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Adult Books 4 Teens
Inside Adult Books 4 Teens

Ice: A Memoir of Gangster Life and Redemption

Perhaps posting a review of this book will be somewhat controversial, given the language and topics involve. However, if we’re talking teen appeal there are plenty of readers who will be fascinated by both the criminal and celebrity lifestyles depicted. Tracy Morrow’s path from thief to Grammy-winning rapper musician to television and movie actor is a unique one. The New York Times book review dubs Ice-T “the gangsta rapper even a parent could love.”

Late last week the 2011 Street Lit Book Award Medal Winners (for 2010 publications) were announced. The winner is Decoded by Jay-Z. That same NY Times review of Ice compares the two books to say that while Decoded shares little about the artist himself, Ice is the opposite.

ICE-T,  & Douglas Century. Ice: A Memoir of Gangster Life and Redemption–from South Central to Hollywood. 288p. One World. 2011. Tr $25. ISBN 978-0-345-52328-0. LC number unavailable.  Ice

Adult/High School–To describe this memoir in one word would be to call it “honest.” In a conversational style, the rapper-actor holds nothing back, sharing his opinion on women, homosexuality, and the difference between gangsters, thugs, hustlers, and players. Ice-T grew up in South Central L.A., attending Crenshaw High School when the Crips and Bloods were in all out war. He describes what it took as a teenager in that time to survive. He was respected as a criminal, pulling mainly jewelry and department store robberies, and looks back with nostalgia, explaining his success and acknowledging that it’s a different game today. On the side, he started rapping about the gangster criminal life in clubs and became known on the party scene. While he sold weed, he explains why he never got involved in drugs, and how that decision, along with joining the army when his girlfriend had his baby, saved his life. Ice-T describes how he rejected the criminal life (he had even briefly considered becoming a pimp) and worked to become a pioneering rap star, then founded the band Body Count, which took him to a new level of fame with the controversial song “Cop Killer.” After some movie roles, he landed the part of Fin, playing a detective on Law & Order: SVU for 11 years. His narrative style can be disarming. As expected, the street language is authentic, and he’s not afraid to be politically incorrect–particularly when talking about women. However, fans of rap and hip-hop will be enthralled with his firsthand view of the so-called East Coast-West Coast rap war and his take on Tupac, Jay-Z, and other stars. Ice-T relays his philosophy on life throughout, providing advice on lessons learned that will speak to many teens.–Priscille Dando, Robert E. Lee High School, Fairfax County, VA

Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.


  1. Priscille Dando says:

    What could be a greater departure from gangster life than a guest shot on NPR’s news quiz show, Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me? I heard this podcast while grocery shopping last year and Ice’s sense of humor really came through. I remember laughing in the produce section.