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Download Losing My Cool: How a Father's Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-hop Culture Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample Losing My Cool: How a Fathers Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-hop Culture, by Thomas Chatterton Williams Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (306 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Thomas Chatterton Williams Narrator: Thomas Chatterton Williams Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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’ 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.  Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars by Marta M. (Tustin, CA)
    An interesting read

    I found this book very interesting. In fact I couldn't put it down and I was reading it while on vacation. On vacation I usually read fiction. The author is well educated and the book is well written. It explained a lot to me about my fifth grade students. They all fans of hip-hop music but not so much with the education. This gives me a small insight into their world. This might help me in teaching them. I liked the way he blended philosophy with the fascinating story of his life. I don't think we have heard the last of this smart young man. I think that this is an important book that should be read by all.
  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars by Terye B. (Scotts Valley, CA)
    How cool is cool?

    This was a fascinating story on so many levels. A young black man struggles for his identity and finds it in the black culture of Hip Hop and BET television. While fitting into a crowd, a group he never gets to know his true self. When away at college he finds himself and learns to appreciate the structured, collegiate life his father was preparing him for since childhood. This true story is told in an easy tone, and brings back all the teenage struggles for acceptance and the awakening of adulthood. I would highly recommend this for a book group.
  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars by Irene M. (Ashland, OR)
    Losing My Cool

    This book is fascinating. I have not read anything that so clearly defines the peer pressure for young blacks in today's culture. I enjoyed reading about this author's decision-making process, and the influences that took him from a hip- hop life on the streets of his home town to become a graduate of Georgetown University with major in philosophy.
  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars by Kendra R. (New Orleans, LA)
    Engaging and thought provoking

    I found it so engaging I read it in a day. Williams provides insight into what draws people into the hip-hop lifestyle as well as what it means to be black today. As he evolves his perspective, so follows the narrative. I'm already looking forward to rereading it and sharing it with friends so we can discuss it, black and white together.
  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars by Barbara C. (Riverside, CA)
    A Father's Love

    Being the age of Thomas' father myself, that relationship was the thread that I followed through the book. The book was rich with philosophical turns, anecdotes, history, and culture from a very non-typical perspective....but very much driven by the loving, strong father. The book had so many facets to understand--hip hop to Hegel in 200 pages. I guess my desire would be to sit down at the table with Pappy and Thomas and understand the subtle nuances between their middle class and mine. I loved the book and couldn't put it down!
  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars by Beverly D. (Palm Harbor, FL)
    a young man's look at hip hop

    Williams examines the seductiveness and potential dangers of the hip hop lifestyle as it applied to him as a young man growing up in Plainfield,N.J. Ultimately finding his "place" through the study of Hegel, Heidegger and his father's unending belief in study & learning, Williams is able to love the music but ignore the philosophy and find his way as a young African -American philosopher and first time author.
  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars by Constance S. (Sacramento, CA)
    Losing My Cool

    It was difficult to read this well written, seemingly honest memoir by Thomas Chatterton Williams when I realized I was at odds with his conclusion about the reason so many African American students do poorly in school. He writes that they feel the need to adhere to only one culture, the hip hop one, and distance themselves from all others. This is called "keeping it real". As a Black woman I see this as only one of the causes.
    The hip hop culture through music,movies, TV and materialism is fed non-stop to our children and it is seductive. Nothing else seems to grant many youngsters the feeling of solidarity and the swagger and the elusive cool. To turn away from this is considered being disloyal and acting white. It is better to remain with the group than to seek many other avenues of success through education.
    Losing My Cool deserves four stars for creating a three dimensional picture of the hip hop world; and four stars for the very inspiring description of his awakening through his father's intellectual assistance and determination. I enjoyed his many references to philosophers and authors. I bookmarked and underlined his many well chosen quotations.
  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars by Susan R. (Dublin, NH)
    Anticipating the next chapters in this man's life

    This thoughtful memoir is written by a young man whose mother is white and whose father is a black man who came up in the pre-integration south. When he finally got the opportunity, Mr. Williams senior embraced books and scholarship wholeheartedly.
    Growing up in a relatively white NJ suburb, the author and his brother bought completely into black culture as portrayed by BET and rap music. This is the story of how he moved selectively to the norms of the larger society. It's an interesting book with a few magnificent passages.
  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars by Rosario
  • “A provocative, intellectual memoir.” 

