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.