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Young men serving time in a detention center must discover themselves and find their own strength in this School Library Journal Best Book.
Adam Rapp is an accomplished playwright. He has received the Herbert and Patricia Brodkin Scholarship and Boston's Elliot Norton Award, and his work was short-listed for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. His works have appeared at the Edge Theater in New York City, the Arcola Theatre in London, and at theaters in ...
Young men serving time in a detention center must discover themselves and find their own strength in this School Library Journal Best Book.
Adam Rapp is an accomplished playwright. He has received the Herbert and Patricia Brodkin Scholarship and Boston's Elliot Norton Award, and his work was short-listed for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. His works have appeared at the Edge Theater in New York City, the Arcola Theatre in London, and at theaters in Pittsburgh and Chicago. His first feature film, Winter Passing, which he wrote and directed, was released in 2005. Mr. Rapp lives in New York City.
While serving a six-month sentence at a juvenile detention center, thirteen-year-old Sura struggles to survive the experience with his spirit intact.
We are playing floor hockey in the basement of Spalding Cottage. The light cage keeps getting hit and that bulb is about to bust. When it swings you can see those long shadows creeping on the wall.
There are fifteen juvies and most of us ain't sporting shirts. When a bunch of juvies get to playing some floor hockey in the basement of Spalding you get that thick, cooked smell.
Some juvies are playing just to feel their bodies fighting, to throw some bows and bust you in the ribs, and some are mad slashing for that puck. I am playing cause Coly Jo is playing, and I like the sound of those sticks hitting each other. I am playing cause my hands are faster than theirs.
I am the only white juvy. I got a thought that if I was outside of my body and watching from the ceiling, I would look like deadness in the mass of their shiny, boiling dark, like some puppet bones.
I get my stick on the puck and flick it. I am smaller than them but I am quicker and I know they can smell the quickness on me, the same way you know about quickness when a rat is in a kitchen. They can smell it on my back when I get low and use my legs.
I am the fastest juvy in Spalding. Sometimes another juvy wants to race me. He gets those happy feet up and waits for me outside the hash house. And juvies bunch up on the other side of the parking lot and put three or four tenths on the race. Then someone whistles through his fingers and I'm off with the quickness and that wind gets up in my ears and--Go, Sura!--eleven or twelve seconds later I got me another rabbit. That's what I call those juvies who want to race me and wait for me outside the hash house likethat--rabbits. Sometimes I'll even let that juvy get a head start on me so I get a challenge.
Today I dusted Jona Kimbrough and he was sporting some track shoes.
Coly Jo plays floor hockey in his jeans cause that's all he's got. His unbreakable comb keeps falling out of his pocket and he keeps picking it up. He's always trying to bust those naps with that comb. Sometimes he'll just stick it in his Afro and walk around.
Coly Jo is my patch mate. When someone throws me into the wall Coly Jo goes after him and gets that juvy with his stick.
Coly Jo and I have been here six weeks and after blackout we take turns sleeping cause Hodge or Boo Boxfoot will creep into your room and crib shit. Hodge and Boo are on their third clip. A clip is like a year but it ain't the same. Most juvy homes don't give clips. They let you go when you make reform. But Hamstock is different. It's like Hamstock wants to keep you.
Boo and Hodge know the halls and the shadows and the tricks in the showers. I've seen how Hodge sweettalks those old hash house Honeys into extra slices of pie. I've seen the Mop Man slip a fifth of Old Crow into Boo's laundry bundle.
They cribbed most of Coly Jo's shit his first two days. I heard them in our room after blackout, creeping like some cats. Boo sports Coly Jo's Barnum Fletcher squirrelskin cap around Spalding like it's something his moms sent him. He's sporting it right now and the tail keeps flipping up.
Boo's got a harelip and he makes me rent a bedside table for six tenths a week. That's half your juvy pound. And you get that only if you don't get carped. They'll carp you with the quickness for walking into Spalding with your shoes on and cut away two tenths. And you'll be in line for your weekly juvy pound and they'll just take out their little notebook and cross. off some digits and hand you four or six tenths instead of that full bone-and-twenty. And they don't even look at you either; they just shove that change at you like it's some medicine you got to take.
And they'll carp you if you don't call them Mister, too. If you get carped enough they'll send you to Dean Petty and they say he's got a two-foot paddle with air holes. I ain't seen it yet, but they talk about it the way you talk about boogymonsters and sharks. They say it was made from some body-box wood and that he hangs it over his desk. But if you're smart you won't get carped.
That table Boo makes me rent wobbles and creaks, but it can hold pens and shit.
At the hash house Coly Jo tells the other juvies how he's going to get his cap back, how he's going to put a whipping on Hodge and Boo. Most of them laugh, though, cause Coly Jo is fat and he don't sport a belt right and sometimes his ass will creep up out of his drawers like some dark blobfish.
But I've seen Coly Jo stare at them. He does it privately and from a distance. His eyes go yellow like a sick dog's.
On my third day they cribbed my electronic football game. Sometimes I can hear them playing it after blackout. I can hear their voices and I can hear my game beating them and I can hear their hands moving in secret. But their hands ain't faster than mines.
There ain't no windows in the basement and those hair vapors keep getting in my mouth. I tried to comb some of Coly Jo's wave grease into my hair last week, but all it did was make my hair look vinyl. Wave grease's got that medicine smell that the Honeys like. I know this cause before I got caught clipping hoodies I used to watch the Honeys from Choate Street sneaking whiffs of wave grease in the pharmacy where I would crib my squares. Newports got that smooth toothpaste smell and they usually set them right up on the counter. I never smoke them, though, cause it ain't good for your lungwind...The Buffalo Tree. Copyright © by Adam Rapp. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
In The Buffalo Tree, Adam Rapp's bold and compelling second novel, thirteen year-old Sura's distinctively original voice brings to life the intense pressure, fear, and struggle for survival and sanity at Hamstock Juvenile Detention Center.
