Memoirs of an Accidental Hustler
Memoirs of an Accidental Hustler by J.M. Benjamin is about a boy named Kamil and his brother Kamal who went from a middle-class lifestyle to living in the hood in New Jersey. Through the experiences of Kamil and Kamal we see how not everyone who ends up in a lifestyle of crime wants to go down that path, but their environment makes them more susceptible. The book starts with a single mother trying to raise her four kids, Kamil, Kamal, an older sister, and a younger sister. All is well initially. The kids are going to school, and the mom is making ends meet, but then the mom begins struggling to make some money. That’s when her young son and protagonist, Kamil, decided to make some money to help out in the house. Kamil’s father, infamous in the streets for being a hustler, was serving time in jail for his street activities.
In Kamil’s neighborhood, there was a young street hustler who was older than Kamil that was popular, had nice cars, and attractive girlfriends. Kamil and Kamal looked up to him, and eventually, the three of them got close. That was Kamil’s entryway into selling drugs and making some extra cash. When Kamil approached the young hustler about making dirty money as he did, the guy tried to warn him to not to get into it, but Kamil wouldn’t give up the opportunity.
That’s when we get to examine the lives of drug dealers. The book shows what life is like not only on the streets, but also outside of that, how it affects the dealer’s personal lives, their relationships, and every aspect of their lives. For example, the money and possessions from drug dealing attracted girls and Kamil and Kamal attempt to manage several simultaneously; some get pregnant. Friends are brought into the business to help them out, but some betray Kamil and Kamal, which can’t be forgiven because that encourages others to cross you too. There’s a lot that goes on with the lifestyle.
The brothers’s business grows over time, even expanding across state lines in both New York and New Jersey. One day, the siblings’s dad gets out of jail, and he lets them know that word of their success reached him while he was locked up. The dad has a plan to move down south, either to Georgia or South Carolina. At first, it seemed that he wanted to move to start a new life, but in actuality, the dad just wanted to exploit a new market to sell drugs, and he anticipated making a lot of money. The trio was successful and making a name for themselves, but it wouldn’t last forever. Eventually, Kamil and Kamal’s past caught up to them. Kamal gets killed and Kamil goes to jail.
As Kamil reflected on his life, he came to a surprising realization. The young hustler that took him and his brother under his wings may have had a good reason to do so. Back in the day, Kamil and Kamal’s dad used to be friendly with the young hustler’s mom and would visit her often. The young hustler didn’t know the man well, but based on the relationship with his mom, the young hustler deduced that that was actually his dad. When Kamil and Kamal came around, he figured he would look out for them, being their older brother. He never announced this to the two, but eventually, Kamil puts it all together.
The story was engaging as well as enlightening, providing insight into a lifestyle most of us are not privy to. Overall, the book was a pleasant surprise and a good read.
Why I Chose this Book
I was scrolling through overdrive.com looking for something different to listen to that is an African American based story by an African American author when I came across a novel that was a little bit different from what I would normally pick up. I hadn’t really read too many “urban novels” before, but the book cover and title of this one caught my eye. Sometimes I feel like they could easily be stereotypical and cliche, and African American authors are pigeon-holed into this genre. To be fair, though, dominating a genre isn’t necessarily something bad; hopefully, urban fiction authors can fully capitalize on their monopoly before others do.
The book was narrated by Dylan Ford.