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The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  572 ratings  ·  98 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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3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  572 ratings  ·  98 reviews

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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
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 cooking c ...more
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
Nov 12, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 pretty good. Thought it would be more emotional but still good
Chris G.
The Cookup is incredibly raw and visceral. Watkins authentically portrays the experiences of poor black Baltimoreans involved with the drug trade. He also knows how to craft his memoir in terms of pacing - the book is quite the page turner.

That said, there are some pretty egregious errors on the part of his editors - I saw a number of grammatical errors and spelling errors that were probably typos. I think Watkins needed a little more depth of reflection on certain experiences, as some fall flat
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
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
Feb 25, 2018 rated it really liked it

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.
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
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
Liz De Coster
Jan 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, nonfiction
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,
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.
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.
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.
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: baltimore, memoir
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: 2017, crime, fiction, memoir
"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!
Aug 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It felt real and raw. My two favorite things about the book were that the author D, raised himself out of the hood and left it after being a drug dealer, he also quit using drugs after seeing what they were doing to him and others (Percoset) and my 2nd favorite thing was he walks away from owning a BAR as he realizes he is only peddling a different kind of drug to the people and goes into teaching. I would rate this book as rated R if it were a movie.
Atiya German
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic and easy read. I enjoyed this book from start to finish. I tried to prolong my reading of the book, because I like to have a book on my commute to and from work to read, but it was so good, I just couldn't put it down and read it a lot quicker than anticipated. The characters are thoroughly described as is all the happenings in the book, so it's easy to envision everything going on in the book. Highly recommend it!
Regina Valentine
Mar 08, 2018 rated it liked it
The book was good in that it exposes a side of Baltimore and a lifestyle that most won’t get to see. It pulls on you emotionally in that way, by giving you a look into the lives of people we typically ignore. The grammar and set up of the chapters set the tone of the book, which was kind of “Eh” for me. I wish it was better edited and set up more so in the tone of a Ta-Nehisi Coates memoir or book. But I guess that is what makes every author unique. They each have their own tone and style.
Jul 15, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-won
I won a copy of this book.

D's life is very different from mine. His is the streets, mine is the suburbs. I won't pretend to know what he went through, but I'm glad he wrote about it. Each chapter is short, quick, and full of dialogue which made me feel as if I was allowed to listen in on the conversations.
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Sizzling. I very much enjoyed this one. I am always grateful for deep looks into lives & cultures different than mine. In this one, I really felt the author’s respect for the many people in his neighborhood and life.

Also, the power of listening to an elder like Mr. Pete.

Oh, and I won this in a Goodreads free giveaway thing. I have been fortunate with the books I have won in these contests. Including this one.
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