quickly reminded why the streets are friend to no one and it's not worth my life (or anyone's in all honesty) for a designer whatever. I was also reminded of Sista Souljah's Coldest Winter Ever when those thoughts of maybe I should try to find a kingpin (lolz) since drug dealers are making enough money to pay off my student loan debt in three months, but each time I was reminded of Winter and how she got played by the game and think better of it. Overall, I enjoyed this book and appreciated hearing the story of the streets from someone who ran them, got ran off them and is trying to help keep others away. I wish D all the best in his life and hope that he's able to help more young men who are living the life he used to live.

  13. 4 out of 5

    kelly

    First off: if you're familiar at all with the HBO series "The Wire," then reading this book will be a piece of cake for you... Overall it's a very raw, unsettling look into a young man's decent into the violent drug trade of inner city Baltimore. Watkins knows how to set the scene with vivid imagery of crack houses, junkies, the sounds of gunfire. There was never a moment when I didn't feel a part of this story. I felt like I was actually there, standing on the corner seeing all of the action and First off: if you're familiar at all with the HBO series "The Wire," then reading this book will be a piece of cake for you... Overall it's a very raw, unsettling look into a young man's decent into the violent drug trade of inner city Baltimore. Watkins knows how to set the scene with vivid imagery of crack houses, junkies, the sounds of gunfire. There was never a moment when I didn't feel a part of this story. I felt like I was actually there, standing on the corner seeing all of the action and devastation first hand. I do have to say, however, that this isn't a great book. The execution here is sloppy, with dozens of grammatical errors and typos all throughout. It makes me wonder who edited this memoir, or if it was even edited at all. The pacing's a problem too, as it started off great in the beginning, but by the middle the action definitely seemed to slow down. It was disheartening to realize that Watkins doesn't lend as much self-reflection to the last three quarters of the book. Instead, he packs it with tons and tons of unnecessary dialogue. And lastly, because there is a lack of self-reflection, I'm unclear on how the author feels about his experiences on the streets. Was his purpose here to relish the highs of being a drug dealer or wanting to express remorse for what he's done? Even after reading this, I am unsure. At many times in the book he brags quite openly about the luxury cars, sneakers, and stacks of money he had, all gotten with profits from selling narcotics. He also reminds us (a couple times, I might add) of the fact that he never got caught by the cops. Once again, I have to wonder if he's happy he got away with it all. Because of the convoluted nature of this narrative, I still don't have an answer to that question.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    This was a fantastic book, but such a difficult book to read. It paints the portrait of a life and of a culture so completely different than the life I live inside my little bubble. It was shocking and sad and terrifying. I am glad I read it and I want to read his other book, "The Beast Side: Living and Dying While Black in America." Dee tells the story of how difficult it is to escape your circumstances, not just because of a lack of opportunity or experience, but because escaping your circums This was a fantastic book, but such a difficult book to read. It paints the portrait of a life and of a culture so completely different than the life I live inside my little bubble. It was shocking and sad and terrifying. I am glad I read it and I want to read his other book, "The Beast Side: Living and Dying While Black in America." Dee tells the story of how difficult it is to escape your circumstances, not just because of a lack of opportunity or experience, but because escaping your circumstances means escaping your friends, family, and community. It means leaving or abandoning the people who depend on you and upon whom you come to depend. And yet, somehow, Dee manages to escape the life but remain in his community, giving back to his community, offering his community the opportunity and experience they desperately need. He does it without arrogance or condescension. He does so through his ability to understand their motives, their obstacles, and their obligations, but with an ability to reflect on how deeply sad and desperate and truly trapped they are. This is a book that I won't shake for awhile. This is a book that will continue to haunt me. It challenged me and expanded my world view. I don't quite know what to do with that yet. It leaves me, as Dee writes, "questioning my questions."

