Monday, March 21, 2011

Nonfiction Monday-- Yummy: the Last Days of a Southside Shorty

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside ShortyYummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty G. Neri, illustrated by Randy DuBurke

In 1994, Shavon Dean was gunned down in gang-related violence. She was 14. The boy who shot her was 11.

Robert "Yummy" Sandifer was trying to impress his crew, but he couldn't shoot straight. Being a minor, the gang used him to commit their crimes, knowing that he couldn't be tried as an adult or sentenced to life. Due to his age and age of Shavon, the manhunt for Yummy became national news and even after laying low for awhile, the heat never died down. Wary of the amount of attention law enforcement was paying to the neighborhood, Yummy was eventually killed by The Black Disciples.

This graphic novel is told by Roger, a (fictional) classmate of Yummy's. When school starts up in the fall, his class is assigned to write an essay about how they feel about what Yummy did. Roger talks to the people in his neighborhood on their conflicting views of the troubled boy. Roger himself doesn't know what to think-- Yummy beat him up regularly for his lunch money, but he also carried a Teddy Bear and got excited over finding a toad. Roger searches (and never finds) the answers he's looking for, mainly why.

And the book doesn't tell us why. But the book does paint a community and the people both good and bad and how such tragedy shook it. It's moving and powerful and extremely thought provoking.

Told in graphic novel format, the book is based on news reports, public records, and interviews but portions are definitely fictionalized (conversations, some characters). The author discusses which parts are true and which parts aren't and there's a source list in the back.

Neri won a Coretta Scott King Author Award honor for this book, which was also included on the YALSA book lists for Top 10 Great Graphic Novels for Teens and Top 10 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers. It also won the Cybils award for Teen Graphic Novels. It's an amazing book that deserves such honors. However, due to the amount of fictionalization (which is what makes it SUCH a powerful and well-done book) I'm not heartbroken to see that it didn't win any nonfiction awards.

Speaking of Nonfiction Awards (awkward segue. Sorry.) I am running for election for the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction. If you're a YALSA member, I hope you'll vote for me! You can read more about the election and my views on things here and check out my interview with GreenBeanTeenQueen here!

Today's Nonfiction Monday Roundup is over at The Children's War.

Book Provided by... my local library

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