Thursday, January 22, 2015

YALSA top ten GNs 2011: Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty
Written by G. Neri. Illustrated by Randy Duburke.
Published by Lee & Low Books Inc. (2010)

So before I read this I had never heard of Robert "Yummy" Sandifer, an eleven year old kid who was involved with gangs and shot a girl in Chicago in 1994. Honestly, it's kind of hard for me to understand that sort of thing. I was born in the same year as Sandifer, so I was also 11 when the events in this comic were happening. But instead of stealing cars and running from the cops I was playing Super Nintendo. (It was not until 1997 when Grand Theft Auto came out that I would begin stealing cars and running from cops.)

It's pretty evident that the entire situation surrounding Sandifer was tragic: his parents were in jail (and abusive when out of it), he had no real support system, and, to be honest, no hope. Near the end of this comic one of the characters says that Sandifer is going to be the only person from that neighbourhood that ever makes it to the cover of Time magazine, and they are more than likely right. I've talked with friends about class systems, and how the USA and Canada differ from the UK, but we do have to accept that there are places in our countries where you are pretty much fucked from birth. Sandifer grew up in one, and his chances from day one weren't that good.

Poverty can be incredibly hard to escape from, and this comic acts as a pretty good reminder of that. However, judging it as a comic is kind of weird. Does it have amazing art or tell the story in an interesting way? Not really, no. The art tells the story ("and it's perfectly fine!" he said, damning it with faint praise that is unfair to the artist), and the story tells the story. There really isn't that much more to it. Would I put it on a "best of" list for 2011? No. Would I put it on a top graphic novels for teens list? Yeah, because I think it's important for teenagers to learn about things like this. Maybe some people even read it and had their lives changed for the better. I can only hope.

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