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The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  737 ratings  ·  112 reviews
New York Times Bestseller New York Times Editors' Choice
O Magazine Best Summer Book

Baltimore City Paper Best Memoir, 2016

Reminiscent of the classic Random Family and The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, but told by the man who lived it, THE COOK UP is a riveting look inside the Baltimore drug trade portrayed in The Wire and an incredible story of redemption.

The smar
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published May 3rd 2016 by Grand Central Publishing
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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Jul 15, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoirs
This is someone's story, a memoir of a lifestyle as foreign to me as Ancient Greece. The language used throughout went past colloquial all the way to slang and the very short chapters were made up almost entirely of dialogue. This style of writing made me feel as if I were in the room or on the corner with these people. It made me feel uncomfortable but also a little bored of it all, which I'm sure was not the desired effect. Stylistically, the story undermined itself.

In the end, I had no more
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"I saw it all"

Watkins writes in his own voice, sharing his journey from Georgetown University hopeful to the leader of a crack empire on the streets of East Baltimore and how he found the will to turn it all around.

Watkins raw honesty and intellect shine through every page, creating an engaging look into a world most of us will never experience. His keen self perception, which no doubt helped keep him alive while working the streets, is also the key to his writing. Fascinating, intense read fro
J Beckett
Dec 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Title: The Cook Up

Author: D. Watkins

Hardcover: 272 pages

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (May 3, 2016)

I am selfishly at a crossroads, perhaps a little flummoxed, maybe just enough of an editor to notice the small stuff. For just over a year, I have been reading the work of D. Watkins voraciously; from his articles in Salon to the two books he released. He is, in many respects, an urban (metropolitan) Charles Dickens, telling and retelling stories that are completely American, based on an Amer
Dec 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
D. Watkins is an inspiring guy, a man, an educator, and a mentor who has undertaken what is one of the most persistent and difficult tasks in Baltimore: to improve the lives of young people in our great city. D writes about his life on the streets of East Baltimore, dealing drugs after his older brother Bip was shot dead by rivals. Bip never wanted D to throw his life away dealing drugs, but for a young man growing up in East Baltimore, with no role models, a horrible education system that incul ...more
Apr 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review was originally posted on crack The Cook Up by D. Watkins provided a gripping insight to how a person on the right path ends up following a dark and dangerous pathway instead. D. is a young man striving to escape his neighborhood in East Baltimore with an acceptance to Georgetown University. He has seen the life his older brother has as a drug dealer and wants a different life for himself. Then, the death of his brother starts a series of events that leads to him cookin ...more
Anita Pomerantz
Sep 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fascinating memoir from a former drug dealer in Baltimore. Watkins really doesn't hold back as he lays out the specifics of how and why drug dealers operate. It's an eye opener. It's also heartbreaking as it becomes clear that the intelligence required to create a successful drug dealing operation could readily be deployed in some more traditional pursuits, but the money, and almost as importantly the "prestige" is seductive. I love memoirs that give insight into something you know little or not ...more
Nov 12, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 pretty good. Thought it would be more emotional but still good
Jun 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Lowdown: Dwight "Dee" Watkins tells a harrowing tale of his life as a drug dealer on the streets of East Baltimore in the aftermath of his brother "Bip's" death.

The Good:This book was gritty, visceral and real. Watkins minces no words as he describes the drug life, the murders, the flashy lifestyle, the strip clubs, the grinding poverty. The portrayal of East Baltimore is a sad reality and testament to the devastating effects of housing segregation, crack cocaine, economic depression, strict
Kevin Kumor
Feb 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Cook Up by: D.Watkins is a book I really liked because it had things that I am interested in. To begin with this, book is about Dee Watkin’s life growing up. It all starts in Baltimore with his friend/role model getting shot and killed. This book had many important details. “Brock grabbed the gun and we tussled.” 50 Also there parts when they make profit and hustled on the streets. “I have cooked up the other half of the brick.” 52. Others may argue that the the violence in the book is not a ...more

This was a quick read but a lot of it is tough to read. This is the closest glimpse I’ve taken into selling crack and hustling and I can’t imagine a more credible source than D. Watkins. Parts of the story seemed underdeveloped, especially toward the end. I pulled this out of a Little Free Library last year and will put back for someone else to find.
Kevin Eleven
Jul 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir

In The Cook Up, we find D. Watkins at the center of the mass hysteria that is East Baltimore. Following news of his brother’s death just days after being accepted into Georgetown University, Watkins suddenly found himself in a position that his brother had fought extremely hard to keep him away from, the drug game.
Although Watkins wasn’t a dealer when his brother was alive, he certainly made a nice transition into the culture as he quickly became one of the elite
Jul 06, 2016 rated it liked it
I picked this book up from the library on a whim because I think I remembered seeing reviews and wanting to read it. First, this was a quick read for me. I liked the episodic way in which D tells his story, but I will say that because this a story about a drug dealer I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop (something bad to happen to him i.e. jail or a near fatal shooting) and some of the chapter titles made me jump to some unnecessary conclusions. The lifestyle that D details in this book are ...more
First off: if you're familiar at all with the HBO series "The Wire," then reading this book will be a piece of cake for you...

