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Gritty as all get out
on April 11, 2006
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.