buck (n): a fashionable and typically hell-raising young man. 2 racial slur--used to described black men. 3 a young black man: what's up young buck? 4 the act of becoming wild and uncontrollable: he went buck wild. 5 a dollar. 6 to fire gunshots: buckshots in the air. 7 to go against, rebel: buck the system.
"Everybody calls me 'young buck' when they see me."Asante’s journey from inner city street punk in Killadelphia to college professor is a wild ride. Knowing the outcome doesn’t dull the description of his path: sexy, wild, ugly, and redemptive. There is a kind of love shown between family members in this ghetto life that may be greater than all other loves because it flows despite real failures by real people. A little light, and a little faith in a kid backed into a corner seems to have made a difference. Not every intervention can be as timely, but the results are unequivocal.
This book was assembled from fragments in a teen’s life in the late nineteen nineties. My copy of this title was published in 2013; the paperback will be released in May 2014. The language and sensibility wears a noticeable twelve-year lag, it seems to me, but it is instructive none-the-less. How far we seem to have come in ten years, all of us. I wonder if Asante would agree, or if he would say that “nothing has changed.” Perhaps nothing substantive in the lives of Killadelphians has changed, or changed enough.
The main thrust of the narrative, however, is perennial. A young boy discovers the voices of all who have come before him and realizes that the paths ahead are many and varied and bear no resemblance to the one he walks daily in his neighborhood. “I spit lyrics to songs under my breath--all day, every day…It’s like hip-hop Tourette’s.” The book is punctuated with stanzas that suit the action, his own and those of others, suitably referenced. One can tell words, descriptive words, are his passion.
The story introduces street life through street slang. I particularly liked the device of reading Malo’s mother’s diary to learn what she was thinking as she lay torpid and drugged through Malo’s teen years. His father quit town to save himself, and his brother got himself locked up. All in all a harrowing upbringing, but kids still learn without being in school. It’s what they learn that is at issue. Asante still has a ways to go to break into Literature but his path is true and his talent real. He is a good mirror. I note he is a filmmaker.
Asante has a right to be proud. And whoever gave him the chance to get out of the hood has a right to be proud.
I learned of this title from a NoViolet Bulawayo’s B&N interview, and have thought of that recommendation several times since.
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