The Coldest Winter ever by Sister Souljah Book Review
“To be able to shit on people before they get a chance to shit on you. That’s power.” That following statement comes from The Coldest Winter ever, a novel taking place in the early 21st century written by Sister Souiljah. Where we are introduced to fifthteen going on thirty year old Winter Santiaga, the protagonist of the novel, who is anything but a wallflower. Winter is the daughter of a prominent and extremely wealthy illegal business owner. The lifestyle that her family and Winter live allows for her to be accustomed to luxuries that she then begins to feel entitled to. Her getting everything handed to her has made Winter who she is- spoiled, shallow, and self-centered. This ambitious fifteen year old is then left with the belief that she will forever be promised a social status, security, and stability. While Winter and her family originally lived in an impoverished area in New York, the Santiaga family later moved to an upper class area in Long Island. Winter and her family believed life for them after moving could only get better. However, after federal agents arrest her father, Ricky Santiaga, and take all the family’s assets, Winter is left with little money and nowhere to call home. While her little sisters are in foster care, her father sentenced to life in prison, and her mom roaming the streets due to her being in a state of depression and fallen victim to drug addiction. Winter is then left to fend for herself, while attempting to make a name for herself in society. The text has brought to attention that any given individual doesn't have to limit themselves to what they grew up around and become their environment. Being that Winter has a limited viewpoint on what life has to offer- money, social status, and the world revolving around her she struggles to learn the ways of her environment on her own. The Coldest Winter Ever is a very influential book and allows for someone like myself to feel represented in a space where there aren’t many sources of representation.
The novel, The Coldest Winter Ever, is what one would call an urban fiction that speaks a lot on issues that may occur inside the black community that the majority audience may be able to relate to in some way. Many urban fictions take place in a city scene; however, the genre is as much defined by mainly socio-demographics and culture of its characters as the urban setting that these books take place in. The text is conveyed through print where the author is heavy on the use of figurative language. For example, in the novel Winter Santiaga, the main character, is describing Midnight, her crush, while he is playing basketball. Winter say’s ”But what really got me was that black skin. It was smooth and perfect. It laid on top of his bone structure like tight Saran Wrap.” While reading the author’s writing choices have allowed me to feel as if I'm there with her and feel the same emotions the author is trying to communicate to the audience. When the author addresses the audience, the author seems to be speaking to the intended audience; teens/young adults, African American females who can relate on the topic of growing up surrounded by the supposed norms in black culture. The author’s purpose is conveyed through her characters in the story, which represent the very individuals one can find in an urban environment in America, from young children, growing up too fast in a culture of violence and moral decay, to adolescents and young adults who have developed no moral foundation for their lives, to adult women and men who, because of their lack of solid values, perpetuate this same destructive environment into the next generation. Moreover the author’s purpose and tone go hand and hand. The tone that is perceived to me as the audience is pessimistic, due to the author making it clear that with the values the character holds dearest will always hold her back and set her up for failure every time. This then invokes my mood to be one of optimism to see Winter win in life.
Sister Solijah’s choices when it came to the direction the story took plot wise to even certain words that were placed at a certain time made the novel one of my top 3 all time favorite books. When it comes to African American culture/society there isn’t in my opinion a variety of mainstream literature to choose from. The author isn’t afraid to talk on any subject- sexual abuse, drug abuse, prison systems, foster care, etc. This book has layers beyond the surface and I find it amazing how the author was able to touch on all topics and bring awareness that these situations can happen to anyone. The Coldest Winter Ever is a novel that in every situation will have you making a decision of your own while reading, which kept me engaged with the story. The author of this novel will have you second guessing decisions that you might have made yourself while reading. After reading this novel I can say without a doubt that I myself had to take a step back and evaluate some of my own values and my thought process on life altering decisions. This book had me asking very frequently to myself, “If I was to choose the same decisions as her, would I have the same fate or were the odds stacked against her?” The author teaches through the book that one doesn't have to become what their environment makes of them, but instead who they want to be through their own choices that are made. As a result, this invites the audience to think about what decisions they have had to make and how those choices they’ve made have affected them. The topic of not becoming a part of your environment is very controversial, for the simple fact that many can argue and say that most don’t have much of a choice due to their predicament. Sister Solijah allows for the conservation of this to be one that is easily agreeable as just as it is disagreeable.
In the final analysis of The Coldest Winter Ever I can say that it is truly an influential book. This novel has allowed for me to think beyond the surface level when it came to the problems brought to attention. The many issues we to this day deal with are expressed in some shape and form throughout the book. With certain topics being discussed in the novel allows for the audience to be introduced to new ideas or if the audience already had previous knowledge they get to dive deeper into the topic of discussion. One of the most important values for anyone is the trait of showing empathy/sympathy towards another person and this novel does a great job at allowing the audience an inside peek in the life of someone else and their struggles.