Mama Black Widow

by

Author:  Iceberg Slim

Title: Mama Black Widow: A Novel

Genre: African-American, Urban Lit, GLBTQ

Publisher/Publication Date:  Old School Books, 1998

Number of Pages:  240

Geographical Setting:  Southside Chicago

Time Period:  1930s-1970s

Plot Summary:  Mama Black Widow tells the tragic tale of Otis Tilson, a 40-year-old gay drag queen living on Chicago’s south side during the racially turbulent 70s.  Much of the novel is told in a realistic way by Otis about how his family moved to Chicago from the south in the 1930s, and the hard times they had to endure from then on.  Most of the novel is spent examining Otis’s mother “mama,” a vile, manipulative, downright evil woman who basically destroys every member of the Tilson family.  She drives her husband away, coerced one of her daughters into prostitution, and a lot of innocent people suffer greatly by her hands.  The author of this novel, Iceberg Slim (former pimp) writes in a way that is both shocking and insightful.  The language is often blunt, candid, and very, very offensive.  Sex scenes are described in explicit detail, and tone often changes from jovial to deadly serious.  Issues such as integration, trade unions, Chicago’s underground gay scene, police brutality, and hatred for the white man are discussed at length throughout the novel.  Slim even admits in the introduction that he is not the greatest writer, but he writes for the common people, and “tells it like it is.”

Subject Headings: Chicago (Southside)–Police (Brutality)–House of Corrections–Plantations–Trade Unions–Black Power–Bars (Gay)–Drag Queens–Cross-dressing–GLBTQ–Pimps–Drugs–Guns–Prostitution–Religion–False Preachers–Sex–Erotica–Rape–Pedophiles–Martin Luther King, Jr.–Street Cars–The El

Appeal: Realistic, Shocking, Character-Driven, Blunt, Candid, Erotic, Frantic, Intense, Dramatic, Serious, Political, Steamy, Graphic, Comical, Gut-Wrenching, Tragic, Sad, GLBTQ, Sexy

3 Appeal terms that best describe this book:  Serious, Steamy, Graphic

3 Similar Non-Fiction works and authors:

Soul on Ice, Eldridge Cleaver

This non-fiction memoir by Eldridge Cleaver will appeal to Iceberg Slim fans for its ability to shock, outrage, and question the readers’ ideas of what it means to be black in America.  His memoir is both sincere, raw, and very engaging.  He says at one point, “I’m perfectly aware that I’m in prison, that I’ve been a rapist, and that I have a higher Uneducation.”  Cleaver made indeed be too offensive to some, but he always savagely honest.  He tells the truth and he knows it.

Manchild in the Promised Land, Claude Brown

Claude Brown is a young, streetwise criminal growing up in Harlem in the 1940s and 50s.  This novel does an excellent job of describing northern black ghettos in New York in a turbulent, thrilling way.  Everything from pimps, drugs, street vendors, local shop owners, police brutality, gangs, sex and violence, and the gay underground are discussed in this book.  This book is however, quite inspiring and affirmative because Claude Brown is one of the lucky few who “made it” in this brutal world.

Out and Proud in Chicago: An Overview of the City’s Gay Community,  Tracy Baim

This handy reference book guides the reader through Chicago’s long and rich history of the gay community.  Those interested in Slim’s descriptive scenes of obscure bars and drag clubs will enjoy the multiple photographs presented within these pages (both in color and black & white).  The book draws on many scholarly, historical, and journalistic sources and covers time periods from pre- WWI to WWII-1960s, and 1970s to the present day.

3 Similar Fiction works and authors:

Blow Your Mind, Eric Pete

The description of the book reads,”In this erotic novel of sex and revenge, Eric Pete takes the consequences of dark sexual fantasies one step further.”  This story is about Tanner Coleman, his wife Bianca, and her wild sister, pumpkin.  When a man named Henry shows up and blackmailed Tanner, their lives are changed forever in a truly twisted way.  Not for the squeamish, this hardcore erotic, steamy, violent novel will appeal to Slim fans for its challenging dialogue, absurd situations, and the pessimistic world view that “we all die, and it will probably be sooner rather than later.”  Very popular!

Drag Queen, Robert Rodi

Considering the titles mentioned above, Rodi’s novel Drag Queen is a bit more light-hearted and comical, but also very engaging.  One review describes it as “The Parent Trap meets Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert.”  Gay attorney Mitchell Sayer has just found out from his mother that he has an identical twin, who happens to live not far from him in Northern Chicago.  The thing is, Mitchell’s brother is now named “Kitten Kaboodle,” gown-wearing, stillet0 strutting star of Tam-Tam’s “All-girl” review.  Furious, Mitchell tries to force Kitten into “the real world,” but Kitten feels she has a few lessons to teach as well.  Comical, insightful, and full of the Chicago landmarks Slim famously paints throughout his books.

Last Exit to Brooklyn, Hubert Selby, Jr.

This graphic, brutally raw novel of characters living in Brooklyn during the 60s and 70s examines the anger and rage of many diverse individuals in a time where justice seemed non-existent.  Considered a classic of modern American writing, this book, as Slim would describe it, “tells it like it is.”  There are crooks, hoodlums, pimps, prostitutes, drag queens, gay men and women, police riots, and strikes galore.  Gritty and serious, blunt and brutally honest.  Truly essential.

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