Losing My Cool: Love, Literature, and a Black Man’s Escape from the Crowd (Williams)

If you’re interested in the argument about whether we shape music or music shapes us, this book is for you. Williams ends up arguing that he and his peers cooperated in their own enslavement by worshipping at the altar of rap music and BET. He details his transformation from wanna be thug, ignoring the guidance of two loving parents, to someone who, thanks to time at Georgetown University and the opportunity to travel, becomes more alive to his world. In the end, he arrives at this piece of advice for black men (221):

The better approach – if the far more difficult one – would be for us to learn, once and for all, how to interpret and navigate the world around us, and to stop confusing the shoes on our feet or the songs in our ears for ourselves.

Fair enough. It’s hard to argue with that. But there’s something unsatisfying about the journey Williams recounts here, so unsatisfying that though I know many teens who would benefit from that final nugget of wisdom quoted above, I don’t think they would be persuaded by Williams’ book. For one, though he names it, Williams never really explores the notion of his own privileges in the world. And second, though he is suspiciously fond of the epiphany, he leaves unexplored a moment when violence invades his own home. Maybe, probably, I’m out of my league here. Perhaps I wanted more (too much?) from this book. I’m just not sure who this book would speak to.

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