  15. 5 out of 5

    Debbie Smyth

    The instructional part of this book is children live the life they can see and imagine. I think his brother's desire for a better life was dormant in Dee's consciousness and was activated via his relationship with Soni. He knew there was a better way to live. The sad part of the story is that kids in the hood see the drug culture as the only achievable way out to a viable life without want. If these children had knowledge of another way(via a good education with reading at its core) maybe we cou The instructional part of this book is children live the life they can see and imagine. I think his brother's desire for a better life was dormant in Dee's consciousness and was activated via his relationship with Soni. He knew there was a better way to live. The sad part of the story is that kids in the hood see the drug culture as the only achievable way out to a viable life without want. If these children had knowledge of another way(via a good education with reading at its core) maybe we could save more Dees. As someone who grew up close enough to hood life to know it wasn't for me, knowing there was a another way was critical to my success. In other reviews I noted concern that not enough was said about the conversion - Dees leaving the game. I think he dealt with it some but it's difficult to portray the stress and tension involved with living that life. You know you won't live long and people are dying all around you. You are a pariah to those relatives on the other side and you can never trust anyone in your world. As a book, the delivery reminded me of the choppy nature of hood life. It could have been more smoothly edited but I think it would have been less authentic. Good luck to you Dee, keep on writing.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Liz De Coster

    3.5, rounded up to reflect his overall work. Also he signed my copies of his zines, so! Watkins has a strong narrative voice, a certain directness that makes his writing extremely engaging. From what I've read of his, I tend to think shorter forms are a strength for him. If you're familiar with Watkins some of this content may seem familiar, but there's a certain rawness, maybe bluntness, to the telling that read to me like these are still events the author is still grappling with to some degree, 3.5, rounded up to reflect his overall work. Also he signed my copies of his zines, so! Watkins has a strong narrative voice, a certain directness that makes his writing extremely engaging. From what I've read of his, I tend to think shorter forms are a strength for him. If you're familiar with Watkins some of this content may seem familiar, but there's a certain rawness, maybe bluntness, to the telling that read to me like these are still events the author is still grappling with to some degree, and the reader is taken along with the writer. There's a bit on p. 58 where Watkins describes fiends lining up to buy drugs as "... kids, happy kids, because we had their candy." It's a poignant and disturbing comparison that really felt like a mind grenade - it will be rattling around in my head for a while.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rose Peterson

    When I recommend books to my dad, he often laments that they are all so sad and hopeless, and I give him some spiel about how insulating ourselves from the struggles of others comforts us but doesn't solve problems. The Cook Up, though, left me more cynical and hopeless than most books do--and oddly, that's what I loved about it. There was no redemption. There was no white teacher who swooped in and fixed everything, no community center that opened and magically got kids off the street, no polic When I recommend books to my dad, he often laments that they are all so sad and hopeless, and I give him some spiel about how insulating ourselves from the struggles of others comforts us but doesn't solve problems. The Cook Up, though, left me more cynical and hopeless than most books do--and oddly, that's what I loved about it. There was no redemption. There was no white teacher who swooped in and fixed everything, no community center that opened and magically got kids off the street, no policing initiative that changed the landscape of the community. It reinforced the cyclical nature of the problems that face urban youth. It was honest. I'm already ordering a class set for my students. I know it will resonate with them because so many of Watkins' lines read like Rod Wave lyrics which, of course, means so many lines read like my kids' own lives.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bobbieshiann

    it's sad to read what is actual for any black man in our world, but to read of how he rose slowly but surely was amazing. he did not always make the right decisions but his book is his truth and i cannot knock him for that. i really did enjoy this book and want to read his other one as well.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sheehan

    On the ground reporting from the trap front, very interesting account of a man drawn away from academia to the Game, and them circling back to college again when realized riches are more hollow and harrowing than livable. Baltimore is well represented, and the story is timely.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Steven Yenzer

    Watkins makes it so incredibly clear why the drug trade flourishes in America's inner cities. His story and perspective are vital to understanding how even the "good kids" can become a part of the game.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    Gritty, authentic and honest tale from the streets.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Another wow.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Mishap

