Skip to Main Content

The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir by D. Watkins

If you are interested in Baltimore, go read this book.

An open book.
Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2016.

D. Watkins grew up in East Baltimore amid drugs, addicts, dealers, and gun violence. After his dope-dealing brother died, he inherited enough cocaine and heroin to put together a crew and start dealing. The Cook Up tells his story of getting into — and eventually getting out of — the game.

This book is great. If you are at all interested in Baltimore, racism, inner-city problems, the social effects of drugs, or cultures radically different than the middle-class suburban Catholicism that I knew growing up, go read this book. It’s well written, and it gives you a great story with which to better understand the culture of drugs and guns that thrives in East and West Baltimore.

Once you’ve read The Cook Up, go read The Beast Side: Living and Dying While Black in America, also by D. Watkins. The Beast Side is short collection of insightful essays addressing everything from Instagram and vegetables to gentrification and Freddie Gray. The essays in The Beast Side usually open with a slice-of-life story from Watkins’ life in East Baltimore and then offer an insight on larger social/political issues. I read The Beast Side earlier this year, and I definitely enjoyed it. However, I think that I read D. Watkins’ books in the wrong order; I think I’d appreciate The Beast Side more after having read The Cook Up. This is simply because once you read The Cook Up, you have a lot of context with which to better understand the essays in The Beast Side. The Beast Side certainly stands on its own; I just think the greater context would yield a richer reading experience.

Also, D. Watkins knows how to write well. Both books are written accessibly; the chapters/essays are short, the vocabulary is simply/accessible, and D. Watkins quickly hooked my attention in each chapter/essay.