Heavy Summer Reading

Being the officially uptight mother that I am, I didn’t want Bella spending her summer parked in front of her computer watching The OC reruns. A week or so after school got out, I asked Bella to read a book and do French (Rosetta Stone) for a half hour each before any TV watching.

To my surprise, she readily agreed and wanted two very specific books: A Million Little Pieces and A Piece of Cake. It turns out that both were memoirs about recovering from drug addiction and have been very popular with the high school crowd. In fact, Bella said that she’d seen kids carrying them around at school all year long and wanted to check them out.

Well, it’s fine line between encouraging reading (Bella rarely reads for pleasure) and censoring adult-themed books. In this case I decided to keep my mouth shut and let her try the books – knowing full well that she prefers flowery romantic scenarios to hardcore street living and gang talk.

Chad, the family librarian, got right on it and brought home both books the same week. He found a used-but-new copy A Million Little Pieces for just pennies at the Friends of the Library bookstore. All the Opray publicity ensured that there were copies of this book everywhere – and Bella could care less about the outcry over the embellished truth. Still, she was curious about this woman Cupcake and wanted to read Piece of Cake first. Bella got about a hundred pages in and then put it aside for Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight saga. Never picked up either of the memoirs again, but she has read about 3000 pages of torrid romance with a handsome vampire…

Out of curiosity I picked A Piece of Cake, and found myself completely dragged in from the get-go. Cupcake Brown is a real person who found her mother dead at age 11, and then began a hellish tour through the foster home system, which included rape, physical and emotional abuse, and countless attempts at running away.

Because of the intense subject matter, I do not recommend this book for everybody, however, I do give it a solid B+. It is well worth a read, and as strange as this sounds, it is actually an uplifting book, because Cupcake is now a practicing LAWYER in the Bay area. I have never had so much insight into the mind and life of a trashcan junkie (somebody who will do ANY drug available) and gang life (she was part of a gang in LA). Cupcake stayed pretty much wasted from the age of 11 to somewhere in her twenties to avoid feeling all the pain in her life – and being blitzed was so important to her that everything in her life was measured in terms of drug-buying potential: turning a trick was worth two rocks of crack, a TV was worth a bag of weed, her husband had a car, which she could use to score…  Incredibly, during this time she learned how to talk “civilized” and was able to hold down several jobs at law firms – basically holding a job proved to her that she did not have a drug problem.

Cupcake writes with an authentic colloquial voice about street life that few people would be able to survive, much less survive and become an inspirational speaker and practicing lawyer. It’s fast read, and if you can stomach the heart-wrenching abuse she suffers in her foster home at the beginning, you’ll enjoy seeing how her sassy, brassy nature gets her in trouble (and saves her) everywhere else she goes. You can read more about cupcake Brown at her website: http://www.cupcakebrown.com.

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