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Posts Tagged ‘Walter Dean Myers’

25. “Monster”, Walter Dean Myers

March 15, 2009 Leave a comment

This is a very fast read. Most of it is formatted like a movie script, the rest is “handwritten” journal entries.

They take away your shoelaces and your belt so you can’t kill yourself no matter how bad it is. I guess making you live is part of the punishment. (59)

Everybody in here either talks about sex or hurting somebody or what they’re in here for. That’s all they think about and that’s what’s on my mind, too. What did I do? I walked into a drugstore to look for some mints, and then I walked out. What was wrong with that? I didn’t kill Mr. Nesbitt.
Sunset said he committed [his] crime. Isn’t that what being guilty is all about? You actually do something? you pick up a gun and you point it across a small space and pull a trigger? You grab the purse and run screaming down the street? Maybe, even, you buy some baseball cards that you think were stolen [like Mr. Zinzi did]? (140)

I think I finally understand why there are so many fights. In here all you have going for you is the little surface stuff, how people look at you and what they say. And if that’s all you have, then you have to protect that. Maybe that’s right. (155)

[I looked out the window.] I was looking for Jerry. They don’t allow kids in the visiting area, which was funny. It was funny because if I wasn’t locked up, I wouldn’t be allowed to come into the visiting room. (156)

Page count: 281
Total: 14,403

Up next: “Harriet the Spy”, “On Television”, maybe “The War of the Worlds”

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24. “Somewhere in the Darkness”, Walter Dean Myers

March 15, 2009 Leave a comment

Jimmy lives with his Mama Jean. His life is going okay– he’s getting hassled at school a little, because he just can’t bring himself to go much these days, but other than that, it’s good. Until he meets a stranger lurking outside his apartment door. The man identifies himself as Crab, Jimmy’s father, who just got out of prision. Before he knows it, Jimmy is roped into a road trip with the father he never knew. And, try as he might, Jimmy’s having a hard time getting to know him, as Crab doesn’t know how to be a father. But he has to try to show Jimmy who he was before he became the man Jimmy doesn’t know.

Jimmy hadn’t been sick as much as he had been tired. It was a funny kind of tired, not so much the kind that you got from playing ball. No muscles ached, his arms and legs weren’t tired. It seemed to come from inside. It was almost as if something tired was growing in him. In the mornings, he would just get up and not feel like doing anything. He didn’t know why.

Oh, Jimmy. Welcome to my life. Call back when waking up in the morning is physically painful and brings on dry heaves.

“When I was a kind, you couldn’t come in here and sit down and have a soda,” Crab said as he eased into one of the booths. “You could come in and buy a soda at the counter and take it out, but that was about it.”
“They didn’t have seats then?” [Asked Jimmy]
Crab looked at Jimmy, then away, then back to him again. “You never heard about segregation?”
“Yes, I heard about it,” Jimmy said. He felt slightly hurt by the accusation in Crab’s voice.
“What was it?” Crab asked.
“That’s when they didn’t like Martin Luther King?” Jimmy asked. “Wouldn’t let black people vote, stuff like that?”
“It’s when they divided the world into white people and niggers,” Crab said. “And they did little things to make sure you didn’t forget which you were. Things like making you take your soda outside to drink.” (121-122)

As much as I like this, particularly Crab’s description of segregation, it doesn’t ring true for me that a fourteen-year-old Black boy from New York city doesn’t know about racism. There’s another part later on where a cop is following them in their car and Crab explains what the cop is doing and how they just need to keep driving like they don’t even see him until he satisfies his curiosity and leaves. Jimmy is sort of dumbfounded by this. Listen, I grew up White in the suburbs. I was taught that police officers were our friends and could be trusted. Kids growing up in cities– especially kids growing up Black in cities– usually don’t have that experience. Jimmy’s a little naive, which I like, and he’s pretty dazed by the experience of getting to know his father (and getting lied to constantly), but this fundamental lack of understanding goes on and is surprising for me.

Page count 168
Total: 14,122

23. “Scorpions”, Walter Dean Myers

March 11, 2009 Leave a comment

I like Walter Dean Myers. Who else was writing young, gay Latino guys in 1988? I’m not sure if he intended Tito to be gay or if he didn’t like the girls he knew, rather than not liking girls, period, but I prefer the second. Obviously.

So, Jamal’s older brother, Randy, is in prison in connection with a robbery turned murder. Randy was the leader of the Scorpions and has sent word that he wants twelve-year-old Jamal to take over the gang for him until Randy is out of prison. Jamal is afraid of the other guys in the gang, who are older than he is, but he has his friend Tito to watch his back. And he has the gun that Randy’s friend, Mack, gave him.

Jamal is afraid of the gun, but he can see that other people are afraid of it, too, and that makes him feel powerful. Tito wants him to throw the gun away, but Jamal is tired of being bullied at school and is afraid of trying to run a gang without a gun. Anyway, he needs the money to help his mama to get Randy out of jail. So he keeps the gun under his family’s couch cushion. Until the day tensions within the gang come to a head and he fears he’ll have to use it…

Page count: 216
Total: 13,954

Up next: Harriet the Spy, Slam, Somewhere in the Darkness, Monster.

I should probably read a grown-up book sometime.