Top positive review
3 people found this helpful
Cycle of Violence
on February 13, 2016
Otis Tilson, a drag queen, recalls his life as a child on a Southern cotton plantation and of his families move in 1936 to the supposed Utopia of Chicago. His domineering and controlling Mama, who forced the move to Chicago,aids and abets the destruction of her family as much as the cruel and unforgiving ghetto they live in.....
This is realism at its most brutal ; it hits you full on, but there is also huge depth to this novel. The disintegration of a family and humanity; the destruction of an honest father who wants no more than to provide for his family are every bit as powerful as Steinbeck's depiction of the collapse of the Joads in 'Grapes of Wrath' (though the Mama's were of a different type !) And all portrayed against the realism of a corrupt police force (one that has been well recorded since) and the denial of any hope simply due to being black, and the festering wound that this left and leaves.
The book opens and ends in 1968/9 where Otis learns of Martin Luther Kings murder ; where evil once again triumphs over innocence and peaceful human ways of finding justice are destroyed.
I found 'Mama Black Widow' far more powerful and real than James Baldwin's 'Another Country' , which gets far more recognition-and follows broadly similar themes- than Iceberg Slim's novel. I would go as far as to say that 'Mama Black Widow' is the novel James Baldwin tried to write when he wrote 'Another Country'.
A brutal and sympathetic book that deserves far more widespread recognition and reading.