I am a librarian working toward my Master's degree. I love baseball and theatre. Someday I hope to travel, but until then I guess I'll settle for the internet.
On a Wednesday night, like some other Wednesday nights, there was a PTA meeting at my grade school. My mom was an active member of the PTA, and she always brought me along so that I could play on my school’s playground. I use the term playground loosely because the school could afford a seesaw which was bent beyond repair, a metal slide that burnt everyone that used it in the summer, a merry-go-round that touched the ground on one side, and a small swing set with two swings. All of this was kept on a gravel plot and somehow it managed to entertain the 80 students from Kindergarten to 8th Grade at my school.
So, on this Wednesday night during my third or fourth grade year, I went about my business, playing in the gravel or trying to jump out of the swings and touch the pavement (smart, I know). I was thoroughly enjoying myself, when two young boys came up to the playground to play as well. I can’t tell you what was going through my head, but for some reason, I decided that it would be fun to throw rocks at the two boys. Maybe they would think it is as entertaining as I thought it was? So time went on and I ended chasing the kids around the playground just tossing rocks at them.
Taking a detour to hide out behind one of the giant oak trees that were in the middle of the school parking lot, I was startled by another boy who was yelling at me. He looked like he was about my age and asked me what I was doing. Of course, I said “Nothing!” Of course, that was a lie. Of course, he proceeded to chase me down and pummel me.
As it turned out, those two boys were his little brothers. As we were wrestling and fighting on the ground, our moms come out and separate us. I guess the PTA meeting was over; or maybe they just heard our commotion. They all filed into their car and drove out of sight. I didn’t really think much about that night right away, even after my mom punished me. She probably grounded me or didn’t let me listen to music or have vegetables. My weirdness is a story for another time though.
That next Monday rolls around, and who should I see in school but THAT kid himself. This can’t bode well, right? He walked up to me and asked if I wanted to spend the night at his house. Um… sure! We were 8, and apparently the rock incident never happened. We hung out all that week, and the following weekend, I rode the bus out to Mike’s house. From that point on, we were nearly inseparable in grade school. We even a speech together, Say Goodbye, Herb; it was the first speech either of us had done. I can still recite a few lines from it actually.
It’s been a long time since we first met, but I guess I have a great story about it. Also, as a rule of thumb, this is probably *NOT* the best way to make friends.
I saw this book pass through the library earlier this week, and I thought that it looked interesting. Honestly, what first caught my eye was the GIANT Coretta Scott King Award sticker on the front of the book. No matter what the reason was that I picked it up, I picked it up. I read the leaf and subsequently the introduction and was 100% hooked.
Yummy is a graphic novel that is about Robert Sandifer, an eleven year old boy who lives in the Roseland area of Chicago. He gets caught up in a gang, the Black Disciples, and the gang violence that goes along with it. As I started reading, I was completely grabbed. This book is based off of true events in 1994 and the author pulls together police reports, public records and court records to paint the whole picture. (Please don’t google it, you’ll spoil the fun of the book…) The narrator of the story, Roger, is fictitious and is used to piece together some events, and make others move faster. It creates continuity in the story. I didn’t think that I would like this story because I didn’t feel like it related to me at all. I mean, I am about the whitest guy I know and the closest I’ve come to gang violence is watching the news and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Anyway, Yummy is a shorty for the Black Disciples. I didn’t know what a shorty was either until I read this book. A shorty is a minor who is used to do the dirty work for gangs. Since they are minors, they can’t get thrown in jail. They’ll be sent to juvenile detention centers and later released. By using shorties, gangs can get a lot of jobs done without risking a member being arrested. Yummy is exceptionally good at his job, and he bullies, steals, and fights his way through life. However, he’s still eleven and hasn’t really known a real home. He still sleeps with a teddy bear at night, and doesn’t fit in anywhere. Though he’s a member of this gang, he’s still just a boy too.
As he’s looking out for the Black Disciples’ territory, he decides to make a name for himself and pull a gun at some kids playing basketball on his turf. They scatter, and he pulls the trigger. With one motion, Yummy has split his neighborhood and has become a fugitive everywhere he goes. If he didn’t feel like he belonged before, there’s no chance for him now.
Roger tells us the tale of Yummy, and how he had to move from house to house and stay away from the police. The world is a scary place for me, and I can’t imagine how scary it was for eleven year old Yummy who lived in the projects while involved with a gang.
I finished the book in two sittings. It was a very fast read, but it was fantastic. I have to say that this book made me seriously think about things in the world. It is written in such a personable way that I felt like I knew Roger; that he was telling the story to me. It’s no wonder that this book received a Coretta Scott King Award honor. I couldn’t put it down, and I felt more complete after reading it. I would recommend Yummy to anyone! I don’t care if you’re black, white, yellow or purple. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor either. This book is excellent, and I hope that more people read this.
Roger Sandifer made the cover of Time magazine, and President Bill Clinton even spoke of him. Please, please, please read this book.
Today at the library, a patron came in and looked like she was feeling down. A co-worker asked if she was OK as she approached the desk. With a heavy sigh, the patron said that she had been better as she laid her library books, potentially her last, on the counter. Concerned, my co-worker asked why she was down…
"I’ve lost a book, and I can’t find it anywhere. I can’t afford to pay for it, so I’m here to turn in my library card."
Fighting back tears, she retrieved her card from her purse and placed it on the counter. Before we could investigate further, she broke down and was in tears as she moved through the doors.
A devoted patron, she visits the library at least weekly, sometimes twice a week. She was gone before I, or anyone else, could stop her. Reserved to the fact that we wouldn’t catch her, we then discovered that the fine for her book was not nearly enough to block her account. My co-worker even offered to pay it since, obviously, the library means so much to this person.
With card in hand, something needed to be done. After thorough investigation, it was decided that the patron needed to be called. I was not there for the conversation, but apparently she thought that if she had any outstanding book and couldn’t find it, that she would be unable to use the library’s services. She was told that we would like her to pick up her card, and the borrowing details were further explained to her.
As I made my way through the stacks, she came and picked up her card. Oddly enough, as she was frantically searching her house for the missing book, she found it and brought it with her. She turned it in and carried on, looking for some new books to enjoy once again.
This is the first time that I have ever had an experience like this. I have never witnessed a grown person cry over the fact that they would miss out on what a library offers. I have come to realize that libraries are incredibly needed in society, and that there are a lot of people that rely on libraries for a plethora of reasons. However, I never knew how much the library could mean to one person. Libraries truly are wonderful, and even though I am not as avid of a reader as I wish I was, I can appreciate the many services that libraries provide, and for free! I also wish that more people could hear these stories about just how wonderful libraries are.
Libraries are *NOT* just a place to read or use the computer. They have become so much more, and I want people to realize that the possibilities are endless in the library world. Whether you are in the branch or online, libraries strive to provide you with the best services around, and the only thing that they ask is a few tax dollars. If someone reads this, please pass it on. If not, at least I have put the story out here for consideration.