Saturday, February 7, 2009

Grace After Midnight (book review)

This is my second book for Annie’s What’s In a Name - 2 challenge, in the time of day category. While purists might argue that the “dead” I put forward as a medical condition is a stretch, I don’t think anyone can quibble with “midnight” as a time of day.

Grace After Midnight is the memoir of Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, and will likely appeal only to those who, like me, became hooked on the HBO series The Wire. For those who may not otherwise know, The Wire is Homicide: Life on the Streets on steroids and/or without the NBC censors. Felicia “Snoop” Pearson first appeared in the third season of The Wire playing, who else, Felicia “Snoop” Pearson. On one level, ya gotta love a character named not only after the actor portraying her but very much patterned after her.

Snoop grew up on the streets of Baltimore, raised by foster parents who were more like grandparents to her. She only saw her real mother a couple of times, and never alone after the visit on which her mother had Felicia (she wasn’t called “Snoop” yet) take off her party dress then locked her in a closet so she could go sell the dress for drug money. Even before her teenage years, she learned the ins and outs of the corner drug trade. She also realized and accepted that she was gay. Several adults tried to keep her on the straight and narrow including, interestingly enough, two men themselves involved in the drug trade. She called these men Uncle and Father though there was no blood relation.

At the age of 14, Snoop was attacked by another girl in a street melee. When the other girl swung at her with a metal baseball bat, Snoop shot her, trading one form of lead for another. When no witnesses were willing to label Snoop’s act pure self defense, and one witness was ready to testify that Snoop acted first, Snoop asked her lawyer to plea bargain. She ended up sentenced to eight years in the Maryland Women’s Correctional Facility, though she was paroled after five years, when she was 20.

During her time in prison, Snoop experienced a number of ups and downs. Some of her stories of the other inmates are quite shocking. She also had the spiritual or religious experience from which the title is derived. One night, in the middle of a very low period after Uncle’s death and Father’s having been sentenced to life in prison, she looked up in the middle of the night and felt a presence. After that, she became determined to complete her GED and make it to the end of her sentence.

Snoop was 20 when she was released. She was determined to go straight, and followed the advice she had been given about getting a job: If they don’t ask about a prison record, don’t volunteer that you have one. After being fired from two jobs at which she was doing well because her employers found out about her prison record, she fell into dealing drugs. In a bar one night, she met Michael K. Williams who was playing Omar Little on The Wire. He invited her to the set, introduced her to the writers and producers, and she was offered a role essentially playing herself. She kept her drug corner running for some time after she was a regular on the series, but eventually closed it down.

In Grace After Midnight, Pearson writes about continuing to act and not getting back into the drug business. Searching and the Internet Movie Database indicates that she hasn’t really done any acting since The Wire ended, but that she is active in a nonprofit working with Baltimore youth. She was also arrested last summer for possession of marijuana.

As I said at the outset, this book will probably only appeal to fans of The Wire. I’m not sure that Pearson’s story will resonate with someone not familiar with her role on the series. But if you miss The Wire and still think of it as one of the best things ever to air on TV, er, excuse me, it’s not TV, it’s HBO, then you might want to give this book a whirl.

1 comment:

Debi said...

Well, the book sounds pretty darn good to me, even though I've never seen a single episode of The Wire. It is, however, getting close to the top of the old Netflix queue. Darn kids movies and homeschool stuff keeps getting in the way.