Thirteen-year old Sura -- intelligent, reckless, sensitive, and adrift -- is serving a six-month sentence at Hamstock Juvenile Detention Center for clipping hoodies -- stealing hood ornaments from cars. Through the filter of his vivid and insightful observations, readers are thrown into life at Hamstock -- its oppressive structure and environs, the unique language spoken by its inhabitants, and the group of tough, fully realized characters who survive and perpetuate the culture of brutality which thrives there.
After Sura watches Coly Jo, his patch mate, fall victim to this dark cycle of emotional and physical abuse, he realizes that he must somehow cope with his crazed surroundings -- including brutal fights and counseling sessions that are at times ridiculous -- if he is to make it out whole from a place that seems determined to tear him apart. Avoiding confrontation with the bullies and the guards, Sura finds occasional solace in letters from his mother and friend, and he learns to stand up for himself as he passes the time -- click by click -- remaining in his sentence. Amidst the chaos that defines Hamstock, Sura is determined to escape with his spirit intact and he relies on this inner strength -- his only weapon -- to keep him sane.
Rendered in powerful, haunting language, The Buffalo Tree is a story of hope and redemption against all odds.
"Sura," Coly Jo says again.
"Damn, Coly Jo, you wanna get carped?" I whisper.
"We still gonna get out of here?" he asks.
"Soon as that guard goes on vacation."
"Two weeks," I say.
"Two more weeks," Coly Jo says.
There ain't nothing but our lungwind now and I wonder how long those two weeks will feel with fifteen clicks of sleep a night.
Discuss how the language and vocabulary used by the juvies create a culture unique to Hamstock. Why do the juvies have their own language? What are some of Sura's most memorable phrases, and how are these phrases important to the telling of the story? How does Sura's language reveal his naiveté? His wisdom? How does Rapp employ this language to help create the emotional and physical mood of Hamstock?
About the author
Adam Rapp is a playwright and novelist, whose works have been produced and developed by New York Theatre Workshop, Steppenwolf Theater Company, New York City's Public Theatre, and the Eugene O'Neill National Playwrights Conference. The Buffalo Tree is his second novel. Born and raised in Chicago, Rapp attended Clarke College where he studied fiction writing and psychology. He currently lives and writes in New York City.
Posted March 3, 2006
The first thing I noticed after reading this book is that the back of the book is very misleading. It says how the main character Sura has to go through some kind of hell, but there is no hell in the book. I was very angry with this because I was hoping for some kind of demons or something. The book turned out to be about a boy named Sura getting sent of to the Hamstock Juvenile Detention for Boys. He is sent there for stealing hoodies. The author uses a lot of strange slang that is hard to understand. One of the main things I didn¿t like about the book is that it talked about boys in the shower, which is something I really don¿t ever want to read about. This book wasn¿t interesting to me because it has no fantasy in it. I personally found the book very boring and hard to understand. There could have been a lot more detail in the book and the characters were dull and annoying to read about. I would not recommend this book for anyone that likes fantasy books because it is far from any book like that.
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Posted April 23, 2003
The Buffalo Tree by Adam Rapp was one of the greatest books I've read. It was hard to put down, the whole book reminded me of being in juvenile hall. It also had a very good strong point, like what the consequences of getting in trouble are. I also really enjoyed all the conflicts in it, when juvies get messed with by other juvies and when staff beat on them. Not many things I read keep me even close to being interested but this one is an exception. So I would recommend this to someone who understands these type of situations like this or have been through an experience similar to this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 6, 2003
Imagine what it is like being in a juvenile detention center for boys. You would be watching your back every minute, making sure that someone isn¿t behind you, waiting to pounce on you. You would have hard times sleeping because you know the minute you close your eyes and doze off, someone will be in your room stealing your possessions. It¿s not any boy¿s dream to be a juvy. The Buffalo Tree is a story about a young boy named Sura. Clipping hoodies gets him a ticket into a juvenile detention center called Spalding. Sura is the only white boy in Spalding but it doesn't seem to matter what color he is, to everyone in there, he is just another juvy. Sura is best friends with his patch mate, Coly Jo. Sura and him try to make it day by day through Spalding, watching each other¿s backs. They have a plan to bust out, but things start going downhill when everything begins to go wrong for Coly Jo. Sura is then left on his own. The plot of the story is something anyone can relate to. Everyone hears or knows someone who has been in a detention, jail, prison, or who has just had a hurtful loss in their life. You feel bad for Sura, even though he messed up and got himself there. He suffers the consequences of his actions, but you feel he didn't really deserve what he got. The book leaves you wondering whether things are really that bad or if they are actually worse. There are so many mixed feelings there is no right way to think. The details of juvy life in The Buffalo Tree give you a real clear understanding of what things are really like. The author, Adam Rapp, does a unique job of making you feel like you are right there, watching everything happen. There is a smooth flow from chapter to chapter, so it is hard to put the book down, not knowing what is going to happen next. Rapp achieves the goal of knowing exactly how to keep your attention throughout the whole story. He leaves you at the end of every chapter with a question you are just itching to know. Rapp shows his point that juvenile detentions aren¿t what we think they are. The Buffalo Tree is a great book that everyone would enjoy. It doesn¿t come off as being another fantasy story that could never happen. Neither does it come off as something in the past that doesn¿t happen in these days. This book gives you a real picture of Sura¿s struggle and you¿ll feel yourself relating to all of the things he experiences. After reading The Buffalo Tree, you will be left with a different and more understanding view of things in the future. Review by: Amber ShippWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.