Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read.

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Renowned hip-hop artist, writer, and activist Sister Souljah brings the streets of New York to life in a powerful and utterly unforgettable first novel. I came busting into the world during one of New York's worst snowstorms, so my mother named me Winter. Ghetto-born, Winter is the young, wealthy daughter of a prominent Brooklyn drug-dealing family. Quick-witted, sexy, and business-minded, she knows and loves the streets like the curves of her own body. But when a cold Winter wind blows her life in a direction she doesn't want to go, her street smarts and seductive skills are put to the test of a lifetime. Unwilling to lose, this ghetto girl will do anything to stay on top. The Coldest Winter Ever marks the debut of a gifted storyteller. You will never forget this Winter's tale. REVIEW

Rapper-turned-author Sister Souljah blew us away with this 1999 debut novel, painting a vivid portrait of urban struggle and one young woman’s unrelenting determination. Winter Santiaga grew up as privileged as it got in the ghetto. The daughter of a drug kingpin, she lived a pampered and materialistic life…until her father went to jail. Now starting over from scratch, Winter has to relearn all of life’s lessons from the bottom up—including figuring out what really matters to her. Sister Souljah gives Winter’s first-person narration fiery energy and incredible grit. We especially loved it when a fictionalized version of the author herself enters the picture to lend Winter a little much-needed help. Souljah’s writing pulled us right into Winter’s raw, unfiltered world, revealing the roiling emotions behind her tough exterior. She may be facing some icy cold winds on the road ahead, but there’s a warm glow of hope at the heart of her inspiring story.


Hip-hop star, political activist and now writer, Sister Souljah exhibits a raw and true voice (though her prose is rough and unsophisticated) in this cautionary tale protesting drugs and violence among young African-Americans in the inner city. Winter Santiaga, the 17-year-old daughter of big-time drug dealer Ricky Santiaga, 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. Sister Souljah herself appears as a "fictional" character who voices her belief that Winter's vices are shared by many, and that greed, drugs and violence devalue the lives of urban youth. Souljah peppers her raunchy and potentially offensive prose with epithets and street lingo, investing her narrative with honesty albeit often at the expense of disciplined writing.

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But this is a realistic coming-of-age story of debauchery with a grave moral.