    When I hear or read news stories about the chaos in Syria or the refugee crisis, I not only lament the loss of lives and destruction of places, but I also mourn the lost potential. Not only of the dead, but of the displaced who have nothing, not even hope, in the end. There are similar stories around the world, but also here in the US: on reservations, other rural places, and in some of our cities, like Chicago and Baltimore, where Watkins grew up. Places where the neglect, disinvestment, and ra When I hear or read news stories about the chaos in Syria or the refugee crisis, I not only lament the loss of lives and destruction of places, but I also mourn the lost potential. Not only of the dead, but of the displaced who have nothing, not even hope, in the end. There are similar stories around the world, but also here in the US: on reservations, other rural places, and in some of our cities, like Chicago and Baltimore, where Watkins grew up. Places where the neglect, disinvestment, and racism combined to deprive entire neighborhoods of hope and left them ripe for the crack epidemic. Accepted to college, encouraged by his older, dealing brother, Watkins is ready to leave it all behind when Bip is murdered. Deciding to take over his business, Dee becomes a player on the block. Dee tells it all, keeping this memoir raw and of the period: no apologies, no looking back, and with no moralizing message but what the reader might glean for themselves. Shit's bleak and one must hustle to keep your head above water, or from getting blown off. Violence, sexual exploitation, constant substance abuse, and conspicuous consumerism intermix with worry, despair, helping people in the neighborhood, corrupt cops, and that desire to get out of the game. It's hard to recommend this given the toxic masculinity, nihilism, and inhumanity often on display, but its a real world I've never experienced nor will ever experience. The danger with this memoir is that, like some rappers have done, it glamorizes the lifestyle and all the negative shit is ignored.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Anna Hendrickson

    Absolutely flew through this book. The Cook Up is a very raw, honest, and violent look into D. Watkins life as a drug dealer in Baltimore, Maryland. The narrative is extremely detailed and really allowed me to get a sense of the environment and characters who floated in and out. One thing I couldn't really get past was the number of grammatical errors sprinkled throughout the book. The editing seemed sub-par and it was hard to look past it at certain points. I also wished there was more self-ref Absolutely flew through this book. The Cook Up is a very raw, honest, and violent look into D. Watkins life as a drug dealer in Baltimore, Maryland. The narrative is extremely detailed and really allowed me to get a sense of the environment and characters who floated in and out. One thing I couldn't really get past was the number of grammatical errors sprinkled throughout the book. The editing seemed sub-par and it was hard to look past it at certain points. I also wished there was more self-reflection from D at the end. I was expecting more loose ends to be tied up, and to walk away with a better understanding of what he got out of it in the end. Takeaway quote: "It took twenty-three years for me to figure out that money and love are two different things. Until that point, my whole life had been centered around what I had, what I could do for others, or what I could make. My friends and family felt like me—we all share the same bullshit-money-equals-love mentality. We are all equally flawed."

  25. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    I'm always impressed by a memoirist's ability distill their experience into relatable detail - describing the who/what/where/when while also evoking the feeling of the moment AND providing a plot that pulls the reader along. Watkins succeeds with all this - the specific, emotive, and narrative - his characters jump off the page and the story flies along. Watkins relates his experiences as a crack dealer from the perspective of someone who got out, who managed to tease himself away from the allure I'm always impressed by a memoirist's ability distill their experience into relatable detail - describing the who/what/where/when while also evoking the feeling of the moment AND providing a plot that pulls the reader along. Watkins succeeds with all this - the specific, emotive, and narrative - his characters jump off the page and the story flies along. Watkins relates his experiences as a crack dealer from the perspective of someone who got out, who managed to tease himself away from the allure of money and prestige and eventually earn two post-grad degrees. Most essential to this, Watkins lets see and feel his Baltimore, from his perspective. This book will stay with me for a long time.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dawdu Amantanah

