Eleven-year-old Cupcake Brown woke up on the bicentennial and found her mother still in bed. She struggled to wake her up, pushing and pulling until she managed to tug her mother's lifeless corpse onto her own small body, crushing her beneath its dead weight. After squeezing out from under her mother, Cupcake calmly walked over to the phone and called her aunt Lori. "Lori, my momma's dead."
Here is the threshold of a hell for young Cupcake. Rather than being allowed to live with the man she believed to be her father--who turns out to have been her stepfather--she is forced into a foster home where the kids were terrorized, the refrigerator padlocked, and Cupcake sexually abused. She eventually fled the house, only to find herself wandering from misadventure to misadventure in the "system," while also developing a massive appetite for drugs and alcohol, an appetite she paid for by turning tricks. She settled down in Los Angeles and found a home in the Crips, where she was taken in and befriended by gangsters like the legendary "Monster" Kody Scott. For the first time she found a family, but when Cupcake was blasted in the back with a 12-gauge shotgun, she was once more taken in by the system.
At 16, her stepfather reeneters her life and engineers an "emancipation," in which the courts declare her an adult and free her, finally, from the child welfare system. Cup takes advantage of her new freedom to start a drug-dealing operation with her stepfather, who also manages a stable of colorful prostitutes. Soon she meets a man, falls in love, and gets married. He convinces her to get a real job and learn to speak proper English--but he also abuses her and introduces her to crack cocaine. Cupcake flits from job to job, miraculously, given that she never fails to show up without some cocktail of narcotics floating in her system.
She hits rock bottom when, in desperation, she steals crack from her drug dealer. He beats her nearly to death, rapes her, and then leaves her body behind a dumpster. Cupcake wakes up days later, not sure of how she ended up in this state and from that moment begins to turn her life around. She was adopted by a lawyer who ran the law firm where she "worked," and slowly he assisted her in kicking the habit--with the help of an eccentric group of fellow addicts who became, at last, a family to her--and catching up on her education. With the support of her new family, she eventurally goes all the way to law school (although not without a few additional misadventures along the way) and joins one of the top law firms in the country.
Cupcake's story is an inspiring, at times hilarious, often distrubing, and deeply moving account of a singular woman who took on the worst of contemporary urban life and survived it with wit and a ferocious will. It updates classic memoirs like I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Makes Me Wanna Holler, and gives a bold and gritty spin to contemporary memoirs like Finding Fish. At the center of it, Cupcake is a charming and inspiring narrator through the inferno of her life.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Cupcake Brown is an attorney at Bingham McCutcheon, one of the largest law firms in California.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The booming music coming from Momma’s radio alarm clock suddenly woke me. I could hear Elton John singing about Philadelphia freedom.
I wonder why Momma didn’t wake me? I thought to myself.
It was January 1976. Wasn’t no school that day. But Momma still had to go to work. So, while Momma was at work, I was goin’ over to Daddy’s house to play with Kelly, the daughter of his lady friend.
I wonder why she didn’t wake me? I thought again to myself as I climbed out of bed.
When I passed the dresser I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Boy, was I ugly.
“Skinny, black, and ugly.” That’s what the kids at school called me. Or they’d yell out, “Vette, Vette, looks just like my pet!”
My name was La’Vette, but my first birth name was Cupcake. At least that’s what my momma told me. Seems Momma craved cupcakes when she was pregnant with me. She had three cupcakes a day, every day, without fail, for nine and a half months (I was two weeks overdue). Momma said that even if she didn’t eat anything else, she’d have her daily dose of cupcakes.
Anyway, seems that while “we” were in labor, the hospital gave Momma some pain drugs. Once Momma popped me out, the nurse said:
“Pat”—that was my momma’s name—“you have a little girl. Do you know what you want to name her?”
Tired and exhausted from eight hours of hard labor, Momma lifted her head, smiled sheepishly, and said, “Cupcake,” before she passed out.
So that’s what they put down on my birth certificate. I mean, that is what she said. (The nurses thought it was due to the excitement of motherhood, Momma said it was the drugs). A few hours later, however, when Daddy came to the hospital he decided he didn’t like “Cupcake.” Momma said Daddy wanted to name me La’Vette. So, just to make Daddy happy, Momma said she had the hospital change my name. I didn’t mind, really. I loved my daddy; so as far as I was concerned, he could change my name to whatever he wanted. But, Momma said that to her I would always be Cupcake. She never called me anything else, ’cept sometimes she called me “Cup” for short.
Anyway, the kids at school always told me that I was ugly. They teased me, saying I looked like “Aunt Esther,” that old lady from Sanford and Son, the one always calling Sanford a “fish-eyed fool.” She was the ugliest woman I’d ever seen. So if the other kids thought I looked like her, I knew I had to be ugly. Besides, everybody knew a black girl wasn’t considered pretty unless she was light-skinned with long straight hair. I was dark-skinned with short kinky hair. I hated my complexion. I hated my hair. I hated my skinny legs and arms.
But, my momma thought I was beautiful. She’d say:
“Cup, you’re only eleven years old. You will appreciate your beauty as you grow up.”
Shoot, I couldn’t wait to grow up!
Momma always said things to make me feel better. I loved my momma. She was my best friend and she was beautiful: she had cocoa-colored skin and her long black hair hung way past her shoulders. And, Momma had the biggest, prettiest smile you ever saw. People always told her that she looked like Diana Ross because of her long hair and wide beautiful smile—all teeth.
