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Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Good Book

Posted on22 October 2009 at The Uptown Chronicle

It means different things to younger people

By Sarveen Abubaker

Sam Walters* hates Hamlet. If he had his way, he would never have wasted time reading the play in high school. “I don’t like reading very much and I don’t like Shakespeare. The only line I like is ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day,’” the 11th grader said during his school lunch break.

Speaking in computer room 227 on the second floor of Edward Reynolds Westside High School on 102nd Street and Amsterdam Avenue, Walters did not hesitate when asked what his literary leanings were. He detested assigned texts like Hamlet, any book that was “full of stuff on government laws” and things like Obama’s Back to Education speech, he said, but was forced to read and write about them.

“I don’t know why we have to read things we don’t like. If I had a choice, I would go for a book like Walter Dean Myers’s Beast, which I can relate to,” the tall and well-built teenager said, looking older than his 18 years despite the schoolbag on his back.

Beast was a love story but not the usual “happy ending” kind, he explained. It was a young-adult novel about a Harlem teenager who was forced to leave behind his girlfriend when his family moved and returned to find that she had begun to do drugs. The book charted the boy’s struggle to rescue his girlfriend but the story ended in tragedy, he said.

“I identify with the book because I am going through a break-up now. So if I have the choice to read such a book, my commitment, my drive to read and write about it will be greater,” he said. “I hope you get what I mean.”

But did he think he knew enough at 18 to pick all the right books and make all the right choices without help? “I guess you’re right. Then it should be half and half. The teacher should pick some texts and we should be allowed to pick some,” he said, before walking toward his English teacher, Ted Nellen, who was working on a Mac in the room.

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