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Mama Black Widow

Mama Black Widow

4.5 10
by Iceberg Slim, Slim

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"One of the most exciting literary revival series since the rediscovery of Jim Thompson's novels" (Playboy), Old School Books "is subtly transforming the landscape of post-war black fiction" (Bomb).
"Mama Black Widow" is the nickname of Otis Tilson, a comely and tragic black queen adrift with his brothers and sisters in the dark ghetto world of pimpdom and


"One of the most exciting literary revival series since the rediscovery of Jim Thompson's novels" (Playboy), Old School Books "is subtly transforming the landscape of post-war black fiction" (Bomb).
"Mama Black Widow" is the nickname of Otis Tilson, a comely and tragic black queen adrift with his brothers and sisters in the dark ghetto world of pimpdom and violent crime. His story is told in the gut-level language of the homosexual underworld-an unforgettable testament of life lived on the margins of a racist and predatory urban hell.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A pimp who began writing in prison, Slim (Pimp: Story of My Life) filled his stories with the intricacies of pimping, drug dealing, numbers running and all manner of urban hustling, and between the mid-1960s and the mid '70s became the bestselling black novelist in American history. Now Old School Books has reissued his remarkable fictional memoir of a Chicago drag queen coming of age during the 1930s and '40s. At its core is the archetypal African American story: Otis Tilson's family moves from the rural South to the urban promised land of Chicago only to find more racism, abysmal slums and demeaning, low-paying jobs. Unable to provide for his family, Otis's father declines into alcoholism while the family founders, with Otis's doomed sisters and brother drifting into prostitution and petty crime. Meanwhile, the secret gay life that sets Otis apart from them is an endless nightmare of rapes, beatings and failed attempts at heterosexual love. It ain't pretty, but Slim's bracing ghetto melodrama and famously histrionic voice ("But she hesitated... for one hellish, destructive fragment of a pounding, torturous instant!") capture a core of unsentimental truth not just about homosexuality in the ghetto but also about the myths and travails of masculinity itself. (July)

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Old School Book
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author

Iceberg Slim was the pseudonym of Robert Beck, a longtime pimp whose novels for Holloway House, including Pimp and Trick Baby, made him the best-selling black novelist in American history.

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Mama Black Widow 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
InNaMin More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved reading this book.It was a page turner indeed. I'm glad that the leading character shared some of his deepest dark secrets that many would vow to take with them to their grave. It was a very interesting book from the beginning to the very end. You will not be disappointed while reading this book. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a good book. It starts with otis' current life and goes back into his past of how he grows up with his parents and siblings and never having lasting love. I enjoyed it very much. It is a book about inner city chicago and his childhood. I was kind of leary at first because I thought it was about living as a drag queen. It is really about an actual child growing up in the hood and the sad events that occurred in his lifetime. I recommend.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Being a young man who moved from the South to NYC I can easily see how the Tilson family felt. Papa feeling like he cant support the family, because there is no field work. Mama trying to put the southern touch on raising her children while the mean city pulls them in. And Poor Otis, confused about it all. I would recommend this book to anyone. Black,White,Gay,Straight,Sexual.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A grim look into the plight of blacks in this country. This book changed my life. Highly recommended
plouisny More than 1 year ago
This book is dynamic in its representation of the black slums and they way it ties that oppression to the dejected, painful life of the protagonist and storyteller Otis Tilson. Slim has a strong grasp of character and the milieu in which the novel is set. The text is rife with beautiful descriptions of setting that makes the reader feel present in the drama and action. The relationships and sexual encounters also provide an in-depth look at a world in which sex is more a commercial transaction that part of a love bond, where love in the heterosexual as well as the homosexual subculture is quasi non-existent and severely challenged, and the quest for opportunity and success provides no solace or happiness. Everything is turned upside down from religion, to sexuality, to psychology and examined in a satisfying way. Definitely not for the "light-hearted" reader while definitely a rewarding read for someone engaged in the questions of race, sexuality, the false solace of religion and oppression.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think that his families coming from the south and not knowing enough about the fast city life and it's pitfall's overcame them all. Otis's secret gay lifestyle to him was his own private hell. I was depressed after reading his story. His bio was sad yet engrossing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is filled with a lot of the thing that gay america has to face now. I would recommed this book the story of Otis aka Sweet Pea is a very sad but it keeps you intrested. The mother is totally a crazy loon.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The life of Otis Tilson comes full circle when he struggles with this own sexuality. A drag queen who never finds love, does find security and acceptance in an underworld of drugs, and sex.
TMWilliams More than 1 year ago
Iceberg Slim tells the story of a family plagued with so many of the horrors that plague the urban neighborhoods.  Poverty, prostitution, violence, murder, drug deals, and grittiness that few are able to explain in a way that others can understand are easily visualized as Iceberg Slim spins this tale.  A homosexual young man is struck with the difficult question of whether the way his mother has treated him is the cause of his inability to become aroused with a woman.  He struggles to grasp the understanding of her actions, actions that have led to death and distance within the family.  When life has wreaked such havoc that it's only him and his mother left, a mother who manipulates everything in her power to keep him close, he finds the need to escape her grasp.   There were times where the story was a bit drawn out, places that might have been trimmed a bit.  Otherwise, this is a great depiction of life in the 'hood, a life that few people will ever experience or understand and that no one should ever live.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago