“A very talented writer… Williams is transformed from a skinny teenager who shoots hoops, gets into bloody brawls and smacks his girlfriend, into a philosophy major and author. The credit goes to his father, a black man who came from a far grimmer background…[Williams] also realizes that he is free in a way his father never was, a revelation that strikes him as ‘both deeply tragic and extremely hopeful.’ So is this book.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Losing My Cool is a provocative, intellectual memoir.” —USA Today
“Losing My Cool boldly and courageously introduces into American public discourse a seldom-discussed ugly truth: Young African Americans are becoming ignorant by choice. Williams’ book is desperately needed.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“[Williams’s] portrait of his dad, an intensely private man, contains some of the most compelling writing about black fathers in recent literature on the subject. There is much to admire in Losing My Cool, and more to anticipate from Williams.” —The Washington Post Book World
“The invincibly important Losing My Cool [is] a startling memoir of growing up in the black middle class of New Jersey.” —New York Daily News
“Losing My Cool is an engaging and honest exploration of one man’s self-discovery, as well as the powerful relationship between a father and son.” —Daily Beast
“This is more than a coming-of-age story; it is an awakening, as Williams blends Dostoyevsky and Jay-Z in a compelling memoir and analysis of urban youth culture.” —Booklist (starred)
I had just gotten my permit and was whipping down the street toward home one hot summer afternoon. The windows were down and Tupac’s “Picture Me Rolling” pumped from the speakers. Out of the corner of my eye, I peeped a shirtless Antwan beating a hasty path down the side of the road, his black doo-rag like a pirate flag in the wind, his tattoos glistening beneath beads of sweat. As I pulled over to the shoulder, honking, he jogged up to the car and hopped in.
“Nigga, that’s good timing!” he panted.
“What the hell are you doing on the side of the road without a shirt?” I teased.
“This white bitch I’m tossing up was supposed to give me some sneaker paper, but she ain’t have my money, and we got into it,” he explained. “Then her pops pulled up and I had to dip up out that winnnndooooow, nigg-uuuhhhhh! I barely got my shoes on.” Ant had this hilarious way of speaking in undulating tones, drawing out certain syllables in the words he chose to stress. We both started cracking up.
In some far-off region of my mind I knew the way that Ant treated girls was wrong, but it didn’t strike me as particularly bizarre. All of my friends who could do it, me included, got money out of bitches and professed to look down on them in the process. We called this “running game.” I sported a fifteen-hundred-dollar gold chain on top of five-hundred-dollar hand-knit Coogi sweaters from Australia, which my girlfriend, Stacey, bought for me in cash.
My relationship with Stacey was in many ways the fulcrum upon which I balanced my sense of self. A year younger than me, she was the epitome of the black girl I had long hoped to attract. Winning her attentions authenticated my blackness and justified my swagger. Stacey was sassy and flip, flashy like a pinky ring. She modeled when she could, appeared in black magazines like Hype Hair and local fashion shows and beauty pageants. I was by no means the only one who coveted Stacey and this, for me, only magnified her allure. I treated the clothes and jewelry she bought for me like trophies, advertisements for my prowess.
They were also body armor, defense against the lingering gossip. People always talked about the way Stacey got her money, what drug dealers she ran around with on the side. Girls run game, too. I couldn’t let myself think about that. The point here was not whether or not you had a solid relationship. The point was whether you were getting over—whether you were getting something out of the exchange. You certainly didn’t care about the girl.