Publisher, bestselling author and expert advocate Shá Cannon found her voice in the book that changed her life.
What is the book that changed your life? The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah
Tell me about the book:
This 1999 best-selling title is about Winter Santiaga, the 17-year-old daughter of big-time drug dealer Ricky Santiaga, who is spoiled and pampered, intoxicated by the power of her name and her sexuality. Riding high on the trade, Santiaga moves the family out of the Brooklyn projects to a mansion on Long Island where things start to disintegrate. Winter’s mother is shot in the face by competing drug dealers, the FBI arrest Santiaga and confiscate the family’s possessions. Then, while visiting her father at Rikers Island, Winter discovers her father has a 22-year-old mistress and a baby boy. For the first time, Winter feels anger toward her father and pity for her fallen mother. Being the ruthless hood rat that she is, however, Winter leaves her weakened relatives behind and sets off to regain her stature and reinstate her father. Attracted to power, intolerant of those without it, ill-equipped to deal on her own and predisposed to make all the wrong moves, she deceives and steals from those who help her and yet, somehow, she remains a sympathetic character. Winter’s obsession with money, possessions and appearances, her involvement in the drug trade and the parade of men she uses lead her down the wrong path.
Why did it impact you?
In my creative writing classes in middle school, I discovered that I had a knack for telling a good story. It was there that my desire to become a fiction writer was born. I became an avid reader and kept journals of stories and poems. However, it wasn’t until I read Coldest Winter Ever that I was shown I could write a book in my voice and about my world. Although I didn’t grow up like Winter, I also didn’t grow up like Ramona in the books I read by Beverly Cleary.
Is there anything you would like to add?
I think the more we show our children that their voice matters, the more valuable they feel and the more diverse the world will be pushed to become. This is only one of the reasons I like to speak to children about sharing their stories and their imaginations. Although I do not publish children’s books, I work to create and make available resources for children and adults alike to become authors and publish their own books.