Overall it's a very raw, unsettling look into a young man's decent into the violent drug trade of inner city Baltimore. Watkins knows how to set the scene with vivid imagery of crack houses, junkies, the sounds of gunfire. There was never a moment when I didn't feel a part of this story. I felt like I was actually there, standing on the corner seeing all of the action and
Apr 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
This was a fantastic book, but such a difficult book to read. It paints the portrait of a life and of a culture so completely different than the life I live inside my little bubble. It was shocking and sad and terrifying. I am glad I read it and I want to read his other book, "The Beast Side: Living and Dying While Black in America."
Dee tells the story of how difficult it is to escape your circumstances, not just because of a lack of opportunity or experience, but because escaping your circums
Debbie Smyth
The instructional part of this book is children live the life they can see and imagine. I think his brother's desire for a better life was dormant in Dee's consciousness and was activated via his relationship with Soni. He knew there was a better way to live. The sad part of the story is that kids in the hood see the drug culture as the only achievable way out to a viable life without want. If these children had knowledge of another way(via a good education with reading at its core) maybe we cou ...more
Liz De Coster
Jan 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
3.5, rounded up to reflect his overall work. Also he signed my copies of his zines, so! Watkins has a strong narrative voice, a certain directness that makes his writing extremely engaging. From what I've read of his, I tend to think shorter forms are a strength for him.

If you're familiar with Watkins some of this content may seem familiar, but there's a certain rawness, maybe bluntness, to the telling that read to me like these are still events the author is still grappling with to some degree,
Rose Peterson
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
When I recommend books to my dad, he often laments that they are all so sad and hopeless, and I give him some spiel about how insulating ourselves from the struggles of others comforts us but doesn't solve problems. The Cook Up, though, left me more cynical and hopeless than most books do--and oddly, that's what I loved about it. There was no redemption. There was no white teacher who swooped in and fixed everything, no community center that opened and magically got kids off the street, no polic ...more
Jul 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
it's sad to read what is actual for any black man in our world, but to read of how he rose slowly but surely was amazing. he did not always make the right decisions but his book is his truth and i cannot knock him for that. i really did enjoy this book and want to read his other one as well.
Feb 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
On the ground reporting from the trap front, very interesting account of a man drawn away from academia to the Game, and them circling back to college again when realized riches are more hollow and harrowing than livable.

Baltimore is well represented, and the story is timely.
Steven Yenzer
Jul 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Watkins makes it so incredibly clear why the drug trade flourishes in America's inner cities. His story and perspective are vital to understanding how even the "good kids" can become a part of the game.
Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
Gritty, authentic and honest tale from the streets.
Jul 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Another wow.
Ryan Mishap
Nov 25, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: personal-writing
When I hear or read news stories about the chaos in Syria or the refugee crisis, I not only lament the loss of lives and destruction of places, but I also mourn the lost potential. Not only of the dead, but of the displaced who have nothing, not even hope, in the end. There are similar stories around the world, but also here in the US: on reservations, other rural places, and in some of our cities, like Chicago and Baltimore, where Watkins grew up. Places where the neglect, disinvestment, and ra ...more
Anna Hendrickson
Absolutely flew through this book. The Cook Up is a very raw, honest, and violent look into D. Watkins life as a drug dealer in Baltimore, Maryland. The narrative is extremely detailed and really allowed me to get a sense of the environment and characters who floated in and out.

One thing I couldn't really get past was the number of grammatical errors sprinkled throughout the book. The editing seemed sub-par and it was hard to look past it at certain points. I also wished there was more self-ref
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, baltimore
I'm always impressed by a memoirist's ability distill their experience into relatable detail - describing the who/what/where/when while also evoking the feeling of the moment AND providing a plot that pulls the reader along. Watkins succeeds with all this - the specific, emotive, and narrative - his characters jump off the page and the story flies along.

Watkins relates his experiences as a crack dealer from the perspective of someone who got out, who managed to tease himself away from the allure
Dawdu Amantanah
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
D. Watkins book reminds me a lot of Richard Price "Clockers" book but told by the man who lived it. I know D. Watkins personally and there is no pump faking in his gritty tales on the streets of Baltimore. The death of his big brother Bip sent him from an ambitious college-bound student into a four-year-long journey of cooking crack becoming one of East Baltimore's biggest dealers. Then, at the apex of his power, he renounces it all, the BMW's, drug crews, fast money, and even faster women. D. W ...more
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Watkins is incredibly talented. I would implore anyone who lives near or in Baltimore to read his work ASAP. His eloquent, smart, powerful writing will surprise you and make you face reality in witty yet tragic ways. I adore his style and rawness. There's strength in the way he tells his story. He illuminates the dark corners of living and dying in Baltimore, drawing attention to the cyclical systems of school, justice, drugs, gambling seen from the eyes of seemingly forgotten city residents. Th ...more
Jul 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, crime, memoir, 2017
"Everything I did seem extremely stupid." - D. Watkins

That quote is taken out of context but it is applicable. Often young people make stupid choices that strongly influences and impact their lives and others. I'm not judging Watkins because he already understands and addressed those stupid things. I'll praise him for being brave enough to share his story.

I think it is unfortunate that the young people in desperate situations, risking their lives through illegal means, will probably not read th
Sep 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
It was a great book, very insightful and an important read that covered many topics from drugs to race, crooked cops, inequality and white privilege. I felt there was a lot of time getting into the storyline at the begining and middle of the book. Toward the end, few details were given about key characters like Tyler, and the author didn't wrap up some of the stories I think the readers would have hoped to know. Did he marry Soni? I want to read more!
Oct 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Watkins really tricks you with those short chapters. You really can just go "one more chapter" over and over again because they are so quick.

The book is fast-paced, personal and depicts what it's like living this lifestyle from people who actually have lived it. While it is from his point of view, you do get a feeling that there is really a cast of characters around you at all times because he's never really alone.

It's not the drug story of Breaking Bad or the crime and dirty scandals of The Wir
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