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Big, Black, & Trapped

April 4, 2017

 

 

Story in verse is the new happenin' trend. And I like it! Garvey's Choice by Nikki Grimes is a story written in Tanka style poetry. Told in first person POV, the story is about an African American boy named Garvey. Garvey's dad tries to manipulate him into being something he's not-an athlete. He wants to connect with Garvey through sports and roughhouse. Garvey wants nothing to do with that. He loves astronomy, and books, and Luther Vandross (search on iTunes... a lit'l R&B makes the most cumbersome housework somewhat enjoyable). The more his dad pushes sports, the more Garvey feels like he's a disappointment.  He soothes his broken heart with food.  And the more he eats, the heavier he gets which makes him a target for fat jokes and bullies. But Garvey has someone who believes in him. His loyal and encouraging friend, Joe.

 

Garvey tries to diet, but we all know how well diets work. He wears neutral clothes to blend in with the walls. Joe suggests that Garvey try out for chorus, which at first seems crazy.   He can't even think about standing in front of people let alone sing in front of them. But with encouragement from Joe, he decides to go for it. Garvey, ignoring his nerves and feeling numb, takes the first step toward finding his true self. His voice is like a smooth stone on a lake.  And guess what? He becomes the new tenor in the school choir. This is the turning point for Garvey.  He finds his niche and makes a new friend, Manny. Manny is albino and has dealt with hateful words his whole life. But he pays no mind to the nasty name-calling. Garvey asks Manny how he remains calm in the midst of daily harassment. This is his response:

 

Manny tells me he  (5 syllables)

was made in God's own image. (7 syllables)

"God is beautiful, (5 syllables)

"he says. "So what's that make you (7 syllables)

and me? Do you get it, G?"  (7 syllables)

 

I carry his words (5 syllables)

in the pocket of my mind. (7 syllables)

A few times a day (5 syllables)

they remind me to ignore (7 syllables)

the kids who don't know my name. (7 syllables)

 

Manny's wisdom gives Garvey the mindset to deflect the spears of hurtful words. He finds confidence and courage to be who God made him to be.  But, will Garvey's dad ever accept him for who he is? Will they ever have a connection? You must read to find out.

 

While reading this story, I realized that I have something in common with Garvey. How crazy is that?  I'm a middle-aged white woman, with three kids, a library teacher, living in a small town in Pennsylvania. How could I have anything in common with this character?-A middle school age, overweight, black boy who can sing like Luther Vandross.  The fact is, we all have something in common with Garvey. We're human with a need to feel accepted for our differences no matter what those differences are. The middle-school years are tough and, at times, can be lonely. It's awesome that we have characters like Garvey to help kids get through that season of life. His self image was distorted. He saw himself as big, black, and trapped. But as your kids read Garvey's Choice, they will quickly see him for what he really is. Beautiful, black, and talented. 

 

 

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