Tuesday, March 4, 2014

You Don't Even Know Me: Stories and Poems About Boys

Published in 2010
By Disney Jump at the Sun Books

Sharon Flake's book You Don't Even Know Me: Stories and Poems About Boys provides insight into the minds of young, African-American males who may often be misunderstood by people who don't understand
who they are or where they come from. The cover of her book is powerful and includes an image that readers would find very familiar; however, what lies beneath the image is what Flake really wants readers to grasp.

Flake's dedication reveals her reason for writing this book: "To my parents, Langston Hughes, and my neighborhood family, who showed me how beautiful I was; who reminded me what a great gift my neighborhood was to the planet, who taught me that the way I spoke was music to the ears and that it was okay to simply be me--a little black girl from the inner city of Philadelphia. To all who read and find my words, I give you the light that they all lit up in me. GO FORTH AND SHINE.

Other books Flake has written include The Broke Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street, Bang!, Who Am I Without Him, Money Hungry, Begging for Change, and The Skin I'm In. You can tell by the titles what kind of background Flake comes from. This book is powerful because it
enables readers to have a glimpse into a world in which they may not be familiar, except for what they see on television, and the author reminds us that what we often see on television may not reveal the entire truth. Flake encourages her readers to venture inside the minds of young boys who may often be misunderstood and often underestimated because of their race, background, and life experiences.

Here are just a few lines of the first poem in her book "You Don't Even Know Me"; it speaks directly to teachers:

  I sit in your class
I play by the rules
I'm young
I'm fly
I'm black.
So of course I think I'm cool.
Geometry is my thing,
Physics is just a breeze.
So it bothered me last week
When you said I should be happy with that C.
You know,
I've been wondering lately,
Trying to figure out just how it could be
That you're around me so often
And still don't know a thing about me. . . .

As the poem continues, the young man provides examples of other ways he is often misunderstood and
reveals his thoughts and dreams in a way that I've never before heard expressed. "Scared to Death," a short story, is about a young man and young girl who decide to get married when she becomes pregnant. Other poems and short stories in this anthology such as "Getting Even," "Dying Before I'm Done," "Faking It," "Sixteen," "People Might Not Understand," and "I'm Not Supposed To" provide additional insight into the lives of young people who live in the inner city.

Sharon Flake won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award for her first novel The Skin I'm In and has won the Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book Award twice. She has also written books about young girls and books for adults. I highly recommend this book for teachers who have the desire to understand students who may be sitting in their classrooms every day.

Sharon Flake's Official Website
Source of Images
Find this book in your local library.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this book! I work with students every day who come from different backgrounds, and I have often found it difficult to understand where they are coming from- even in second grade their culture has shaped them in ways I will never know. In fact, I can think of one particular student whom this book reminds me of. I will definitely have to read this book! Hopefully it will help shed some light on what my students are going through.