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The Beast Side: Living (and Dying) While Black in America

The Beast Side: Living (and Dying) While Black in America

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by D. Watkins, David Talbot (Foreword by)

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A New York Times Best Seller!

Searing Dispatches from the Urban Zones Where African American Men Have Become an Endangered Species

To many in the age of Obama, America had succeeded in “going beyond race,” putting the divisions of the past behind us. And then seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot by a wannabe cop in


A New York Times Best Seller!

Searing Dispatches from the Urban Zones Where African American Men Have Become an Endangered Species

To many in the age of Obama, America had succeeded in “going beyond race,” putting the divisions of the past behind us. And then seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot by a wannabe cop in Florida; and then eighteen-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; and then Baltimore blew up; and then gunfire shattered a prayer meeting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Suddenly the entire country awakened to a stark fact: African Americans—particularly young black men—are an endangered species.

Now the country’s urban war zone is brought powerfully to life by a rising young literary talent, D. Watkins. The author fought his way up on the east side (the “beast side”) of Baltimore, Maryland—or “Bodymore, Murderland,” as his friends call it—surviving murderous business rivals in the drug trade and equally predatory lawmen. Throughout it all, he pursued his education, earning a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University, while staying rooted in his community.

When black residents of Baltimore finally decided they had had enough—after the brutal killing of twenty-five-year-old Freddie Gray while in police custody—Watkins was on the streets when the city erupted. He writes about his bleeding hometown with the razor-sharp insights of someone who bleeds along with it. Here are true dispatches from the other side of America.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“The 21st century Civil Rights era is upon us and one of the most compelling new voices to listen to is D. Watkins. The Beast Side is a riveting and important read no matter what your preconceived notions are on the state of race relations in America today.” —Chuck Todd, correspondent on NBC's Meet the Press

“Firing off dispatches from that part of the America we left behind, D. Watkins is making a definitive argument for so many men and women ruthlessly marginalized by a society that fails to measure itself on any humane terms. This is a Baltimore voice in angry service of other unheard Baltimore voices, and The Beast Side is, by extension, a blunt, eloquent argument for the forgotten in our cities. He has arrived, and by the sound of things, he is here to hold us all to account.” —David Simon, author of The Corner and creator of HBO’s The Wire

“D. Watkins is a very sharp young talent who transformed himself from a dealer on the streets to an adjunct professor, and most important, to a leading voice of his generation who is determined to see justice for the black community. The Beast Side is raw, intelligent, and at times humorous—and a necessary narrative in these challenging times!” —Michael Eric Dyson, author of The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America

“D. Watkins has emerged as a powerful new voice just when America needs to hear his message. It’s the voice of all those in Baltimore, Ferguson, Charleston, Oakland, New York, Cleveland, and wherever another innocent life is lost. We all need to listen to what he has to say.” —Touré, author of Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness?: What It Means to Be Black Now

“Brilliant. The Beast Side is just the latest illustration of why D. Watkins’s voice is so important to our community. Understand his words, and let’s work to make our community better.” —Wes Moore, New York Times bestselling author of The Work and The Other Wes Moore

“D. Watkins unveils America’s dirty secret of what it is like for so many to live as an African American in our country. He captures the pain, blood, sweat, and tears faced by millions of young black Americans each day and offers clear solutions on how to move our nation forward.” —Valeisha Butterfield Jones, founder and CEO of the Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network

“Sharp, witty, and worth the read for young black people who are starving for justice and ready to change the world they live in. Always engaging, The Beast Side is written with fire, rage, and intelligence from a young but extremely wise game changer.” —Tracey D. Syphax, 2014 White House Champion of Change

“The Beast Side is an honest, sobering exploration of blackness in the context of Baltimore and the unrest. And Watkins is a skilled storyteller, giving voice to a range of hard truths about the impact of state violence on the lives of black people in inner-city Baltimore. Watkins’s authentic storytelling is his hallmark.” —DeRay Mckesson, activist for We the Protestors

“D. Watkins, a seasoned writer with indisputable talent and skills, gives a detailed account of living on the ‘Other Side’ of Baltimore. Armed with a relentless spirit and uplifting message, Watkins’s words give today’s generation a sense of purpose and a chance to rise from the unruly streets of America’s Baltimore.” —Rahiem Shabazz, award-winning filmmaker of the documentary series Elementary Genocide

“Tally had his corner and D. Watkins has his ‘stoop.’ The Beast Side is D. Watkins’s sociohistorical examination of black lives in the United States juxtaposed against his upbringing in Baltimore. Through his account we discover a poignant and unadulterated story about the systematic way black lives don’t matter and how the challenges for African Americans are much deeper and pervasive than people will admit. His book is required reading!” —Dr. Byron E. Price, professor at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York

“With his unsentimental prose and sharp eye for detail, Watkins takes you to his stoop in East Baltimore, the so-called beast side...What helps the arguments in Watkins’s essays hit home are the sobering and enlightening slices of life and characters he weaves throughout...By the end, you’re left with an advanced understanding of this man’s love for the community that formed him, and how neighborhoods such as East Baltimore fit into the national debate for social change.” Baltimore Magazine

"The twin pillars of his résumé—not one but two graduate degrees from the region’s finest universities on the one hand, gun-totin’ drug dealer on the other—give Watkins cred that’s hard to argue with. Indeed, he’s strongest when he describes the disconnect between the two Baltimores he has navigated so adroitly." The Washington Post

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Meet the Author

D Watkins is a columnist for Salon. His work has been published in the New York Times, the Guardian, and magazines, and he is a frequent commentator on NPR, CNN, and elsewhere. He holds a master’s in education from Johns Hopkins University and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Baltimore and teaches writing at Coppin State University in Baltimore. He was the winner of Baltimore magazine’s “Best Writer” award in 2015.

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The Beast Side: Living (and Dying) While Black in America 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing read!! The best you will find on this subject matter.
JTR1978 More than 1 year ago
Really disappointing read. I had high hopes since David Simon is quoted on the front cover. But sadly this book just doesn't deliver. Nothing new presented in this work. Ta-nehesi Coates' "Between the World and Me" is a much much better read on this subject.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down, I read it in two days. These essays are gripping about America's inner city.