Mama Black Widow
A Story of the South's Black Underworld
“Iceberg Slim breaks down some of the coldest, capitalist concepts I’ve ever heard in my life.” —Dave Chappelle, from his Netflix special The Bird Revelation
The most gritty and real illustration of the black ghetto ever told, from the only man capable of telling it, Iceberg Slim, bestselling author of Pimp. Iceberg Slim’s story is now depicted in a major motion picture distributed worldwide.
Mama Black Widow tells the tragic story of Otis Tilson, a stunning black drag queen trapped in a cruel queer ghetto underworld. In hopes of escaping the racial bigotry and economic injustice of the South, Otis’ family journeys north from their plantation to an urban promised land. Once in Chicago Otis and his brother and sisters become prisoners to a wasteland of violence, crime, prostitution and rape. This is the gut-wrenching tale of the destruction of a family and the truest portrayal of homosexuality in the ghetto ever told.
A pimp who began writing in prison, Slim (Pimp: Story of My Life) filled his stories with the intricacies of pimping, drug dealing, numbers running and all manner of urban hustling, and between the mid-1960s and the mid '70s became the bestselling black novelist in American history. Now Old School Books has reissued his remarkable fictional memoir of a Chicago drag queen coming of age during the 1930s and '40s. At its core is the archetypal African American story: Otis Tilson's family moves from the rural South to the urban promised land of Chicago only to find more racism, abysmal slums and demeaning, low-paying jobs. Unable to provide for his family, Otis's father declines into alcoholism while the family founders, with Otis's doomed sisters and brother drifting into prostitution and petty crime. Meanwhile, the secret gay life that sets Otis apart from them is an endless nightmare of rapes, beatings and failed attempts at heterosexual love. It ain't pretty, but Slim's bracing ghetto melodrama and famously histrionic voice ("But she hesitated... for one hellish, destructive fragment of a pounding, torturous instant!") capture a core of unsentimental truth not just about homosexuality in the ghetto but also about the myths and travails of masculinity itself.
This novel was so raw and gritty. But a great novel. I really felt for Tilly and all that he went through.
To write a novel during major life events such as wars and depressions and capture the essence of your character with truly amazing literature is nothing short of amazing. Iceberg was truly the Tupac of literature. He was and always will be the most profound, unedited, urban author of the 20th century. Thanks
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