Saturday, February 21, 2015

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty

 First off, I would just like to say that I LOVED this book. Considering the fact that I have never read a graphic novel before, I was hesitant about reading this one. I'm definitely going to purchase my own copy of Yummy! Being a visual learner, the illustrations helped me comprehend and imagine the situations described in the book. This is a component of graphic novels that often helps readers understand the meaning of the text. The nice thing about Yummy, like most graphic novels, is that the sequence art does not give readers a complete picture. This is when I had to fill in the gaps and visualize the entire image/situation myself. I particularly like this aspect of graphic novels, because it forced me to not only comprehend the information, but create a mental image as well.
    Growing up in the inner-city, violence is something that is often glorified and perpetuated by people in my community. As I was reading about Yummy's story, I found myself wondering how many times I have heard my classmates brag about beating people up; as if violence is something to be proud of.  I think that introducing this book to students can change their perceptions of violence and understand that there are more positive ways to make friends and feel part of a group.
    G. Neri did a wonderful job of crafting a rather depressing story into a work of literature that allows readers to walk away with several powerful messages. One aspect of the graphic novel that I think is important to acknowledge is that Yummy was torn between two worlds. Described as a sweet and kind child by close friends and family, they could never imagine Yummy taking another young life.  It amazed me when the narrator said that he often saw Yummy carrying around a teddy bear.  This goes to show that Yummy was not the tough, gang member that he tried to act as, but rather he was still a child. How could someone so young and innocent get caught up in a life of crime? Sadly, this is something that occurs far too often in our society. At that age, children do not understand the magnitude of their actions, because they are so focused on fitting in and feeling a part of a group. As I was reading, I could not understand why Yummy would  fall into this lifestyle. Yes it was evident that he wanted to feel important and tough to his peers, but there are other ways to do so; ways that do not involve joining a gang. I often found myself saying “wow, if I was in Yummy’s shoes, I would not have joined a gang.”  As I continued to read, I had to understand the circumstances that Yummy lived in and how glorified the gang-life was. This may not have been something I would get involved in, but Yummy lived in an entirely different world than myself. 
This is when I began to sympathize with Yummy. I felt bad for his involvement in a lifestyle that he did not necessarily wish to partake in. You could tell that he felt remorse for killing Shavon and that this was never his intention. Yummy was a child who simply wanted to be accepted and feel part of a group. Yet, choosing to be a part of a gang clearly had negative side effects for him and his community. 
I think that Yummy’s story can be a wake up call for many readers who either live a similar lifestyle as him, or know others who do. Page 87 of the book speaks to this rather well, when the reverend stated, “this death was not for nothing. It got your attention! Take a good look! Cry if you will, but make up your mind that you will never let your life end like this!” It is important to acknowledge that yes Yummy’s life was tragically cut short due to his involvement in a gang, yet we all have something to learn from this. We can either walk down the same path as Yummy and engage in a life of violence, or stray away and make better choices for ourselves.
      Reading this graphic novel has suddenly sparked my interest in knowing statistics related to youth involvement in gangs. I do recall briefly discussing the topic in one of my undergraduate sociology courses (Crime and Justice), but do not remember much information. As a teacher, violence and gang affiliation may very well be an issue that hits close to home with some of my future students. I hope that I can become more knowledgeable in this area; as it is no surprise that the issues which impact students outside of the classroom can ultimately effect them in the classroom as well. 



  1. Keara,

    I loved Yummy as well! I too found myself questioning how a child as young as Yummy could get caught up in a gang. His young age, personal story, and childlike behaviors (such as carrying his teddy bear, showing his friends a frog he found, and so on) made it difficult for me to view Yummy as a villain. Instead, I found myself thinking that Yummy was also a victim. This was something that was rather difficult to grapple with. But, what I love is how G. Neri trusts his readers to come up with their own conclusions about Yummy and his story. Do you feel the same way? Or do you think that this is too difficult of a concept to be left up to children?

    Just curious!


  2. Christina,
    I completely agree with you. Although, toward the beginning of the novel, I did not view Yummy as a victim. This is mainly due to the fact that the author set the stage by describing Yummy's involvement in a gang and the effects that shooting Shavon has on everyone in his community. I found myself thinking: wow, how could a kid do something like this? It was rather hard for me to sympathize with him, when G. Neri only provided readers with one side of Yummy. Yet, my viewpoint began to change once he described the childlike behaviors that Yummy engaged in (such as the examples you mentioned above). This is when my opinions of him shifted to a more sympathetic view; seeing Yummy as a victim. I particularly like how G. Neri set the stage with Yummy's character. By the end of the novel, readers are presented both "lenses" of Yummy and are ultimately forced to decide on their own: whether to see him as a murderer or a victim.

  3. I love this conversation the two of you are having. Have either of you read the book, MONSTER by Walter Dean Myers? In this book the main character , Steve, has been charged with murder and is on trial. In the prosecutor's opening statement, she calls Steve a "monster." The rest of the book is Steve's life as he lives through the trial and questions his own role in the crime.

  4. Dr. Jones,
    When I read this post last night, Monster sounded vaguely familiar to me. Once I saw the cover and you began to talk about it tonight, it clicked in my brain that I actually read it in 6th or 7th grade. Although, I do not remember much. I will definitely have to revisit this text; especially since it focuses on the issue of gang violence at a level that is more appropriate for young readers. It will be interesting to compare G. Neri's graphic novel to Monster, and see how the same topic is talked about in different ways.