5/5 Powell's Books
Originally published 2005
Genres Biography, Autobiography
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A Piece of Cake: A Memoir is an autobiography by Cupcake Brown. The novel describes her descent into teenage prostitution and drug addiction. Although doubt has been raised as to the veracity of much of what transpired in the novel, Brown maintains that the events in the book are real.
The novel provides a first-person account of Cupcake Brown's triumph over adversity. She largely adopts a colloquial writing style which makes the book a very approachable work for readers. She also has a tendency to end various chapters with sentences which direct the reader to imminent events in her life. For example, she concludes one of the chapters in her biography with: 'Little did I know, I really was leaving Lancaster for good.'
The story begins in January 1975
when the female protagonist gives a short account of why her mother named her Cupcake Brown. Brown's mother died in 1976, when Brown was age 11. Since her biological father only acquired custody because he wanted to receive social security cheques, she and her brother were placed in an abusive stranger's foster home, along with several other children. Their foster mother, Diane, forced them to clean her entire house every day and physically abused them if she wasn't satisfied. Diane's biological daughter, Connie, is also portrayed as sadistic, reportedly deriving pleasure from tormenting Brown and the other children who resided in the foster home. For example, she is quick to point out to Brown that she is the real (biological) child of Diane as opposed to being a foster child. Brown believes that Connie feels entitled to cause trouble for the foster children in any way that her cruel mind will allow because of her perceived higher familial status.
Within days of arriving, Brown is raped by her foster mother's nephew, Pete. Brown provides a frank account of how Pete thrusts a glass of rum and coke into her hand, tells her to drink it and how 'everything happened so fast' afterwards. Although the drink makes Brown feel very good at first, she proceeds to relate what she describes as being a nightmare. She also decides that since God took her mother away from her as well as allowing the rape to happen to her, then He must not like Brown very much. She then decides that she hates God.
After months of unrelenting abuse, Brown runs away and ends up meeting a prostitute, Candy, who teaches her about life on the streets. This includes how to smoke marijuana, and introducing her to prostitution. Brown 'turns her first trick' aged eleven. Her next foster father, under the guise of "cheerleading practice" traded her LSD and cocaine for oral sex. She moved in with her great aunt in South Central Los Angeles, where she joined a gang. She narrowly survived a shooting when she was barely 16, and she left the gang. Her boyfriend taught her how to freebase and introduced her to crack. Soon, she was a "trash-can junkie," indulging in as many drugs as she could find. When she woke up behind a dumpster one morning, scarcely dressed and possibly close to death, she admitted that she needed help. She then attends an addiction clinic, where she embarks upon her road to recovery, which is successful.
The book was a Sunday Times No. 1 Ultimate Best Seller.