BookBrowse Reviews Losing My Cool by Thomas Chatterton Williams

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Losing My Cool

How a Father's Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-hop Culture

by Thomas Chatterton Williams

Losing My Cool by Thomas Chatterton Williams
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2010, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2011, 240 pages

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A pitch-perfect account of how hip-hop culture drew in the author and how his father drew him out again - with love, perseverance, and fifteen thousand books

17 out of the 18 BookBrowse readers who read Losing My Cool rated it either 4 or 5 out of 5 stars!

Compelling, honest and insightful

"This is an important book. Williams chronicles his life in hip hop culture and his eventual break from that culture as he moves away from negative values (empty materialism, denigration of women) into a life of self examination. Along the way he becomes a philosophy major and is particularly gifted at explaining difficult concepts in language that make them seem quite simple. Although this is not an introduction to Heidegger or Hegel, you will walk away understanding the ideas they propound. The book is filled with extraordinary insight about the values hip hop culture promotes, what it is like to grow up middle class and black in America and how pernicious the hip hop values are for most young, black people. Williams is very insightful and is most compelling when he reflects on his life. One caveat: Williams seems somewhat uncomfortable and overly self-conscious when writing about himself and the people he knows and in the early part of the book, the writing is stilted. Persist! This is a book that is well worth reading.(Froma F).

A magnitude of words have been written about peer pressure; it is not a new idea that children fall prey to influences beyond the realm of home and their parents perceptions. But this book spoke with such a new, clear, honest and brave voice, I was compelled to listen. What young people are faced with in the fast, free, drug laced easy virtue of today's world is beyond what a parent can imagine. What this book does is allow a teenager to see the reality of that world. I think it should be required reading for every high school student... Today's teenager can either give in and live in fear of the pressures of their peers and flounder, or they can grasp the vast and varied philosophies of the world and find their place to succeed. They can not think like us, they are living a different experience, but more importantly, we don't need them to think like us. What this book tells us is that they need their culture as a new starting point. Understanding that thinking and evaluating what life offers, is the real freedom (Duane F).

The ideas proposed in this book offer a culture shift away from what some believe to be popular, cool and hip. Hip today is not what hip was yesterday, and will not be what hip is tomorrow. The challenge for the young who want to be part of a group for reasons of safety, coolness or just belonging is to find the thoughts that can help create a cool, safe free society. The challenge for adults is to remember that what they do and say is heard and repeated by future generations ( Maria P).

Thomas shows us that it is possible to follow one's dreams instead of doing what everyone else is doing. I also enjoyed the philosophical view of this book and believe that he did a wonderful job of explaining it towards the end of the book. Whether you agree or disagree with him, this is a must read in today's world where many of us are afraid to be individuals and instead decide to be part of the crowd (Rosario D). Being the age of Thomas's father myself, that relationship was the thread that I followed through the book. The book was rich with philosophical turns, anecdotes, history, and culture from a very non-typical perspective ... but very much driven by the loving, strong father. The book had so many facets to understand - hip hop to Hegel in 200 pages. I guess my desire would be to sit down at the table with Pappy and Thomas and understand the subtle nuances between their middle class and mine (Barbara C).

I love the simple wonder of this book! Even at the tender age of 64, Thomas Chatterton Williams gave me a new view of a world I was in opposition to, and made me rethink my viewpoint. Well done! (Duane F)

And a good choice for book clubs
The text would make for interesting book club discussions as the individuals could draw parallels to similar soul searching they have made when faced with challenges to their own values (Vicky S). I found it so engaging I read it in a day. Williams provides insight into what draws people into the hip-hop lifestyle as well as what it means to be black today ... I'm already looking forward to rereading it and sharing it with friends so we can discuss it, black and white together (Kendra R).

This review was originally published in May 2010, and has been updated for the April 2011 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



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