A few days ago, I blogged a bit about DARK WATER by Laura McNeal. That book was the first of five National Book Award nominees that I plan to read and talk to you about. DARK WATER was a love story and the circumstances offered valuable perspective on the dangers and fears faced by illegal immigrants. The next book I read was LOCKDOWN by Walter Dean Myers. Anyone who has read any of Myers' books knows that his work often depicts a gritty, urban teen-age protagonist who is struggling against all odds, and this book is no exception. The main character, Reese, is under lockdown in a juvenile detention center for stealing prescription pads from a local doctor's office (and then selling them to a known drug dealer). Reese's father is abusive, his mother is a user, his older brother has already seen a lot of trouble, and now Reese is in a juvenile detention center. His future (and present) looks depressingly bleak in the beginning of this book. As a reader (and I confess, as a MOTHER), my heart breaks for this kid. I think that he doesn't have a shot in hell. The things that happen in this facility are horrifying, and I suspect that the reality of such a situation is even worse. A chapter or so into it, Myers has so beautifully drawn this character that I thought, I cannot BEAR it to see what is going to happen to this kid. I can't stand it. As a teacher, I've seen and known far too many children who are so handicapped by their circumstances that it tears your heart in a hundred pieces. I almost stopped reading. Thank goodness, I didn't. Reese earns enough credit in the eyes of the director that he gets assigned to a job at a nursing home. At the nursing home, he spends most of his time caring for a war veteran (who resists at first) but as the man shares his harrowing experiences in a different kind of lockdown, Reese gains courage and perspective. Ultimately, his little sister, Icy, who dreams of going to college and writes to him in lockdown gives Reese the final push he needs to take charge of his life and figure things out. I think it should be required reading for teachers, social workers, police officers, president of the United States, anyone who needs to grasp the depth of the challenges that face disadvantaged, inner city kids.
So here's the thing about both of these books. They are both extraordinary in their own right. They are both great stories with unforgettable characters. They both involve issues that aren't often discussed in this way. For example, you might hear someone mention being afraid to go in a certain area of a city or how schools need to be better in certain areas or how illegal immigrants shouldn't be crossing the border in such numbers, but we rarely hear the human side of these stories. These books do a marvelous job of putting the human face on these issues without it feeling like an 'issue' book. In short, THE WORLD NEEDS THESE BOOKS. These stories need to be told, and you, my friends, need to read them.
Have a great day.
My Mission Statement
I write to serve, to unite, to educate. I write to share literature and flesh out ideas that may be of interest to others. I write to document an emotion, experience, or a blip in time. My mission is to write in such a way that the reader is reminded that we can find humor in all situations. It's one of the great blessings of life.