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4.3 out of 5 stars
Mama Black Widow
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on April 11, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a very graphic and gritty novel but not for the squeamish, faint of heart or those who want a happy ending because a happy ending you're not going to get. A friend told me to give this a try and I must say it was probably one of the most nailbiting page turning protrayals of inner city 1930s black urban life. I seriously could not put it down as much as I wanted to at some points.

The story is about Otis Tilson, otherwise known as Sally or Tilly by his cross dressing pals or Sweet Pea by the arachnoid mother of the title.

The Tilsons, a cotton picking family living on a plantation in the South, come into a windfall from a family member "up North" and pack up their bags and move to a 1930s Chicago ghetto where racism, drugs, prostitution, violence and police brutality run rampant and unchecked.

Told from the perspective of Otis at the age of ten we watch as the once happy and moderately successful family slowly unravel and fall into ruin because of Mama's obsession with money. As a result, Papa becomes a broken shell of a man, sister Carol falls in love with the wrong suitor with tragic results, sister Bessie turns to prostitution with a bleak outcome, brother Junior turns to a life of crime and murder and even Otis, grappling with his homosexuality,comes to his own unfortunate end.

Definitely on the order of Hubert Selby Jr's novels, Mama Black Widow tells a story of down and out people living in a private hell with no where to go but down. Like Selby's Requiem for A Dream, Mama Black Widow would make a compelling, gritty and heart wrencHing movie.

The only complaint I had about the novel were the excessive amount of typos even to the point where whole sentences were left out. It did add an extra gritty realism to the novel and seeing that my copy was an original pressing from 1969, I can only hope the typos were corrected in more recent pressings. I can't wait to get my hands on more Iceberg Slim.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
THIS BOOK CAUGHT ME BY SURPRIZED. I SAW ICEBERG SLIM AND THOUGHT A ANOTHER, GREAT BOOK ABOUT PIMP HUSTLER'S. I WAS SHOCKED TO FIND IT TAKES PLACE IN A CHICAGO, IL. IN A NIEGHBORHOOD, I CURRENTLY LIVE IN. A SAD AND TEAR JERKING BOOK. FOR MAN THAT REFUSED TO EVER CRY. SADLY THIS BOOK IS SAID, TO BE A BOOK ABOUT HOMOSEXUALS. I STRONGLY DISAGREE. THIS BOOK IS ABOUT THE DESTRUCTION OF THE BLACK FAMILY. A MOTHER WILLING TO SELL HER OWN CHILDS SOLE FOR FANCY CLOTHES AND LATEST GOOD'S. THIS BOOK HAS MADE ME LOOK AT THE WAY I TREAT PEOPLE I DONT KNOW. FORCE ME TO LOOK AT MY COMMUNITY WITH NEW EYE'S. THANK YOU ICEBERG SLIM. - PARIS. CHICAGO.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
i smoke weed 24/7. and guess what this book did.......it kept me away from going to the trap to get some loud and kept me from going to the store to get me some swisher sweets. it kept me sober for 3 dayz straight!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2010
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
...of what black Americans have had to endure in this country. Coming from a white woman that has always had very close African American friends and family and never really understood the deep seeded hatred many black folks have toward their history with white folks.

I was born in 1970 and always seen white/black as equal perhaps because I've always felt us as such. But this book really took me to a place where I could recognize the oppression of black folks and what a nightmare, hellish experience for so many in the early 1900's. Beck takes you right there.

A very gritty, sad and tragic book but for some reason one of my favorites. I liked this one much more than Pimp. I'm looking forward to Trick Baby.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 2010
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
This is one of my top 10 best book ever! My good friend and I still discuss this book when making references about psychological and spiritual concepts, especially in regards to the African-American experience in the U.S. It is a powerful book on how parenting and enviromental factors influence children....while trying to answer, to some regard, the old nature vs nurture argument. Powerful book!! I have never forgotten Sweat-Pea in the 20+ years since I originally read it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I have always loved this book. I read it as a young person and now I am rereading as an older person. It is a book that people of all color can read
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I totally enjoyed reading the book. It was true to life and mesmerizing. Iceberg slim is an excellent writher. I felt like a fly on the wall at all the scenes in the book. The grammatical errors were few and I understood the book. This is a must read even in the 21st century. It is still relevant.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Read this book 30-40 years ago and misplaced my copy of it (probably still in the house somewhere) It was a VERY good read, so I decided to get it again. Gives interesting insight to one mans' life growing up in the south and his family migrating to one of the northern states, and their struggles along the way and after they get there. This author been long dead, but he wrote some very interesting books that will always be in my collection, and I do recommend, if you like this genre.
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on February 8, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
Iceberg Slim tells the story of a family plagued with so many of the horrors that plague the urban neighborhoods. Poverty, prostitution, violence, murder, drug deals, and grittiness that few are able to explain in a way that others can understand are easily visualized as Iceberg Slim spins this tale. A homosexual young man is struck with the difficult question of whether the way his mother has treated him is the cause of his inability to become aroused with a woman. He struggles to grasp the understanding of her actions, actions that have led to death and distance within the family. When life has wreaked such havoc that it's only him and his mother left, a mother who manipulates everything in her power to keep him close, he finds the need to escape her grasp.

There were times where the story was a bit drawn out, places that might have been trimmed a bit. Otherwise, this is a great depiction of life in the 'hood, a life that few people will ever experience or understand and that no one should ever live.
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on November 19, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This book to me is one of Iceberg Slims greatest books. It shows how racism and poverty affects the Tilson family after they move from Mississippi to the mean streets of Chicago. It also shows how racism causes the black female to become the head of household and dehumanize her husband. The main character Otis, watches his father, brother and sisters lose their lives and self respect because of lack of money. It also shows how subconciously he turns into a homosexual to get attention from men that he misses from his dead father. Otis is torn between his love for a middle class woman and the "bitch" Sally, who is his term for his homosexual tendencies. Otis, like many homosexuals does not like being gay and after tormenting himself he finally hangs himself to escape from his torture, who he blames on his mother, "The Black Widow Spider".
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