The Upcycled Self: A Memoir on the Art of Becoming Who We Are

One World. Nov. 2023. 208p. ISBN 9780593446928. $26.99. MEMOIR
The Roots cofounder Trotter recounts his challenging childhood in this brisk memoir. After accidentally setting his home on fire at age six, Trotter and his mother had to move from place to place in South Philly. A recurring location was his religious grandmother Minnie’s house, where Trotter honed his skills as a visual artist. Hip-hop would come to him, at first during rap-offs with a cousin by using random words from dictionaries, and later in high school when he met future the Roots bandmate Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. However, the rise of the crack epidemic changed Trotter’s community and brought tragedy to his life. The memoir discusses Trotter’s childhood matter-of-factly, and the short chapters prevent scenes from lagging. It also introduces several family members who could be fascinating characters in their own books. Meanwhile, there is an undercurrent of longing for the days before crack, as neighborhoods went from being safe enough to overly violent nearly overnight.
VERDICT A welcome addition to memoir collections. The book is at its best when Trotter talks about his family and his love of art.
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