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A Piece of Cake: A Memoirby Cupcake Brown
Synopses & Reviews
There are shelves of memoirs about overcoming the death of a parent, childhood abuse, rape, drug addiction, miscarriage, alcoholism, hustling, gangbanging, near-death injuries, drug dealing, prostitution, or homelessness.
Cupcake Brown survived all these things before shed even turned twenty.
And thats when things got interesting….
You have in your hands the strange, heart-wrenching, and exhilarating tale of a woman named Cupcake. It begins as the story of a girl orphaned twice over, once by the death of her mother and then again by a child welfare system that separated her from her stepfather and put her into the hands of an epically sadistic foster parent. But there comes a point in her preteen yearsmaybe its the night she first tries to run away and is exposed to drugs, alcohol, and sex all at oncewhen Cupcakes story shifts from a tear-jerking tragedy to a dark comic blues opera. As Cupcakes troubles grow, so do her voice and spirit. Her gut-punch sense of humor and eye for the absurd, along with her outsized will, carry her through a fateful series of events that could easily have left her dead.
Young Cupcake learned to survive by turning tricks, downing hard liquor, partying like a rock star, and ingesting every drug she could find while hitchhiking up and down the California coast. She stumbled into gangbanging, drug dealing, hustling, prostitution, theft, and, eventually, the best scam of all: a series of 9-to-5 jobs. But Cupcakes unlikely tour through the cubicle world was paralleled by a quickening descent into the nightmare of crack cocaine use, till she eventually found herself living behind a Dumpster.
Astonishingly, she turned it around. With the help of a cobbled together family of eccentric fellow addicts and “angels”a series of friends and strangers who came to her aid at pivotalmomentsshe slowly transformed her life from the inside out.
A Piece of Cake is unlike any memoir youll ever read. Moving and almost transgressive in its frankness, it is a relentlessly gripping tale of a resilient spirit who took on the worst of contem-porary urban life and survived it with a furious wit and unyielding determination. Cupcake Brown is a dynamic and utterly original storyteller who will guide you on the most satisfying, startlingly funny, and genuinely affecting tour through hell youll ever take.
When it came time for me to talk, I wasnt sure which parts of my past to tell, which to keep secret, and which to pretend never happened. Uncle Jr. had already seen the welts on my back, so he wasnt too surprised when I told them about some of the physical abuse I endured at Dianes. Everyone else hit the roof, except Daddy. He got really quiet and started balling and unballing his fists.
I continued my update. Experience had taught me that adults have trouble accepting the idea of children having sex. I decided that from then on, that part of my life never happened. I picked up the story by telling them about Fly, the Gangstas, and getting shot.
I was dying for a cigarette. So it seemed a good time to announce that I smoked cigarettesand weed.
After a moment Sam looked at me, smiled, and handed me one of her Marlboros. I preferred menthols, but beggars cant be choosers. I kicked back, took a long drag, and closed my eyes.
Daddy and Jr. were silent. They seemed a bit shocked and unsure about how to respond.
“Well, Cup,” Jr. said, “its a little too late to be trying to raise you now. But those cigarettes will kill you. And weed will only lead you to stronger drugs.”
He didnt know how right he was. But for me, it was too late to be worrying about stronger drugsthe only worrying I did was whether I could find a connection to get some. So I just smiled, nodded, and took another hit off my cigarette.
The eerie quiet returned.
from A Piece of Cake
Also available as a Random House AudioBook and eBook.
"Cupcake Brown (that's her real name) was 11 in 1976 when her mother died. Custody of Brown and her brother was given to a stranger — their birth father — who only wanted their social security checks. He then left them with an abusive foster mother who encouraged her nephew to rape Brown repeatedly. Brown got better and better at running away. A prostitute taught her to drink, smoke marijuana and charge for sex. Her next foster father traded her LSD and cocaine for oral sex. Eventually she went to live with a great-aunt in South Central L.A., where she joined a gang. Almost 16, having barely survived a shooting, she decided to quit gangbanging. Drugs were her new best friends. A boyfriend taught her to freebase, but then there was crack, which was easier. Before long she was a 'trash-can junkie,' taking anything and everything. It wasn't until she woke up behind a Dumpster one morning, half-dressed and more than half-dead, that she admitted she needed help. Brown conveys this all in gritty detail, and her struggle to come clean and develop her potential — she's now an attorney with a leading California firm and a motivational speaker — ends her story on a high note. Booksellers, watch out — Cupcake's gonna sell like hotcakes. (On sale Feb. 28)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"It is 1976, January in San Diego, when we meet Cupcake Brown, a happy child listening to her mother's radio alarm clock blaring Elton John. Her parents are separated, but both adore her. When kids call her 'skinny, black, and ugly,' her mother tells her: 'Cup, you're only eleven years old. You will appreciate your beauty as you grow up.' But when Cupcake goes to see why her mother has not... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) turned off the radio, she discovers her body dangling off the bed, dead. She has had an epileptic seizure. Cupcake calls her father because somehow she knows the police will take her mother's body away. 