The Coldest Winter Ever Summary

Sister Souljah

The Coldest Winter Ever

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The Coldest Winter Ever Summary

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The Coldest Winter Ever (1999) is the debut novel by rapper and political activist Sister Souljah. The coming of age novel tells the story of Winter Santiaga, daughter of a New York drug lord. This gritty, life-of-crime saga serves as a cautionary tale and protests drugs and violence. Sister Souljah highlights the challenges faced by inner city African American communities. Challenges include teenage pregnancy, fatherless households, drugs, and violence. Sister Souljah’s fiction debut went on to become a national bestseller and is considered an important novel of the hip-hop generation.

During a terrible snowstorm in New York City, Winter Santiaga is born. Her mother is a fourteen-year-old girl. Her father, Ricky Santiaga, is a notorious drug dealer.

Winter, who at the start of the novel is thirteen-years-old, grows up in the projects of Brooklyn. She is the oldest daughter. She has three younger sisters named Porsche, Lexus, and Mercedes. Winter and her sisters are spoiled and pampered with the luxury brands and best things money can buy. Every whim is indulged. Winter is motivated by money and material possessions. After losing her virginity at twelve, Winter is sexually promiscuous.

Her young mother, whom Winter calls Moms, acts more as a sister than as a mother. Her husband, Ricky, provides her with both material wealth and sexual satisfaction. In the projects, women often need two men to satisfy their material and sexual desires.

Ricky Santiaga, Pops, is a very successful drug lord. He has worked his way up from lookout to becoming a leader of his own drug empire. He does not expose his family to his business dealings. He tries to keep them safe with strict security measures. At home, he is a loving father who spoils his wife and girls. His family benefits from the power of his name and his substantial wealth. His business is so successful that he is able to move his family to a mansion on Long Island.

This move, which happens after her sixteenth birthday, turns Winter’s world upside down. She does not want to lose touch with her former neighborhood. Despite the change of location, Winter’s life remains influenced by the culture and principles of the ghetto where she grew up. She has become a self-centered, tough, precocious, nasty girl. This is due to a lack of positive role models in her life.

After moving to Long Island, Ricky becomes less involved in the day to day operations of his business. His young associates, who handle more of the business, make mistakes, which lead to Ricky’s arrest by the FBI. His drug empire collapses. Ricky is sent to jail on Riker’s Island for his various felonies. The family’s possessions are all confiscated. Winter’s mother is shot in the face by competing drug dealers.

While in prison, Ricky murders his wife’s two brothers who are in jail with him at Riker’s. He receives two consecutive life sentences for his crimes. On a visit to her father, Winter is angered to learn that Ricky has a baby boy with a twenty-two-year-old mistress.

After her father’s arrest, Winter and her sisters are placed into child custody. Their unemployed mother is not fit to care for them. The self-centered Winter cares only about her own survival. She escapes child custody by pretending to be someone else abandoning her sisters. She tries to find a way to regain her former lavish lifestyle through deceit, hustles, and crimes. She stays with various men and with an aunt.

She is taken in by Sister Souljah, who becomes a fictional character in her own novel. Sister Souljah is an activist trying to change lives in the ghetto. She believes that greed, drugs, and violence are destroying the lives of youth in the projects. She encourages black women to stand up to the men in their lives, stay away from drugs, and to practice safe sex. Winter does not hear these messages. Winter cannot think beyond her day to day survival to leave her life of crime and men.

After leaving Sister Souljah, Winter eventually gets caught transporting drugs. She ends up with a fifteen-year prison sentence. Winter accepts her prison sentence as normal for people in her world. To Sister Souljah, the tragedy of the tale is that Winter had many opportunities to change the trajectory of her life. Instead, she chooses illegal means to try to perpetuate the lifestyle she had.

Sister Souljah, nee Lisa Williamson, was born in Bronx, New York in 1964. She was raised in the projects. Before becoming an author, Sister Souljah was a hip-hop rap artist and a political and community activist. Her first book was her national bestselling memoir No Disrespect in 1995. After her debut novel, she published the following novels: Midnight, A Gangster Love Story (2008), Midnight and The Meaning Of Love (2011), A Deeper Love Inside: The Porsche Santiaga Story (2014), and A Moment of Silence: Midnight III (2015). She lives in New York City and works as an educator of underclass youth.