It might seem as though the stand off between medieval Jewish philosophy and contemporary hip hop culture had been decisively decided in favor of the latter. But not so says young African-American author Thomas Chatterton Williams. Published this past spring by The Penguin Press, Williams’s “Losing My Cool: How a Father’s Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-Hop Culture” offers an unsparing, informed critique of the negative aspects of hip-hop music. Williams decries the “outrageously ignorant artists,” as he qualifies some popular stars, and their effect on the education of average African Americans.
Forward readers might especially appreciate how Williams’s salvation came about through reading, among others, Moses Maimonides. His father, Clarence Leon Williams, a devout bibliophile with a PhD in sociology, introduced the young Thomas to “Trial and Triumph: a Novel About Maimonides” published by Crown in 1965. Its coauthors, Lester M. Morrison, a distinguished physician, and Richard G. Hubler, a screenwriter and ghostwriter, offer a fictionalized sketch of Maimonides’s life, which the thirteen-year-old Williams devoured enthusiastically.