'So instead, I went back to her,' Brown writes in this wrenching memoir, 'scooted my little body under hers so I could put her head in my lap, and began singing our favorite song: 'Chain of Fools' by Aretha Franklin.' Her story only gets worse. A judge takes the child from her father — who she learns is really her stepfather — and gives her to the biological father she never knew existed. This man immediately dumps her and her brother at a hellhole of a foster home. Less than a month after her mother's death, Brown is working as a preteen prostitute. Eventually she joins a gang and becomes a crack addict. According to the book jacket, Cupcake Brown is now a lawyer at 'one of the nation's largest law firms.' But how did she get there? When did she get there? Every sordid incident raises these questions. She wears you out with the details of her life, but you will keep reading. You are rooting for the filthy, cursing, drug-addicted Cupcake who ends up living behind a dumpster. You are sitting on the sidelines yelling, 'Wake up!' And you keep turning the page to see if she does. It takes a while, but that does not mean there is no humor along the way. Brown is witty, even hilarious. But there's a sharp edge to her riffs on addicts scheming to make money, or her decision to dress for a job interview in gold disco pants, miniskirt, plunging halter top and stiletto heels. In spite of her work wardrobe, at age 19 she gets a series of word processing jobs by lying about her skills. Within months she adds more skills to her false resume and is hired as a legal secretary trainee. She is a working crack addict. Redemption comes after she misses work for four days to turn tricks, drink and get high. She is barefoot, dirty and smelly. She weighs 99 pounds and has not brushed her teeth, bathed, combed her hair or changed clothes in days. She walks the 60 blocks to the firm, drinking a bottle of gin on the way. She catches the elevator and walks into her boss' office in tears to tell him she has a drug problem and is quitting to get help. But he has given her one chance after another and on this day, he repeats what people have said to her throughout her life, even when she was dirty, cussing and addicted: '"Cup," he said softly, "don't quit. There's something about you worth saving."' At last, her story turns upward. 'A Piece of Cake' doesn't serve up delectable metaphors or feature rhythmic prose. Instead, it dazzles you with the amazing change that is possible in one lifetime. We see a woman learn to build a family from strangers who help her because she is another human being trying to overcome horrendous circumstances. It is a story that is poetic in its simplicity, beautifully stripped to the basics." Reviewed by Patrice Gaines, the author of the memoir "Laughing in the Dark" and co-founder of the Charlotte, N.C.-based "Brown Angel Center" for women who have been incarcerated, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
From beloved daughter to abused foster child to prostitute and gang member, Cupcake Brown took on the worst of contemporary urban life and survived it. In "A Piece of Cake," she candidly recounts her remarkable story.
Twelve-year-old Cupcake Brown woke up on the bicentennial and found her mother still in bed. She struggled to wake her up, pushing and pulling until she managed to tug her mother's lifeless corpse onto her own small body, crushing her beneath its dead weight. After squeezing out from under her mother, Cupcake calmly walked over to the phone and called her aunt Lois. "Lois, my momma's dead."
Here is the threshold of a hell for young Cupcake. Rather than being allowed to live with the man she believed to be her father--who turns out to have been her stepfather--she is forced into a foster home where the kids were terrorized, the refrigerator padlocked, and Cupcake sexually abused. She eventually fled the house, only to find herself wandering from misadventure to misadventure in the "system," while also developing a massive appetite for drugs and alcohol, an appetite she paid for by turning tricks. She settled down in Los Angeles and found a home in the Crips, where she was taken in and befriended by gangsters like the legendary "Monster" Kody Scott. For the first time she found a family, but when Cupcake was blasted in the back with a 12-gauge shotgun, she was once more taken in by the system.
At 16, her stepfather reeneters her life and engineers an "emancipation," in which the courts declare her an adult and free her, finally, from the child welfare system. Cup takes advantage of her new freedom to start a drug-dealing operation with her stepfather, who also manages a stable of colorful prostitutes. Soon she meets a man, falls in love, and gets married. He convinces her to get a real job and learn to speak proper English--but he also abuses her and introduces her to crack cocaine. Cupcake flits from job to job, miraculously, given that she never fails to show up without some cocktail of narcotics floating in her system.
She hits rock bottom when, in desperation, she steals crack from her drug dealer. He beats her nearly to death, rapes her, and then leaves her body behind a dumpster. Cupcake wakes up days later, not sure of how she ended up in this state and from that moment begins to turn her life around. She was adopted by a lawyer who ran the law firm where she "worked," and slowly he assisted her in kicking the habit--with the help of an eccentric group of fellow addicts who became, at last, a family to her--and catching up on her education. With the support of her new family, she eventurally goes all the way to law school (although not without a few additional misadventures along the way) and joins one of the top law firms in the country.
Cupcake's story is an inspiring, at times hilarious, often distrubing, and deeply moving account of a singular woman who took on the worst of contemporary urban life and survived it with wit and a ferocious will. It updates classic memoirs like I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Makes Me Wanna Holler, and gives a bold and gritty spin to contemporary memoirs like Finding Fish. At the center of it, Cupcake is a charming and inspiring narrator through the inferno of her life.
From the Compact Disc edition.
About the Author
Cupcake Brown practices law at one of the nations largest law firms and lives in San Francisco. Visit her website at cupcakebrown.com.
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