Abby's Reviews > The Coldest Winter Ever

The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah
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Apr 15, 10

bookshelves: teen, street-lit
Read in February, 2010

I’ve read some teen urban fiction titles, but not many adult ones, so I thought I’d start with the book that breathed new life into the genre when it was first published a little over 10 years ago. If you work for an urban public library, you really need to read this book. It is insanely popular and most copies in my library system don’t stick around very long before they disappear for good.

The Coldest Winter Ever is an urban soap opera, told from the perspective of teen Winter Santiaga, the spoiled, sexy, and streetwise eldest daughter in a wealth drug kingpin’s privileged family. In the beginning, Winter is riding high, but when her family falls from power, she has to rely on her wits, street smarts and sex appeal to survive. Pretty typical hard-luck story, right?

There are a couple of odd things about this book, however. For one, Sister Souljah includes herself as a character in the book – she appears about half-way through as a kind of protector/role model figure for urban black young adults, especially young black women, who is supposedly offering a better alternative to the fast life of sex, money, and power that Winter craves. This plot device is a little distracting and doesn’t really add anything to the narrative. It’s pretty clear that Sister Souljah wrote this book as a kind of cautionary/morality tale for black teens, but the irony is that even though she is a selfish, spoiled bitch, Winter is a much more compelling character than Sister Souljah or any of her well-behaved acolytes. I really wonder how many of the millions of people who have read this book think to themselves, “Gee, I don’t want to end up like Winter. I’d better listen to Sister Souljah and stay away from drug money.” More likely they are totally enthralled by Winter’s never-ending hustle and totally rooting for her to succeed. I know I was!

The other thing that was pretty hard for me to swallow about this book is Sister Souljah’s unapologetic homophobia and AIDS-phobia. One of my colleagues has pointed out that this book was written over ten years ago and the cultural landscape has changed since then. However, the paperback edition I read, which was published in 2006, included additional material that I believe was written more recently, including a discussion of the character of Midnight (one of her dad’s soldiers on whom Winter has a mad crush) where Sister Souljah basically blames racism and capitalism for causing black men to “lose control over their sexual and gender identity” and become gay. So no, I don’t think Sister Souljah’s views on homosexuality have evolved in the slightest.
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Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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kisha I like your review bc I can respect it. I loved the book....but what stood out is what you said about the mesage. I totally agree! Is her mission accomplished? Well people in similiar situations as Winter and Midnight want to change after reading it, or will they embrace it even more? Well "good" people wanna turn "bad"? If I understood your review correctly, good observation because I definitely feel like she made the "life" look like eye candy.


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