I passed the black ugly thing in the mirror and continued toward Momma’s room. The radio alarm continued to blast. I giggled to myself. Momma was like me. She hated getting up in the morning, so she put the clock way across the room and turned it all the way up so it would scare her awake in the morning. That way, she’d have to get out of bed and walk across the room to turn it off.
I wonder why she didn’t turn the alarm off? I thought as I made my way through the kitchen toward the large living room that led into Momma’s room. The floor was cold because wasn’t no carpet in our house. Still, I loved our old house. It was Victorian style, three bedrooms and one bathroom.
We lived in San Diego in the heart of the ghetto, though I never knew it until I got older. We had our share of dilapidated houses, and run-down apartment buildings, but most of the houses and apartments in the neighborhood were in decent order. I mean, we didn’t have any mansions, but most folks made sincere efforts to keep their houses decent-looking: they watered their tired brown lawns, trying to keep them up (as kept up as a lawn could be with kids runnin’ over it all the time), and tried to replace windows that had been broken from runaway fly balls that escaped the imaginary fields of street baseball games.
We had a great neighborhood store, Sawaya Brothers, that had everything you could need or want, including the most delicious pickled pig feet. We had a neighborhood park, Memorial Park, a boys’ club and a girls’ club.
I thought my family was rich because I was the only kid in the neighborhood who had her own bedroom, furnished with a white princess-style bedroom set complete with a canopy bed, matching nightstands, and dresser. There was a pink frilly comforter with matching frills for the canopy overhead. And, I had a closet full of clothes. Unlike other kids in my neighborhood, I never had to share clothes or wear hand-me-downs. Momma loved to sew and made most of my clothes.
The other kids thought we were rich too. Little did we know that we weren’t rich—it’s just that both my mom and dad worked while the other kids only had one parent trying to raise several kids either on one income or, more commonly, on welfare, though being on welfare wasn’t nothing to be ’shamed about. Most everybody was. In fact, I envied my friends on welfare because they got government food that you couldn’t get from the store, like this great government cheese. You ain’t had a grilled cheese sandwich till you’ve had one made with government cheese.
The blasting radio brought me back to my immediate mission: finding out why Momma didn’t wake me.
I wished she’da woke me up, I thought as I followed the sound of the blasting radio. I was excited about going to my daddy’s.
My momma and daddy didn’t live together. Daddy lived around the way with my brother, Larry. I hated Larry. Larry was thin and lanky like me. And he was dark-skinned like me. Although he was two years older than me, he never acted like a big brother. He never protected me. In fact, HE was usually the one I had to be protected FROM. And, usually, it was ME jumping in a fight to protect HIM. I thought he was a wimp.
Larry hated me just as much as I hated him, but for different reasons. He was jealous of me. He’d never admit it, but I knew he was. I was the one who always got good grades and saved my weekly allowance so I could buy something nice and big, while Larry hated school (and was always on the verge of flunking out) and spent his money faster than he got it—and then had the nerve to get mad when he didn’t have anything left.
Our hate for each other resulted in fierce fights: cussin’ each other out (a skill I’d turned into an art from an early age) and throwing knives and hammers (or anything else lethal we could find) at each other. Our fights were no joke. We were trying to kill each other for real, or at least cause loss of body parts. In our house, before Larry went to live with Daddy, I could never slack up and always had to watch my back because we were always trying to sabotage each other.
Once I woke to Larry trying to smother me with a pillow. Bastard. He just woke up one day and decided he’d try to kill me. I had to fight, kick, scratch, punch, and scream to get him off me. I got him back, though: I tried to poi- son him.
Larry was always trying to boss me around. One day, after yet another unsuccessful attempt at killing me, he’d ordered me to get him some Kool-Aid. And I did—with a little rat poison in it. But watching my sudden obedience, he got suspicious. Talkin’ ’bout he smelled “somethin’ funny.” He ordered me to take a drink first. I took a sip, but I didn’t swallow. I just held it in my mouth, hoping he’d now be willing to drink. He was smarter than I thought. He fucked around and fucked around twirling the Kool-Aid in the glass with a sly grin on his face till I couldn’t hold what was in my mouth anymore without swallowing.
Oh shit! I thought, I can’t kill myself! That’d be right up his alley!
I ran for the bathroom, which confirmed Larry’s suspicions that something was up. He ran ahead of me and blocked the bathroom door with his body, laughing hysterically at the irony of the situation. My only other option was out the front door—halfway ’cross the house. I’d never make it.
“Swallow it, bitch!” he ordered, his body still blocking the doorway, hands up in the air like a soccer goalie. Damn, I hated him.
But, I would have the last word on this one. It took me a moment to think of a way out, but then it came to me. As I realized my way out, the look of terror on my face from envisioning what seemed to be my impending death slowly changed into a wide-ass grin: I spit the Kool-Aid in his face. And with that, it was on—we tumbled, kicked, bit, and scratched, until we tired ourselves out and retreated to opposite ends of the house to await the next battle.
So I was really glad when Momma sent Larry to go live with Daddy. Larry had started talking back to Momma, being smart-mouthed and sassin’ ...
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Book Description 2008. Library Binding. Book Condition: Brand New. reprint edition. 472 pages. 9.10x6.10x1.20 inches. In Stock. Bookseller Inventory # 1439560455
Book Description 2008. Library Binding. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P111439560455
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Book Description 2008. Library Binding. Book Condition: New. Brand New!. Bookseller Inventory # VIB1439560455