*Neward, NJ —Acclaimed author and motivational speaker Bruce Haneef Welch is on a mission to divert urban youth and young adults from the lures of the street life by way of his riveting novel, “They Made Me an Addict: An American Tale.” The book, based on his own life, is a literary masterpiece that provides valuable lessons backed up by historical context, taking readers on a roller coaster journey “to hell and back.”
In writing and publishing the novel, Welch fulfilled a lifelong dream that sustained him through a lonely youth and adolescence that was punctuated by drug abuse and violence. He grew up in Newark, New Jersey and attended West Side High School before graduating from Jersey City State College, seldom straying far from the gritty streets that became familiar to him as a child in the place often referred to as “Brick City.” He drew liberally on his life experiences and the people he knew to produce one of the most compelling autobiographical novels that the literary world has witnessed in decades.
Raised in a sheltered family rooted in church values, Welch’s goal from an early age was to become an author, and to write about the streets. He would read the work of Hemingway and many other literary legends, attempting to mimic their writing styles. However, at the age of 13, he lost his father to the streets and his mother to cancer. His world crumbled as he was left under the care of an uncle indifferent to his plight. Writing was his escape.
“I kind of felt like I was all alone,” Welch said. “I was bullied. I didn’t fit in anywhere.”
Still, he never gave up on his dream, but the path he would take to get there was severely altered. To be an author that would be remembered, he decided he was going to write a book about the streets from the inside. He was going to hang out with the pimps and drug dealers and learn their ways. That meant, do what they did talk how they talked and ultimately, experience what they experienced. It was a decision that nearly cost him his life.
“I wanted the blood of the streets to run through my veins, so when I wrote about it people could feel it,” he said. “But the story I was looking for eventually found me and I was swept up like most of the kids in the inner city.”
Eleven bullets later and a journey through brushes with death, drug addiction and then rehabilitation into an upstanding citizen and author, he shares his story with the world. His lesson for young people is that the street life is not long-lasting or glamorous. The stories of the good looking hustler with all the women, exceptional money making skills who also happens to be a cold-blooded killer do not exist in reality. They are dramatized, he asserts.
“The street life is always celebrated, but it should not be. People resort to that lifestyle because they are desperate – not because it is cool,” he said. “It’s not fun. It’s not glamorous. Desperate times call for desperate measures and these people are trying to survive. Young men should not aspire to that life.”
Watch the author introduce his book “They Made Me an Addict: An American Tale” here:
While “They Made Me an Addict” shares Bruce’s experiences, it also provides a history lesson on many societal issues and details how entire urban communities were consumed by crime and drugs and are still trying to recover to this day. It talks about the mob and crooked cops. It details how Black families were destroyed leaving the next generation of youth to fend for themselves.
Welch is currently embarking on tours to schools and universities to discuss his book and how the street culture exacerbates the socioeconomic state of the black community. He is in talks with his former high school, West Side High in Newark, to turn his book into a school curriculum. He plans to duplicate that effort in urban schools around the country. Also, he is encouraging parents in his hometown to be more involved with their children and to protect them from going down the wrong path before it is too late.
“The streets is a trap,” he said. “Therefore, it is important for adults to instill valuable lessons and knowledge in their children before they look to the wrong people for guidance. One thing about the streets – it doesn’t love you back.”