A salty, wrenchingly honest collection of stories set on one block of 145th Street. We get to know the oldest resident; the cop on the beat; fine Peaches and her girl, Squeezie; Monkeyman; and Benny, a fighter on the way to a knockout.
In a kind of literary Rear Window, Myers (The Blues of Flats Brown, reviewed above) uses 10 short stories to create snapshots of a pulsing, vibrant community with diverse ethnic threads, through all of its ups and downs. Beginning with the tale of a wry character who stages his own funeral on a sweltering 4th of July to celebrate the money he has received from canceling his life insurance policy, Myers then follows with a chilling story of a cop shootout gone wrong. Many of the stories are told through the voices of witty, intelligent teens; Jamie Farrell, in particular, is a standout as he relates his changing luck in "The Streak" and makes other cameo appearances. But even the more poignant stories told in the third person--such as that of Billy Giles, a middling fighter hired by the local gym to make contenders look good, and "Angela's Eyes," infused with superstition, in which Angela possesses the ability to foresee death and destruction through her late father's eyes--keep an inviting, conversational tone. Myers creates an overall effect of sitting on the front stoop swapping stories of the neighborhood. Most readers will find that they could settle in for hours and take it all in. Ages 12-up. (Feb.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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Delacorte Books for Young Readers
December 31, 1999
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Excerpt from 145th Street: Short Stories by Walter Dean Myers
The way I see it, things happen on 145th Street that didn't happen anywhere else in the world. I'm not saying that 145th is weird or anything like that, but it's, like, intense. So when I heard about Big Joe's funeral it didn't take me by surprise. It was something that I remember, and that's why I'm telling it. This is the way it went down.
The funeral took place on the Fourth of July, one of the hottest days of the year. People were sitting out on their fire escapes or on their front stoops trying to catch a breeze. If there was a breeze in the 'hood it must have stopped somewhere for an iced tea because I didn't see or feel it. Nobody was doing any unnecessary movements unless their name was Peaches Jones, who was setting out to ruin Big Joe's funeral.
Peaches was what you would call seriously fine. She was fifteen, about five feet three, a medium brown color, and definitely wrong. She was wrong because she was not giving Big Joe his propers, which means his proper respect. A person ought to have respect for other people all of the time, but especially at two times during their life. The first time is when they are born. When a baby is born you shouldn't say discouraging things about it like "Hey, I seen prettier dogs than that baby," or "Maybe he ain't ugly, maybe he's just inside out." Give the baby a chance.
The other time you need to show some respect is when a person is going on out of this world. You know, like they're dead and whatnot. Let the person go. Whatever will be their reward has got to be figured out on the other side. Even if they slip on out owing you some money, you got to bite the bullet, give up some slack, and let them be on their way. But Peaches didn't see it that way when it came to Big Joe. She had her mind dead set on messing up Big Joe's funeral.
Let me back up here and tell you: It all started when Big Joe, who owns Big Joe's Bar-B-Que and Burger Restaurant, right here on 145th Street down from the Eez-On-In Cafe, decided to cancel his life insurance. He said he had been paying on his life insurance for twenty years. If he canceled his insurance he would get a check from the insurance company for eighteen thousand dollars. Now, that is some serious money. It sounded good when the guys in the barbershop were talking about it. So Big Joe canceled his insurance and sure enough, two weeks later, he was telling everybody that the check came just like he thought it would. That's when he decided to have the funeral.
"I have always loved a good funeral," Big Joe said. He was sitting outside his restaurant, peeling potatoes to make potato salad. "And when I went to Freddy's funeral -- y'all remember Freddy?"
"Yeah, I remember Freddy and his funeral," Willie Murphy said. "He looked real good."
"That's my point," Big Joe said. "He was looking better than I have ever seen him. He was clean, had his hair combed, and wore that dark suit with a carnation in his lapel."
"He was sharp!" Willie went on. "And when Angela, that little Puerto Rican girl, sang 'Precious Lord,' everybody was crying."