Straight Outta East Oakland by Harry Louis Williams II
First off, this didn’t feel like the typical urban drama because the main character, Firstborn Walker, is a studious young man who just makes some really bad decisions. He’s from East Oakland and has been accepted to a prestigious (fictitious) private college in Berkeley. The only catch is he has to come up with 20% of his first year’s tuition in order to qualify to get the rest of his costs (tuition, books and dorm) paid for for his entire time there. What makes this especially tricky is that he’s about to be evicted from his rented room and can’t find any type of job, no matter how hard he looks. Out of desperation, what he finally decides to do is go along with his childhood friend Drama and sell marijuana until he can save up the money he needs to start school in the fall. What are the odds that his plan will work out, or that this naive bookworm will even survive?
This book captured and kept my interest more than many urban dramas. It felt authentic without glorifying the drugs and violence, while at the same time telling a suspenseful story. Sometimes the writer does become a little preachy about the “black man’s plight in the hood,” but I think these are messages that especially need to be heard by readers of this particular genre. I would recommend this to fans and urban drama and Bay Area urban teens and young adults.
We also own the sequel to this book, Straight Outta East Oakland 2, Trapped on the Track.