Concrete Candy by Apollo
This collection of six short stories depict life for young men on the streets of Oakland, or Oaktown as Apollo calls it. Life is gritty, sometimes unfair, and full of hard choices and racist adults. The characters are realistic and their drama is captivating. They speak the language of the streets, captured well by the author. “School for kids, Ma,” Jamar tells his mother. “I got ‘portant s**t to do. MAN stuff.” Sadly, Jamar’s MAN Stuff may end up getting him killed.
For me, the most amazing part of the book was that it was written by a thirteen-year-old Oakland boy. His clear writing and mature insight into the urban lifestyle is far beyond his short life, and it would be interesting to see how his writing changes as he grows up. (The book was published in 1996, and I can’t find anything by him since then.) He was mentored by the well-known Oakland writer Jess Mowry. (Mowry’s Babylon Boyz, Six out Seven & Way Past Cool are all part of our collection.)
This title was recommended to me by one of my favorite teacher and I agree with him: it is classic urban drama. We have three new copies and I’m sure they’ll be checked out continuously.