Review: Chanticleer Books

Review: Chanticleer Books

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  • Apr, 05 , 21

Review by B. Scott

Thomas Wideman, the author of this dynamic self-help manual, Welfare Cheese to Fine Caviar: How to Achieve Your Dreams Despite Your Upbringing, rose from poverty and dismay to a life of security and personal achievement through techniques he shares with readers who can incorporate them into their own life plans.


Wideman was born into an impoverished African American family wracked by confusion, chaos, and, at times, criminality. His mother had four sons by four fathers, and he would come to know his own father only peripherally, eventually learning that the man was a murderer who died in prison. The boy grew up in tough neighborhoods and ate “welfare cheese” (a block of pre-sliced heavy American cheese that was supposed to melt). By the end of every month, it was tough to get enough food. In an early chapter of this finely woven chronology, we see him taking food from trains parked along the railroad tracks and getting hunted down by the authorities. In this, as in each new chapter, he speaks of confronting severe issues and finding ways to resolve them. In the case of the theft and other childhood incidents of fighting, being bullied, and battling racism, he speaks of making up his mind that “my circumstances need not be my limitation.”


A math whiz, Wideman found his strengths through schoolwork, striving for A’s instead of merely accepting B’s.


He excelled academically and had attained many honors by the time he graduated from high school. He joined the military and learned that if the military couldn’t break his spirit, nothing in civilian life could break him either. He met and cautiously courted the woman he loved, and with her and their two sons, established a happy home life, a sensible financial plan, and new dreams for the future. He can afford to eat caviar now – though he doesn’t choose to.


Each section of his book comprises a personal recollection, frank and realistically drawn, followed by a “Reflection” to help the reader examine feelings and reactions related to their own, comparable experiences. This is followed by an “Application” showing what wisdom can be gleaned from these happenings, then by what he has cleverly termed “Caviar Time,” in which readers talk to themselves in a mirror, giving creative, inspiring advice and encouragement based on the guidance contained in the segment. Wideman’s well-organized, intelligent parables cover a wide range of issues: family stresses, drug and alcohol abuse, racial divisiveness, financial planning, and complex situations faced in the workplace.


Wideman’s Welfare Cheese to Fine Caviar offers hope and realistic, replicable strategies to anyone who, like himself at earlier phases of his life, faces what seems like insurmountable barriers. His general message is to focus on positives, do your best, and keep meaningful goals for success always in sight. Highly recommended.



“How to overcome any circumstance and achieve your dreams. A powerful reminder of the indelible strength of the human spirit. Inspirational and recommended.”

– Chanticleer Reviews

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