The Coldest Winter Ever
Born Lisa Williamson in 1964, Sister Souljah is a hip-hop artist that burst to the forefront of mainstream media in 1992 when she was criticized by then Presidential candidate Bill Clinton for saying "If Black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?" Clinton was trying to prove to other Democrats that he did not sympathize with the organization that Souljah was a member of. She basically said Bill Clinton and went on to sign music and publishing contracts. She has become one of the more passionate and articulate voices to emerge speaking for young African Americans in the United States. She has written and published to works: No Disrespect, and autobiographical account of Souljah's life, and The Coldest Winter Ever.
The Coldest Winter Ever tells of the story of a young woman named Winter. She was born into a family drug operation. Her father was a drug kingpin. Winter never knew about struggles in life. She always had the best of the best; everyone wanted to be like her. This was all taken away when her father's operation is busted and he goes to jail for the rest of his life. Winter, who has never known poverty, is faced with trying to survive while attempting to continue living in the extravagance to which she has become accustomed. The story follows Winter from the time she is fifteen until she is about twenty-five, in prison serving time for a crime for possessing drugs that belonged to her boyfriend. The story ends with Winter still in jail, not the usual happy ending that accompanies fictional novels. This real life ending is the most important aspect of this novel.
Karl Marx argues in The German Ideology that material allows for more culture. Material is the road to true humanity. These materials are not only those things that we possess, such as cars, clothes, and houses, but also material that we gain through life experience itself. Winter defines her life by material. For her, money is God. She begins referencing her material items at once, from the diamond ring set in 24-karat gold she received the day she was born, to the diamond tennis bracelet she received on her sixteenth birthday, to the designer clothes she wore that no one else had or could afford. Even after she has no money because of her father's arrest, she continues to spend what little money she has on what is considered "in style." Winter does not possess the will to put her money to the side and live within her means. This illustrates a problematic aspect of the African American community. Material identity has become a prevalent aspect surrounding the hip-hop community. Material is illustrated most often through the type of car a person drives and the accessories that they put on it. It is also illustrated through clothes and jewelry. This bar judged men that Winter would consider dating. Souljah uses Winter's love of material possessions to illustrate what becomes the downfall of many people in the African America community.
Although it took Winter getting put in jail to realize the error of her ways, she has learned a valuable life lesson that can sometimes only be learned through personal experience. In the end of the book she is talking to her sister, is involved with a drug dealer. Winter starts to tell her sister to change her ways, but realizes that her words of advice will fall of deaf ears. She says to herself, "Hell, I'm not meddling in other people's business. I definitely don't be making no speeches . . . She'll learn for herself, that's just the way it is" (413). These learned lessons form culture. We learn the lessons make humanity positive or negative. This book serves to show that there is not a happy ending. Our life is what we make it.
There is a pervasive notion in fiction that the work must have a happy ending. That the reader must have that warm fuzzy feeling when they finish a novel. This is not always true. According to John Storey, in Critical...
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Athens, Georgia. University of Georgia Press. 2003.
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