Losing My Cool by Thomas Chatterton Williams
How a Father's Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-hop Culture

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A pitch-perfect account of how hip-hop culture drew in the author and how his father drew him out again-with love, perseverance, and fifteen thousand books.

Into Williams's childhood home-a one-story ranch house-his father crammed more books than the local library could hold. "Pappy" used some of these volumes to run an academic prep service; the rest he used in his unending pursuit of wisdom. His son's pursuits were quite different-"money, hoes, and clothes." The teenage Williams wore Medusa- faced Versace sunglasses and a hefty gold medallion, dumbed down and thugged up his speech, and did whatever else he could to fit into the intoxicating hip-hop culture that surrounded him. Like all his friends, he knew exactly where he was the day Biggie Smalls died, he could recite the lyrics to any Nas or Tupac song, and he kept his woman in line, with force if necessary.

But Pappy, who grew up in the segregated South and hid in closets so he could read Aesop and Plato, had a different destiny in mind for his son. For years, Williams managed to juggle two disparate lifestyles- "keeping it real" in his friends' eyes and studying for the SATs under his father's strict tutelage. As college approached and the stakes of the thug lifestyle escalated, the revolving door between Williams's street life and home life threatened to spin out of control. Ultimately, Williams would have to decide between hip-hop and his future. Would he choose "street dreams" or a radically different dream- the one Martin Luther King spoke of or the one Pappy held out to him now?

Williams is the first of his generation to measure the seductive power of hip-hop against its restrictive worldview, which ultimately leaves those who live it powerless. Losing My Cool portrays the allure and the danger of hip-hop culture like no book has before. Even more remarkably, Williams evokes the subtle salvation that literature offers and recounts with breathtaking clarity a burgeoning bond between father and son.

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About Thomas Chatterton Williams

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Thomas Chatterton Williams holds a B.A. in philosophy from Georgetown University and a master's degree from the Cultural Reporting and Criticism program at New York University. While a student at NYU, his op-ed piece, “Yes, Blame Hip-Hop,” struck a deep nerve when it ran in the Washington Post, generating a record-breaking number of comments.
Published April 29, 2010 by Penguin Books. 242 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences, Arts & Photography, Parenting & Relationships. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Losing My Cool

New York Journal of Books

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This one includes a diverse group of characters from all walks of life in a university environment and is increasingly focused, not on a rejection of “blackness,” but on an affirmation to reclaim what is a human, honorable, joyful, and affirming approach to life.

Apr 29 2010 | Read Full Review of Losing My Cool: How a Father'...


Some writers supply the solid virtues of a husband [while others have] the gifts of a lover, gifts of temperament rather than of moral goodness.” She was writing about Albert Camus, “the ideal husband,” but she also mentions in passing George Orwell and notably James Baldwin, “two other husbandly...

Jul 09 2015 | Read Full Review of Losing My Cool: How a Father'...

APOOO Bookclub

In Losing My Cool by Thomas Chatteron Williams, the author takes you on a journey through his life being a bi-racial individual.

Jun 28 2010 | Read Full Review of Losing My Cool: How a Father'...

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