Big City Cool: Short Stories about Urban Youth

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Fourteen short stories about what it's like to grow up in the city—the glamour, the mean streets, and the neighborhood.
In these fourteen authentic short stories, young people growing up in Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, DC, New York, and elsewhere contend with city realities: a former child-star must resist her mother's dreams of Hollywood to pursue her own interest in archaeology; in a Baltimore courtroom, a boy testifies against a drug dealer who, if freed, will surely ...
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Fourteen short stories about what it's like to grow up in the city—the glamour, the mean streets, and the neighborhood.
In these fourteen authentic short stories, young people growing up in Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, DC, New York, and elsewhere contend with city realities: a former child-star must resist her mother's dreams of Hollywood to pursue her own interest in archaeology; in a Baltimore courtroom, a boy testifies against a drug dealer who, if freed, will surely want revenge; a block party in Harlem is the setting first for a family argument and then for an act of neighborly kindness....
These stories of young people of all backgrounds—from the privileged to the poor, from immigrant to native-born—beat with the pulse of city life. They neither extol nor condemn but frankly reflect the city's real excitements and perils. For urban teens, these are pages out of daily life. For those who live elsewhere, here is a glimpse into a world so often imagined. Among the authors are Judith Ortiz Cofer, Eugenia Collier, Ann Hood, Cherylene Lee, Paul Many, Walter Dean Myers, Michael Rosovsky, Neal Shusterman, Amy Tan, Elennora Tate, and Kurt Vonnegut.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Walter Dean Myers, Amy Tan and John H. Ritter are among the contributors to Big City Cool: Short Stories About Urban Youth, edited by M. Jerry Weiss and Helen S. Weiss, a collection of 14 stories (some previously published) that get to the heart of growing up in the city. In " `White' Real Estate" by Sharon Dennis Wyeth, a mother and son struggle to get along in a new neighborhood; "Alone and All Together" by Joseph Geha looks at the events of September 11, 2001, through the eyes of two Arab-American sisters. Back matter contains brief biographies. A companion volume, Fishing for Chickens: Short Stories About Rural Youth, edited by Jim Heynen, was published last year.
These short stories by well-known authors will attract students who relate to living in the city as well as those who want to know what it is like to live there. The 14 stories in this collection form a collage of experiences and situations that colorfully depict many viewpoints. There is J.T., a tough teen always in trouble, whose rough exterior cracks when he can do nothing to help his sick mother and must accept a kindness from the girls who think he is so cool. One poignant story chronicles the troubling realization one teen must accept about the differences in "white" and "black" real estate. Amy Tan tells the story of a girl who is taught by her family to have "invisible strength" as she is pushed by her family to be a chess champion, and later rebels to do her own thing. The stories are current, as evidenced by the stories about what it is like to be an Arab in America after September 11, 2001, characters who had relatives in New York on that fateful day, and so on. There are stories of unrealized dreams, and stories where a teen's dreams become reality. This is a superb, balanced collection that would be good for most libraries serving teens. KLIATT Codes: SA*—Exceptional book, recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2002, Persea, 182p.,
— Nancy Chrismer
From The Critics
This collection provides 14 reader-friendly stories that address not only concerns about being cool, but many serious issues with which adolescents grapple. The book includes stories by award winning authors including Walter Dean Myers, Amy Tan, John H. Ritter, and Judith Ortiz Cofer. Michael Rosovsky's "Freezer Burn" is about a boy and his father as they come to grips with their mother's and wife's death from ovarian cancer. Sharon Dennis Wyeth recalls her own experiences with racial stereotyping as a mixed race child when she writes about her family's attempt to buy real estate in " 'White' Real Estate." Amy Tan contributes an excerpt from The Joy Luck Club that portrays the pressure to succeed that is placed on children of immigrants. Joseph Geha places his story within the context of the September 11th tragedies. In John H. Ritter's "Old School/Fu Char School," a boy risks his reputation to befriend a strange girl, and plays his trumpet to save her life. Like classic short stories, the ones in this contemporary collection quickly engage the reader. Like the other short story collections by M. Jerry and Helen Weiss, From Our Experience to Another, and Lost and Found, they provide fine literature for independent or classroom reading. 2002, Persea Books, 192 pp.,
— Lisa Winkler
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-A timely collection of short stories. While all of the selections have urban settings such as Chicago, New York, Las Vegas, and Washington, DC, they share the universal emotions of young people as they experience a variety of losses, victories, pains, and successes. Racial, economic, and cultural backgrounds range from an Arab-American coping with September 11 to a Puerto Rican girl facing racism for the first time. Varying points of view offer insight into lifestyles and experiences, some only briefly, others on a regular basis. Peaches, in Walter Dean Myers's "Block Party-145th Street Style," copes with her mother moving forward after her father's death. Sharon Dennis Wyeth's "`White' Real Estate" questions whether moving into a "better" neighborhood guarantees a "better" life. Paul Many's "The Baldies Are Coming" reveals the daily fear some children face. Each well-written story shares a unique view of its city and its inhabitants; all have wide appeal and emotional impact.-Julie Webb, Shelby County High School, Shelbyville, KY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780892552788
  • Publisher: Persea Books
  • Publication date: 11/15/2002
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 213,583
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