    USA Today

  • Losing My Cool starts out as an explicit argument about "loss of discipline and spirit in the hip-hop era" and shape-shifts into an engaging, well-written memoir. . . . There is much to admire in Losing My Cool, and more to anticipate from Williams.
    -Jabari Asim, Washington Post
  • Fanwood, N.J., does not have a literary pedigree, or even a downtown bookstore, and yet it has produced a very talented writer. In this memoir, Williams is transformed from a skinny teenager who shoots hoops, gets into bloody brawls and smacks his girlfriend, into a philosophy major and author. Tara McKelvey, New York Times
  • Advance Reader Reviews from BookBrowse:
  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars by Froma F. (Boulder, CO)
    Powerful indictment of hip hop culture

    This is an important book. Williams chronicles his life in hip hop culture and his eventual break from that culture as he moves away from negative values (empty materialism, denigration of women) into a life of self examination. Along the way he becomes a philosophy major and Williams is particularly gifted at explaining difficult concepts in language that makes them seem quite simple. Although this is not an introduction to Heidegger or Hegel, you will walk away understanding the ideas they propound. The book is filled with extraordinary insight about the values hip hop culture promotes, what it is like to grow up middle class and black in America and how pernicious the hip hop values are for most young, black people. Williams is very insightful and is most compelling when he reflects on his life. One caveat: Williams seems somewhat uncomfortable and overly self-conscious when writing about himself and the people he knows and in the early part of the book, the writing is stilted. Persist! This is a book that is well worth reading.
    Rated 5 out of 5 stars by Maria P. (Washington, DC)
    Culture Shift

    The ideas proposed in this book offer a culture shift away from what some believe to be popular, cool and hip. Hip today is not what hip was yesterday, and will not be what hip is tomorrow. The challenge for the young who want to be part of a group for reasons of safety, coolness or just belonging is to find the thoughts that can help create a cool, safe free society. The challenge for adults is to remember that what they do and say is heard and repeated by future generations. In "Losing My Cool" the family is challenging and wise and strongest group of all.
  • “Williams blends Dostoevsky and Jay-Z in a compelling memoir and analysis of urban youth culture.” 

    Booklist (starred review)

  • A 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Best Book for Nonfiction

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Sue | 1/26/2014

    " I zoomed through this in a day. I was reallyinterested in how the author changed his mindset from one of immersion in hip-hop culture to one focused on philosophy at the collegiate level. I would like some of my teaching colleagues to read it and see if there are any overall ideas that can come from the author's journey, or if it's just one person's (interesting) story of their personal paradigm shift. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Jan | 1/25/2014

    " I could hardly put it down - so revealing about a culture of which I know almost nothing. While I was fascinated by Thomas's courage to break from the very limiting hip hop culture and the courage to speak up in a big way about that- I also was fascinated by what his journey to a broader world can say to all of us but especially to all young people. But what do I know, read Trey's review from Sept 2011, as a young black man he can say what is good about the book. I love how he says it challenges him to read more, live more intentionally. As an old white woman, the book challenged me too - I am going to read Brothers Karamozov that has been unread in my iBook library for too long. What I keep thinking of is Thomas's almost grief at remembering the young, innocent, no make-up, shorts and tank top Stacey ( his high school girl) and how she was unable to escape her small fish bowl and at 20 had two children, no degree, no husband, no future. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Rik Albani | 1/25/2014

    " On finding a deeper, more universal meaning of culture beyond hip hop through his father's library and influential teachers and friends. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Jay | 1/14/2014

    " Mildly heartwarming as a father/son coming-of-age story, but lacking sufficient perspective or nuance in its portrayal of hip-hop culture. Far too many reductive, sweeping judgments of hip-hop's influence based on tenuous interpretations of scant anecdotal evidence. I'd highly recommend the The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates, for a much sharper take on similar subject matter. "

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