You Don't Even Know Me: Stories and Poems about Boys by Sharon G. Flake
I finished Flake's second collection that works as a companion to her first collection, Who Am I Without Him? This one focuses on boys, while the first one deals with the lives of girls. She also includes poems in this latest work documenting snippets of boys existences. I have to be honest: I wasn't as impressed by this book as I was Who Am I Without Him? There doesn't seem to be the depth there is in the previous title. There is the first poem, from the perspective of multiple young men, each asserting his respective existence, that I like. If you visit Flake's internet site, you'll find a video made by five young men who perform the poem, and it is that much more powerful because you can see the different voices (that is, who is speaking) as well as hear them. And for me, only one of the stories is memorable: "My Hood." It is about two best friends on a day out in North Philly's heat. The two boys make their way to a fire in the area, take a dip in a pool without the family's permission, join a craps session, meet up with some fine Philly girls, eat and dance at a block party, swim in a local pool, watch a fireworks show, then head home. It might not seem like much of a story, but it is about friendship of the best kind: the narrator describes his friendship with Elliot, a kid with fire and emotional issues: "This is why I like Elliott. He's braver than I am. Funny and loyal, too. You can't give up on someone like that just because their mind don't work like yours" (163). The story takes place on July the 4th in Philadelphia. It can't be about anything but independence.
The collection as a whole doesn't necessarily work for me, but the tidbits that I do like, I like a lot.