Tough Boy Sonatas

Overview

The darkness--and the goodness--in the lives of the young men of Gary, the armpit-city of Chicago, cries out in this poetry. The Chocolate City. Hell. The Land of Robbing Hoods. Gary, Indiana, has a number of names. It stands as a mother guarding her roach-like inhabitants, their crime, their greed. Has God left this town? Has He left the crumbling church where parishioners pocket donations for hamburgers and candy? Or does He turn the other cheek to pious morality, happy instead to see laughing and ...

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Overview

The darkness--and the goodness--in the lives of the young men of Gary, the armpit-city of Chicago, cries out in this poetry. The Chocolate City. Hell. The Land of Robbing Hoods. Gary, Indiana, has a number of names. It stands as a mother guarding her roach-like inhabitants, their crime, their greed. Has God left this town? Has He left the crumbling church where parishioners pocket donations for hamburgers and candy? Or does He turn the other cheek to pious morality, happy instead to see laughing and card playing and love from His flock on Saturday night? The solitary voice of the city's young men pose these questions in this bittersweet, poetic collection. Both angry poverty and innocent childhood are explored in this YALSA/ALA Best Book for Young Adults by Curtis Crisler with unclothed sincerity.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Keri Collins
Through the voices of urban young men, this forceful collection of poems weaves threads of anger, frustration, sex, confidence, and pride through a gritty tapestry depicting life in Gary, Indiana. Curtis L. Crisler, a Cave Canem Fellow at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, does not flinch away from the tough issues that accompany poverty and racial prejudice, ranging from gangs, drugs, and domestic violence to hopelessness and despair. Occasional bits of light, in the form of family, friends, and happy childhood memories, offer brief respite from the crushing reality brought to life in Crisler's evocative free verse. Dramatic experiences, such as the brutal hanging of a stray dog from a swing set, or watching a grandmother doing intravenous drugs, are starkly different from those commonly portrayed in children's literature, yet resonate in their vividness. Floyd Cooper's smokey illustrations extend the poetry's dark themes, from the factory pollution blackening the sky to the taut emotion of a teenager howling his rage. While some language and subjects may be controversial, this portrayal of urban adolescence, told with such insight, skill, and honesty, is a powerful and important look at the very real challenges of many teens.
VOYA - Mary Ann Harlan
This beautifully produced book examines a boy's childhood in Gary, Indiana. Crisler's poetry paints a vivid picture of violence, poverty, sex, family, and community in verse that demands to be performed, to be experienced beyond the printed page. "here, you grow up leaning 'cause your / shoes tilt to one side or you hang by a thread." The language conveys the anger, bravado, fear, love, and wonder of boys coming of age in an urban African American community-"and a black gun barrel points at your / gut by a black boy who chooses 'stick 'em up' as hello" followed by "And you know if you had a piece / you'd get the money first.o The poetry is well illustrated by Cooper, whose style and color choices evoke an industrial city decaying in poverty: "city of misfortune, / city of layoff industry." Vocabulary, tone, and cultural references keep the collection from being traditional teen-angst poetry, but the language, format, and themes will appeal to teens willing to wrestle with poetry and to revel in language.
School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up
In this collection of 38 poems, an unflinching narrative offers a view of the boys who run within the confines of the industrial town of Gary, IN. Their lives, unknown to the "groggy commuters" who flash by on the train, are harsh and difficult, bold and passionate. There's LaRoy, who sings, "i am not a failing flashlight. i am an inspired/inspiration….they know I have/hope, and hope kills…"; the classroom daydreamer who feels that the lopsided view of history he is being taught is whitewashing away his chances to be a contender; and Millicent, the tomboy who crushes with her snarl and good right cross. A grandson is hurting under the lost smile of an addicted grandmother, tough boys get nods of approval from the grown-ups when they learn the art of chops, of jive "…they'd smile to let us know when we had it/down like aristotle and shakespeare/and anansi. And if we could tough it/out we would be something more than/dead carcasses on delaney avenues;/we could become hopeful parents,/first-generation homeowners,/someone's recovered faith,/one project under a groove." These poems are muscular and vivid, fierce with the sound and force of language. Cooper's dreamlike, muted illustrations are a fine counterpoint to the rugged terrain of these young people's experiences.
—Susan MoorheadCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781932425772
  • Publisher: Front Street, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 2/28/2007
  • Pages: 86
  • Sales rank: 988,594
  • Age range: 13 - 18 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.88 (w) x 9.72 (h) x 0.54 (d)

Meet the Author

Curtis is a Cave Canem Fellow at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, where he teaches creative writing. His work has been published in The Fourth River, Black Arts Quarterly, and the book Only the Sea Keeps: Poetry of the Tsunami. Mr. Crisler lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Floyd Cooper has brought his artistic vision to more than sixty books and over two thousand book jackets. He is a recipient of the 2009 Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration, as well as three Coretta Scott King Honors, ten ALA Notables, and an NAACP Image Award, among other honors. He lives in Easton, Pennsylvania.

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