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 years—maybe its the night she first tries to run away and is exposed to drugs, alcohol, and sex all at once—when 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 pivotalmoments—she 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 cigarettes—and 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 drugs—the 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.
From the Hardcover edition.
The bestselling memoir of Cupcake Brown's harrowing and inspiring life from the streets to one of the nation's largest law firms Rdazzles you with the amazing change that is possible in one lifetimeS ("Washington Post Book World").
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.
From the Hardcover edition.
Reading Group Guide
1. How do you think Cupcake and Larrys trail through the foster care system would have been different if theyd been close? Do you think it would have helped either of them later in life?
2. On page 10 Cupcake says, “That was one thing about me. I didnt have many people in my life, but those I had I loved fiercely.” Do you think this changed as she moved through the foster care system, and then on to drugs, drinking, et cetera? Why or why not?
3. Discuss the adult figures Cupcake had in her life while she was growing up-Daddy, Jr., Mr. Burns, Diane Dobson. With these role models, could she have found a better way out of her situation than turning to drugs and alcohol?
4. Why do you think Cupcake was so easily swayed by the thinking that “nothing comes for free”? How did she make the leap from applying this thought to material items and food to less concrete realities like love and acceptance?
5. Do you think Cupcake would have changed her ways earlier if she had been able to complete her first pregnancy? Or like Kelly, would the partying, drinking, and drugs have won out over a child? Do you think having someone to look after the baby for her would have influenced her either way?
6. Why do you think Cupcake had several abortions after her first lost pregnancy? Was it simply a matter of wanting to live a fast life, or do you think she was afraid to let herself love and be responsible for another person?
7. Cupcake finally admits to not liking herself, and begins the long road to developing self-acceptance, self-worth, and self-love. Have you ever struggled with your self-image or self-worth? If so, did Cupcakes story help you in any way?
8. On page 308, the cop “Preacher” says to Cupcake, “Now dont get me wrong. Nobody belongs out here. But some people . . . well, they need to be here. They dont want anything better for themselves. Theyre too far gone. They dont want to come back.” What do you think “Preacher” saw about Cupcake that convinced him she wasnt one of the people who “dont want to come back”? Do you think Cupcake began to listen to him at this point?
9. On page 326, Cupcake says, “Id quit talking to Daddy and Jr. because all we did was argue: they fussed about how I was fucking up my life, and I wanted to know if they had any money I could borrow. In my mind, unless they had money to give, we had nothing to talk about.” Discuss the similarities between Cupcakes attitude here and Mr. Burnss attitude toward the life insurance money. Do you think Cupcake realized the similarities? Do you think she would have changed her ways if she did?
10. Compare and contrast the roles that Fly and Larry played in Cupcakes life. Why do you think she allowed Fly to be more of a brother to her than Larry? Did it have to do with their gang participation?
11. On page 411, Venita asks Cupcake if she ever grieved for her mother. Do you think Cupcake could have avoided her addictions and problems if someone had taken the time to ask this and help her through the stages of grief?
12. Discuss the inspirational qualities of a story like Cupcakes. Has her story influenced you to make any changes in your own life?
Cupcake Browns shocking memoir is a devastating and inspiring story. Through intimate details and family memories, she chronicles her life from age eleven through her midtwenties: a challenging time for the average person, and in her case, an extraordinary journey through alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution, gangbanging, and numerous unhappy households.
Through all the hellish circumstances and heartbreak, Cupcakes hopeful spirit and lucky breaks pulled her through the trials of her life. This rousing story tells all-the good, the bad, and the very ugly. And ultimately we get to know a woman who has faced the challenges life handed her with humor and grace.