Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: The Penguin Press HC (April 29, 2010)
Like many young men in America, Thomas Chatterton Williams grew up in awe of Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls, and the parade of bling-bedecked rap stars he saw on Black Entertainment Television and MTV. Williams emulated their lifestyle—sporting chains, diamonds, and expensive designer clothes purchased for him by his girlfriends, who were themselves little more than accessories for Williams. In public, Williams lived the street life exalted in his favorite rap anthems, yet at the end of the day he returned to a home literally crammed with thousands of books, each carefully studied and underlined by his father “Pappy,” who revered learning and critical thinking above all else.
In LOSING MY COOL: How a Father’s Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-hop Culture (The Penguin Press; May 3, 2010; $25.95), Williams recounts how he juggled these two disparate lifestyles—“keeping it real” in his friends’ eyes while honing an appreciation for literature and learning under his father’s strict tutelage. Pappy grew up in the segregated South, where he hid in closets so he could read Aesop and Plato. He encouraged his son to read and think deeply, and to embrace the opportunities that had not been available to his own generation.
In Williams’ teen years, the stakes of the hip-hop lifestyle escalated and the gap between street life and home life became ever-wider. He was accepted to Georgetown University and as his old friends remained entrenched in the value system of hip-hop—which exalted money, hoes, and clothes—Williams looked beyond it for the first time. His college classmates introduced him to new things, like wine, jazz, baguettes, and wanting to be the smartest person in the room. And Williams realized he had more to gain from being open to these things, things that his friends from home wouldn’t consider “real,” than all the money his friends dreamed of earning as rap superstars.
Williams is among the first of his generation to measure the seductive power of hip-hop culture against its restrictive worldview, which ultimately leaves those who live it powerless. Like no book has before, LOSING MY COOL examines this culture, its appeal and its limitations, with the insight of a former devotee and the clarity of a scholar. It also recounts, with skill and grace, a burgeoning bond, forged in literature, between father and son.
Thomas Chatterton Williams holds a B.A. in philosophy from Georgetown University and a master’s degree from the Cultural Reporting and Criticism program at New York University. While a student at NYU, his op-ed piece, “Yes, Blame Hip-Hop,” struck a deep nerve when it ran in the Washington Post, generating a record-breaking number of comments. He writes for the literary magazine n+1 and currently lives in Brooklyn.
Connect with Thomas:
On his website
Thomas Chatterton Williams’ TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:
Monday, June 7th: Urban Christian Fiction Today (author interview)
Thursday, June 10th: Urban Christian Fiction Today (review)
Thursday, June 10th: My Brown Baby
Monday, June 14th: Mocha Dad Guest Post “The Fight”
Monday, June 14th: Mocha Dad (review)
Thursday, June 17th: Book Chase
Wednesday, June 23rd: The Brain Lair
Friday, June 25th: Mocha Momma
Friday, June 25th: MOMFILES.com (vlog)
Monday, June 28th: The Prissy Mommy Chronicles
Monday, June 28th: Rundpinne
Tuesday, June 29th: APOOO
Tuesday, June 29th: Gunfighter