This is the tragic story of a young man caught in a cycle of violence and neglect from which he cannot escape. The true story of Robert “Yummy” Sandifer is told from the viewpoint of a fictional classmate Roger. He is being raised by his grandmother- his parents pretty much out of the picture, but in his mind, his true family is the gang he desperately wants to join- the Black Disciples. He begins to take on assignments for them as a young boy; being used to rob and hurt people because unlike the older boys in the gang, Yummy will not be sent to jail for the crimes he is committing. But then one night he makes a horrible mistake with a real gun and an innocent girl is killed. Yummy is then on the run and the gang is not out to help him. In the end, the gang is his undoing and Roger is left to wonder at Yummy’s funeral where is it went wrong and what could have happened to change the sad ending to Yummy’s life.
Neri, G. (2010). Yummy: The last days of a southside shorty. New York, NY: Lee and Low Books, Inc.
I felt very sad and helpless after reading this graphic novel. I know that many of the students at the school where I work probably are growing up in an environment similar to that of Yummy’s. I really am flummoxed as to the answer for the problem of kids growing up with no one to care for them; no one to love them.
Yummy’s grandmother did care for and love him, but she set no limits and indulged him. His mother apparently loved no one but herself and Yummy’s father seems never to come into the picture. The way the story is written, it almost seems like what happened was inevitable.
I believe the author meant this as a cautionary story and as fodder for discussion. I think that this is an issue that should stay in the spotlight and never dismissed until we as a society figure out some solutions. However, as Neri says at the end of his author’s note- that is easier said than done.
One further note about the illustrations- they are rendered in stark black and white- reflecting, I think, the harshness of Yummy’s reality. The shading in the photos is used to great effectiveness; some of the darker scenes are almost completely black with a very sinister overtone. They also create a very bleak feel again mirroring Yummy’s life.
*Starred Review* Robert Sandifer—called “Yummy” thanks to his sweet tooth—was born in 1984 on the South Side of Chicago. By age 11 he had become a hardened gangbanger, a killer, and, finally, a corpse. In 1994, he was a poster child for the hopeless existence of kids who grow up on urban streets, both victims and victimizers, shaped by the gang life that gives them a sense of power. Neri’s graphic-novel account, taken from several sources and embellished with the narration of a fictional classmate of Yummy’s, is a harrowing portrait that is no less effective given its tragic familiarity. The facts are laid out, the suppositions plausible, and Yummy will earn both the reader’s livid rage and deep sympathy, even as the social structure that created him is cast, once again, as America’s undeniable shame. Tightly researched and sharply written, if sometimes heavy-handed, the not-quite-reportage is brought to another level by DuBurke’s stark black-and-white art, which possesses a realism that grounds the nightmare in uncompromising reality and an emotional expressiveness that strikes right to the heart. Like Joe Sacco’s work (Footnotes in Gaza, 2010), this is a graphic novel that pushes an unsightly but hard to ignore sociopolitical truth out into the open. Grades 8-12
Karp, J. (2010, August 1). [Review of the book Yummy: The last days of a southside shorty, by G. Neri]. Booklist, 106(22), 55. Retrieved from http://www.booklistonline.com
For this book, I think the demographics of the patron base would probably need to be considered in order to develop appropriate programming. I think that it could be part of a program exploring the American teen experience through graphic novels. Maybe highlight books like this one, American Born Chinese, Stitches, The Silence of our Friends, etc. Perhaps host book talks and discussions around these novels. Maybe even allow teens to tell there own story by providing paper, pens, pencils, and letting them create their own graphic novels.