The Beast Side: Living (and Dying) While Black in America Hardcover – September 8, 2015
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Firing off dispatches from that part of the America we left behind, D. Watkins is making a definitive argument for so many men and women ruthlessly marginalized by a society that fails to measure itself on any humane terms. This is a Baltimore voice in angry service of other unheard Baltimore voices, and The Beast Side is, by extension, a blunt, eloquent argument for the forgotten in our cities. He has arrived, and by the sound of things, he is here to hold us all to account.” David Simon, author of The Corner and creator of HBO’s The Wire
D. Watkins is a very sharp young talent who transformed himself from a dealer on the streets to an adjunct professor, and most important, to a leading voice of his generation who is determined to see justice for the black community. The Beast Side is raw, intelligent, and at times humorousand a necessary narrative in these challenging times!” Michael Eric Dyson, author of The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America
D. Watkins has emerged as a powerful new voice just when America needs to hear his message. It’s the voice of all those in Baltimore, Ferguson, Charleston, Oakland, New York, Cleveland, and wherever another innocent life is lost. We all need to listen to what he has to say.” Touré, author of Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness?: What It Means to Be Black Now
Brilliant. The Beast Side is just the latest illustration of why D. Watkins’s voice is so important to our community. Understand his words, and let’s work to make our community better.” Wes Moore, New York Times bestselling author of The Work and The Other Wes Moore
D. Watkins unveils America’s dirty secret of what it is like for so many to live as an African American in our country. He captures the pain, blood, sweat, and tears faced by millions of young black Americans each day and offers clear solutions on how to move our nation forward.” Valeisha Butterfield Jones, founder and CEO of the Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network
Sharp, witty, and worth the read for young black people who are starving for justice and ready to change the world they live in. Always engaging, The Beast Side is written with fire, rage, and intelligence from a young but extremely wise game changer.” Tracey D. Syphax, 2014 White House Champion of Change
The Beast Side is an honest, sobering exploration of blackness in the context of Baltimore and the unrest. And Watkins is a skilled storyteller, giving voice to a range of hard truths about the impact of state violence on the lives of black people in inner-city Baltimore. Watkins’s authentic storytelling is his hallmark.” DeRay Mckesson, activist for We the Protestors
D. Watkins, a seasoned writer with indisputable talent and skills, gives a detailed account of living on the Other Side’ of Baltimore. Armed with a relentless spirit and uplifting message, Watkins’s words give today’s generation a sense of purpose and a chance to rise from the unruly streets of America’s Baltimore.” Rahiem Shabazz, award-winning filmmaker of the documentary series Elementary Genocide
Tally had his corner and D. Watkins has his stoop.’ The Beast Side is D. Watkins’s sociohistorical examination of black lives in the United States juxtaposed against his upbringing in Baltimore. Through his account we discover a poignant and unadulterated story about the systematic way black lives don’t matter and how the challenges for African Americans are much deeper and pervasive than people will admit. His book is required reading!” Dr. Byron E. Price, professor at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York
With his unsentimental prose and sharp eye for detail, Watkins takes you to his stoop in East Baltimore, the so-called beast side...What helps the arguments in Watkins’s essays hit home are the sobering and enlightening slices of life and characters he weaves throughout...By the end, you’re left with an advanced understanding of this man’s love for the community that formed him, and how neighborhoods such as East Baltimore fit into the national debate for social change.” Baltimore Magazine
"The twin pillars of his résuménot one but two graduate degrees from the region’s finest universities on the one hand, gun-totin’ drug dealer on the othergive Watkins cred that’s hard to argue with. Indeed, he’s strongest when he describes the disconnect between the two Baltimores he has navigated so adroitly." The Washington Post
About the Author
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The Beast Side is a collection of loosely-connected essays that offers Watkins' take on race, class, poverty, and education in this country. He has a unique eye; born and raised in East Baltimore, he grew up poor but happy until he saw his first murder as a young child. Smart, wise, willing to fight but unwilling to kill, Watkins went to college, only to drop out within months when it failed to enlighten, inspire, and challenge him. He turned to selling drugs, made all kinds of money, changed, saw more friends die, and miraculously, managed to get out of the game (read his riveting The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir to learn more about this). And now he's back in his neighborhood, barely scraping by as an adjunct professor, doing everything he can to hold his neighborhood together and promote literacy while sharing what life is really like for the denizens of Bodymore, Murderland.
Listen to him. Watkins is incapable of dishonesty, and essay after essay is filled with difficult, fascinating, disturbing truths. You'll learn just how hard everybody works in the 'hood, shattering stereotypes of lazy poor folks and "welfare queens." You'll learn how deeply the system is rigged, making it all but impossible for black men and women to escape poverty. You'll learn of the lack of dietary options in black neighborhoods that lead people to ingest the simple carbs, sugars, and saturated fats that lead to so many health problems. You'll learn about the stress of surviving in a world where shootings are common, violence goes down everywhere, and basic pop culture knowledge is a luxury out of reach for most. You'll learn how the school system discourages black kids from reading by refusing to assign books relevant to their lives - and you'll understand why literacy is what these kids, and adults, really crave. You'll learn.
And most importantly, you'll learn why relations between black people and the police are so bad in poorer neighborhoods. Watkins, like all non-white denizens of the poorer sections Baltimore, has seen police physically and verbally abuse innocent people. He's seen them take bribes (often, his bribes) and place bets on popular "junkie fights" between husbands and wives. He's had his face slammed against cars and the sidewalk. He's had guns drawn on him for entering his own house. And he learned at a very young age never to call them. You don't have to agree with Watkins' view, but if you're listening, you'll understand how his experiences with police have led to resentment and distrust - and you'll realize he's far from alone.
I hope I haven't made The Beast Side sound pedantic or preachy. It's entertaining as hell, propelled with vivid language and sharp, smart detail. Watkins is a strong, clear writer, but he's unafraid to use heightened, even poetic language when called for. He injects energy, color and humor into everything he documents, bringing street scenes, college basketball games, and poker games to vivid life. Really, the only fault with The Beast Side is its brevity, and that's the fault of the publisher, who claims from the start he's keeping this series of books to under 150 pages. So as soon as you read the last word in The Beast Side, you'll jump online, hoping he's published a new essay or two. Yes, there is hope in these pages, if you know how to look for it.
BTW, I respect when people don't like books or products, but I don't respect reviews they are of the "this book is trash" without telling me why. It just looks petty in the age of internet anonymity. Some people WILL be turned off by the books first 2-3 pages because they don't want to read another viewpoint they don't agree with, but if you get past that, you will be dropped into a dark, depressing, but hopeful world.