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Government drone by day and book lover and geek girl by night!

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What happens to a dream deferred?

Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem: A Memoir - Mikael Awake, Daniel R. Day

Please note that I received this book via NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review.


What happens to a dream deferred?
      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?
      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Langston Hughes
Wow. So it's funny that I now know who made the clothes that the rappers that I grew up watching (Big Daddy Kane) on tv wore. I never heard of Dapper Dan before, but I found myself engrossed in his story as he recounts how his family left the south (Great Migration) and them settling into Harlem. We follow Dan as he starts playing dice and using that to make money. From there we follow him as he gets caught up in the drug world, going to jail, becoming addicted, and follows how Dan turns his life around and starts making clothes that will eventually have drug kingpins and rappers at his shop day and night in the late 80s and early 90s. 
Dan Day has a beauty with words. You can tell that this book was researched. Besides providing us with personal anecdotes, we also get some history while reading. I have read about the The Great Migration or the Black Migration that occurred between the early 1900s and late 1970s with African Americans moving out of the South up North and parts of the Midwest.  However, reading about how Dan's father and mother both moved up to New York and found themselves struggling there made it more real to me than just reading about it in a history book. 
Day shows you that for many African Americans, the decks were stacked high against them to even have enough food to put on the plates for their children. Many of the boys Day's age end up dropping out of high school and going to work selling and taking drugs. 
Day's fall into drugs, him seeing what it does to two of his brothers, eventually has him kicking the habit (after a stay in jail) and him embracing the tents of the Nation of Islam. He ends up not following them or the Black Panthers though due to some of the violent rhetoric they get into about drug dealers. However, he still exercises and stops eating meat. When Day travels to Africa, he eventually finds himself a tailor that makes him clothes that has all of the men in Harlem wanting to know where did he get that look. From there Day is able to start his own empire providing clothes to rappers, athletes (like Mike Tyson) and even meets a future Supreme Court Justice. 
When the book goes into Day's next downfall (dealing with Gucci and Fendi suing him for taking their trademark/luggage and working them into clothes) you wonder how is going to recover from this.

I thought this book was raw and honest. Day doesn't blink from the things he did and offers no apologies except when mentioning how he had multiple children and wishes he had been there more for them. Day's insights into people like Don King, Mike Tyson, and even Muhammad Ali just made the book feel like you get a front page seat watching history as it unfolds. I still don't get dice (yeah I have tried to follow that even when I was a girl) and it seems as if Day has the magic touch for dice. Him realizing that he is not going to be able to feed and clothe his family if he can't figure out another way to provide for them and his flair for designing clothes was great. 
I loved that the book included some pictures of Day's family growing up. Since this was an ARC there wasn't a description on the photos, but I still enjoyed seeing them. I do wish that we had gotten some pictures of the singers and rappers he mentions wearing his designs. I think that would have made the book pop even more. 
The Fat Boys were among the first of many rappers to make use of Dapper Dan's services.

The ending leaves things with a big question about what the future held for Day. I got nosy and found out that he ended up in a partnership with Gucci last year in a new Harlem atelier, a space for him to work his sartorial magic with a free hand and raw materials supplied by Gucci, see https://www.gq.com/story/dapper-dan-gucci-harlem-atelier-exclusive-interview