M. Jerry Weiss is an award-winning educator who has taught English, language arts, and reading in secondary schools and colleges. He is Distinguished Service Professor of Communications Emeritus at New Jersey City University.

Helen S. Weiss is a freelance writer and editor. She lives in Montclair, New Jersey.

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2002

    A complete review appears in The English Record, Winter, 2003, Volume 53 #2

    Persea Books, a New York City based publishing company has come out with Big City Cool, an anthology of fourteen short stories about growing up in urban America. From New York City to San Diego, California, these extraordinary cameos capture the voices, sounds and feel of big-city life. They are unfailingly poignant and gut-wrenchingly real. Amy Tan¿s "Rules of the Game," a first-person singular narrative, explores life in San Francisco¿s Chinatown. When Waverly Jong is six years old her mother "taught the art of invisible strength. It was a strategy for winning arguments, respect from others, and eventually¿chess games." Soon, "Meimei" becomes Chinatown¿s chess champion, and by her ninth birthday she is a national chess champion. But even chess champions have problems. Tan richly describes life on Waverly Place. Her incomparable delicacy when dealing with anger and her ability to make even the most mundane moments ring with poetry are only some of the reasons this story fascinates. Eugenia Collier¿s story, "Dead Man Running," is set in Baltimore, MD. This is a world where children know too much, a world where endings aren¿t always happy. "At the first gunshot the children dropped their toys and dashed toward the house screaming. They knew the sound of gunshots." Jazzy, a low-level drug dealer has witnessed a murder. The narrator observes that "In a few violent seconds, way less than a minute, his life had been forever changed. As long as Nick was on the streets, Jazzy was as good as dead." Persuaded by a young woman prosecutor, he identifies Nick, hoping he will be sent to prison. However, Nick is found "not guilty" and returned to the street, and Jazzy begins running. Strong stuff! Walter Dean Myers sends a clear message in "Block Party ¿ 145th Street Style." After a neighbor is evicted, a young girl, Peaches, shows kindness and a wisdom far beyond her years. "This is 145th Street," she says. "Hurt happens here just like everywhere else. Sometimes you can deal with, sometimes you just got to get some help." Myers allows the to dialogue move the plot forward with no unnecessary clutter. This is a finely drawn portrait of some likeable kids in Harlem trying to make sense out of their situations. It doesn¿t sentimentalize despair, yet we feel it. At the same time, it allows us to feel hopeful, for them and for ourselves. The other ten stories in the book are equally compelling character-sketches, filled with young people of all backgrounds ¿ "immigrants or native-born, privileged or poor." In his or her own way, each learns to cope with the conflicts of life in today¿s urban world. You don¿t have to be from the city to appreciate these stories. Suburban and country kids will be able to understand their urban counterparts and learn from them. --SJH

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