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The Me Nobody Knows: Children's Voices from the Ghetto (1969)

by Stephen Joseph

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Member:joririchardson
Title:The Me Nobody Knows: Children's Voices from the Ghetto
Authors:Stephen Joseph
Info:not owned
Collections:Lost Book Collection, Read in 2013, Your library
Rating:***
Tags:Anthropology, Anthology, Poetry, Short Stories, New York City, Poverty

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The Me Nobody Knows by Stephen M. Joseph (1969)

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Published in 1969, this book is a compilation of brief writing samples from inner-city children in New York. In the introduction, the editor Stephen M. Joseph - a public school teacher - describes his methods of interesting children in writing and in learning, and his love for his young students is obvious. This gem of a little book, written entirely by impoverished students from bad neighborhoods, is remarkably literary and poignant. Some of the entries have the feeling of belonging in high literature, some are silly, many are simplistically charming, and many are tragic.

One 16 year old boy writes poetically "I have seen the last of rising suns, because my death is soon to come. I will no longer walk the sandy shores..."

Racism is forcefully depicted by a simple poem by another 16 year old, beginning "Black we die / Black I cry / Does whites they cry / Cause black they die?"

One anonymous student describes taking heroin for the first time at the age of 13. A 14 year old, apparently known as a good student, mourns the pointlessness of it all: "For what purpose was I born? I don't see. To speak words that no one will listen to no matter how loud I shout them? To memorize dates and events and be pronounced a genius? To... be referred to as a 'good child?' To see man destroy each other? To live a clean life, only to rot away in your grave?"
In "Story Without a Name," by a 14 year old boy, a man who lives alone in a huge, possibly haunted mansion, sees himself gradually fade away in a mirror.
7 year old Lorraine writes "I wish they would stop killing people around my block. I keep dreaming that I will get hurt."
7 year old Magdalia writes of her neighborhood "The dirty streets are dangerous. Cars come by and kill people. You don't look."
A 14 year old boy sagely speaks of hiring prostitutes, advising on where to find the best "hoes." In explanation of all this wisdom, he says "I've been living around here for a long time."

The children whose writings are displayed in this book talk about things that any child might, such as wishing for more candy, pets, or doing homework. Things take a darker outlook when they mention, intermixed with these mundane details, drive-by shootings, police brutality and flippancy, drug addicts, prostitutes, poverty, and even of an infant being eaten in his crib by rats. They ask why things must be as they are, one child writes innocently "Why can't blacks and whites be friends?" More than a few mourn the death of Martin Luther King Jr., who was shot only a year before this book was published. The children dream of the outside world, of changing the one that they live in, and exhibit a bright hope for the future. ( )
  joririchardson | Jan 17, 2013 |
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The children whose writing appears in this book live in slums.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0595305296, Paperback)

One of the most remarkable little books of the new publishing year . . . variously appealing, poignant and revealing. -Saturday Review "A book for teachers, children, and for all who do not know that the children of the ghetto are 'something special.'" -The New York Times Book Review "Some write of love, sleep, death, and darkness-things that puzzle all growing children. Most, however, write about the agonies of living in a world apart from the mainstream of American life-about dirt in the streets and violence in the home, about fear, pain, dismay, and indignation-and out of the mouths of babes, the truth hurts even more." -Book World "It's time more of us listened to these voices." -Chicago News

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:51:18 -0400)

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