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Local opinion columnists

Going through hell with Deon Price

By From page A7 | February 20, 2014

“Give me a half pint of Kamchatka.”

Those words would haunt Deon Price for years. When he was 7, walking to the store with his mother was a treat. Once there, she’d buy him Now & Laters or some other candy. But his joy would drain away when she’d ask for a bottle of liquor.

Under the influence, Deon’s pretty, warm, charismatic mother would morph into Ms. Hyde.

Youth life skills coach and Daily Republic columnist Deon Price has written a book, “Raised in Hell: A Nonfiction Family Dramedy” (iUniverse.com 290 pg, $19.99, ebook $3.99) The book is a memoir that reveals how Price developed his passion to improve the lives of children as his life’s work.

Born the youngest of nine children being raised on public assistance by an alcoholic single mother in South Central Los Angeles, Deon Price details a life of despair and deprivation. He tells the story of having to go to three different neighbors to acquire the ingredients to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He and his siblings lived in a home with little food, the power often out, with gunshots outside and police helicopters above.

And just when you think you know the parameters of the story, Price swerves and describes how his life intersected such 1970s horror stories as the Symbionese Liberation Army and Jim Jones and the People’s Temple.

He was at ground zero when the crack cocaine epidemic hit with its accompanying gang violence.

In a particular heartrending scene, little Deon meets his absentee father for the first time when his father randomly shows up at a family function and takes him over to his house. Once there, Deon overhears his father’s live-in girlfriend ask, “Who is that little boy?” only to hear his father reply, “I’m not sure. I actually found him on the street by himself.” Its one thing to be abandoned by one’s father, but to finally meet him and hear him deny his son must’ve lacerated Deon’s soul.

And when his mother is jailed after committing a shocking act of violence in a drunken rage, the children are sent to foster homes.

Amid the dire straits of his upbringing, Price writes that playing basketball was a bright spot and turning point. It gave him confidence. Making it onto a team, his coaches instilled discipline, teamwork and taught him how to carry himself as a representative of the team and his neighborhood. It’s the same thing Deon Price does now with young people.

Authors will send me their books to review and most of the time I pass because I don’t relate or they’re not very good. Even the first version of “Raised in Hell” was grammatically suspect, the hallmark of self-publishing (which I know well). Price re-edited the book and it’s much better. But the content was never in doubt. I was engaged from the start.

The book reminds me of Nathan McCall’s “Makes Me Wanna Holler,” another engaging book depicting the struggles of a young African-American growing up in suspect conditions.

“Raised in Hell” is funny, chilling, heartbreaking and uplifting. It’s a book that not only should teens and parents read but teachers, counselors and law enforcement, too.

With what Fairfield faces in poor, crime-ridden neighborhoods and shocking violence, this book arrives at the right moment. You might’ve been raised in hell but you don’t have to become a hellraiser. Peace.

Kelvin Wade is the author of “Morsels” Vols. I and II and lives in Fairfield. Email him at [email protected]

Kelvin Wade

Kelvin Wade


Discussion | 6 comments

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  • Rich GiddensFebruary 20, 2014 - 7:57 am

    Your ''culture'' sucks. You are what is dragging the USA down down down and worse, there's no end to the barbarity, savagery, indolence, ignorance and gluttony along with perversion and neglect of kids. You ought to be ashamed of your culture's values and morays if that's what you want to call it. I have no sympathy! Go read ''The Wrath of the Awakened Saxon'' by Rudyard Kipling!

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  • KelvinFebruary 20, 2014 - 10:55 pm

    I have no idea what you're talking about and I doubt you do either. How is Deon Price wanting to help kids lead productive lives instead of be lost to drugs, gangs and crime "dragging the USA down" Rich? Are you serious?

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  • patrickFebruary 20, 2014 - 11:44 am

    Raised in Hell? Fairfield? check out the police logs at the Fairfield PD web site. check the arrest section.

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  • Jason KnowlesFebruary 20, 2014 - 2:58 pm

    "If you're going through Hell, keep going!" Winston Churchill Kudos to Deaon, the Wades, and whomever else survived a childhood of that nature. I grew up in Oak Park in Sacramento so I had a similar experience. Fortunately, I did have other advantages that some of my neighbors did not. Giddens, whatever "culture" produced you is the one that really sucks. Your racism, intolerance, and bigotry seem to know no bounds. I feel sorry for you.

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  • CD BrooksFebruary 20, 2014 - 3:48 pm

    Jason, I would support Rich on his neighborhood findings. But I would never feel sorry for him, he's his own worst enemy. His good buddy GGJ and those supportive gestures notwithstanding.

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  • Rich GiddensFebruary 20, 2014 - 4:21 pm

    Jason Knowles needs to play the race card like his government of tyrants does because he has no facts to support his rant. Any shortcoming or failure can be rationalized, projected and excused by bellowing ''racist''. It's called an emotional appeal and dummies listen to such illogical arguments instead of the facts. He knows that the black underclass has serious dysfunctional issues and refuses to acknowledge it. Knowles is just another stuck in the 60's black liberal who can't fathom how to properly advance the plight of the lessers of society.

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