Book review: MONSTER The Autobiography of an LA Gang Member

Monster Book Cover

Click on image to buy this book.

This is the story of how a leading member of the notorious gangsters the Los Angeles CRIPS grew up in an inner city LA ghetto, became involved in murder and extortion, and was sent to prison where he was classed as a maximum threat to security. Almost by accident he came across Islam: he converted to become a Black Muslim and became an activist in the New Afrikan Independence Movement. He wrote his biography while in solitary confinement in San Quentin, serving time for knee-capping a local drugs dealer.

Shakur does not blame his mother or his school for becoming a young gangbanger. Lefty-liberals types will be surprised to learn both his mother and school tried hard to keep him on the straight and narrow. He cites peer pressure and the lure of easy pickings from drugs related crime. The first half of the book details the horrific violence of the gangs, and he makes no excuses for being a thoroughly nasty piece of work.

Afro-centric Islam gave him an understanding of life, and on release he tried to resist the temptations of his “posse” life. However, with Crack dealing rife and an economic downturn in the early 80s California, he failed and ended back in jail. The California jail system is described in detail, and its arduous punishments such as “the hole” and solitary confinement would give many a Third World dictatorship a run for its money when it comes to human rights abuse.

Shakur became an organiser of Black Muslim prisoners, and encouraged self-education of the inmates. He rejected the revolutionary Marxism of the Panthers, and does not think too much of Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam either, what with its leader’s claims of being abducted by UFOs and wild conspiracy theory of which much is anti-Semitic.

Shakur’s group – the New African Independence Movement (NAIM) – rejects integration and multi-culturalism. As he puts it – 130 years of multi-racialism has not worked, so why not learn from this. He is influenced by Marcus Garvey, although he rejected the Utopian “back to Africa” ideology. The NAIM want a separate autonomous state within the USA. Their idea of various ethnic states has received some support from New Right groups like the Washington based Council of Conservative Citizens who backed Pat Buchanan’s Republican campaign for nomination to the Presidency last year. The idea has also been raised by the US Committee for Self Determination.

Shakur will be released from San Quentin prison soon as a 30-something Black Muslim with a wife and young children waiting for him in the LA ghetto, and I wish him luck in his struggle to earn an honest living, keep his self-respect and stay out of prison.

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