    D. Watkins book reminds me a lot of Richard Price "Clockers" book but told by the man who lived it. I know D. Watkins personally and there is no pump faking in his gritty tales on the streets of Baltimore. The death of his big brother Bip sent him from an ambitious college-bound student into a four-year-long journey of cooking crack becoming one of East Baltimore's biggest dealers. Then, at the apex of his power, he renounces it all, the BMW's, drug crews, fast money, and even faster women. D. W D. Watkins book reminds me a lot of Richard Price "Clockers" book but told by the man who lived it. I know D. Watkins personally and there is no pump faking in his gritty tales on the streets of Baltimore. The death of his big brother Bip sent him from an ambitious college-bound student into a four-year-long journey of cooking crack becoming one of East Baltimore's biggest dealers. Then, at the apex of his power, he renounces it all, the BMW's, drug crews, fast money, and even faster women. D. Watkins returns to college towards the of his memoir putting down the guns and picking up a book proving no matter your obstacles perseverance always wins.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    Watkins is incredibly talented. I would implore anyone who lives near or in Baltimore to read his work ASAP. His eloquent, smart, powerful writing will surprise you and make you face reality in witty yet tragic ways. I adore his style and rawness. There's strength in the way he tells his story. He illuminates the dark corners of living and dying in Baltimore, drawing attention to the cyclical systems of school, justice, drugs, gambling seen from the eyes of seemingly forgotten city residents. Th Watkins is incredibly talented. I would implore anyone who lives near or in Baltimore to read his work ASAP. His eloquent, smart, powerful writing will surprise you and make you face reality in witty yet tragic ways. I adore his style and rawness. There's strength in the way he tells his story. He illuminates the dark corners of living and dying in Baltimore, drawing attention to the cyclical systems of school, justice, drugs, gambling seen from the eyes of seemingly forgotten city residents. This is the stuff we should be reading to figure out how to battle and destroy systemic racism.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Vee

    "Everything I did seem extremely stupid." - D. Watkins That quote is taken out of context but it is applicable. Often young people make stupid choices that strongly influences and impact their lives and others. I'm not judging Watkins because he already understands and addressed those stupid things. I'll praise him for being brave enough to share his story. I think it is unfortunate that the young people in desperate situations, risking their lives through illegal means, will probably not read th "Everything I did seem extremely stupid." - D. Watkins That quote is taken out of context but it is applicable. Often young people make stupid choices that strongly influences and impact their lives and others. I'm not judging Watkins because he already understands and addressed those stupid things. I'll praise him for being brave enough to share his story. I think it is unfortunate that the young people in desperate situations, risking their lives through illegal means, will probably not read this cautionary crack rock memoir.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Courtney

    It was a great book, very insightful and an important read that covered many topics from drugs to race, crooked cops, inequality and white privilege. I felt there was a lot of time getting into the storyline at the begining and middle of the book. Toward the end, few details were given about key characters like Tyler, and the author didn't wrap up some of the stories I think the readers would have hoped to know. Did he marry Soni? I want to read more!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    Watkins really tricks you with those short chapters. You really can just go "one more chapter" over and over again because they are so quick. The book is fast-paced, personal and depicts what it's like living this lifestyle from people who actually have lived it. While it is from his point of view, you do get a feeling that there is really a cast of characters around you at all times because he's never really alone. It's not the drug story of Breaking Bad or the crime and dirty scandals of The Wir Watkins really tricks you with those short chapters. You really can just go "one more chapter" over and over again because they are so quick. The book is fast-paced, personal and depicts what it's like living this lifestyle from people who actually have lived it. While it is from his point of view, you do get a feeling that there is really a cast of characters around you at all times because he's never really alone. It's not the drug story of Breaking Bad or the crime and dirty scandals of The Wire. So, throw those media thoughts out when you come into the story. Picture teenage boys and what it's like to slowly drift into and out of the drug trade. And what happens in and out of the game. The language and the content are harsher than what we like for teens, but I think this story really speaks to kids who are living in Watkins's world. I know kids here in Baltimore who would really relate to the way things are in this memoir. That said, I think this book is worth reading by adults too. Seeing things from other perspectives is important and this story uncovers a lot of things that may not be in the view of hegemonic white square culture --and hearing this from someone who not only experienced it, but is also a respected, well-known professor and speaker amplifies what he's trying to say to those hard to crack audiences. It works its way into the ears who need to hear it for their day-to-day lives and it works its way into the minds of people who need empathy.

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