Monday, 17 October 2016

Here In Harlem by Walter Dean Myers

Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices by Walter Dean Myers
First published in America by Holiday House in 2004.

How I got this book:
Downloaded as part of the AudioSYNC 2015 season

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

'These fifty-four poems, all in different voices but written by one hand, do sing. They make a joyful noise as the author honors the people-the nurses, students, soldiers, and ministers-of his beloved hometown, Harlem. Worship with Deacon Allen, who loves "a shouting church," and study with Lois Smith, who wants "a school named after me." Don't get taken by Sweet Sam DuPree, who "conned a shark right outta his fin." And never turn your back on Delia Pierce, who claims she "ain't the kind to talk behind nobody's back" while doing precisely that-with panache. Inspired by Edgar Lee Masters's classic Spoon River Anthology, Walter Dean Myers celebrates the voices and aspirations of the residents of another American town, one that lies between two rivers on the north side of an island called Manhattan.'

Myers created his collection by remembering the people he used to live alongside when growing up in Harlem and writing around them. Dozens of people each have a short poem or prose piece allowing us insights into their lives, beliefs, passions and friendships. Women, men, girls and boys, of all ages and occupations all line up to speak and, with the audiobook, thirteen different narrators bring their words to life over appropriate music and sound effects. Whoever added the music certainly did an excellent job as this makes the atmosphere real to the listener.

I found the poems themselves a bit hit and miss. Some had strong characters behind the words, but I couldn't always find the person behind others. Perhaps brevity was at fault because most poems only allow the speaker one minute to project themselves. As a whole though, Here In Harlem gives an interesting overview of the district in its jazzy heyday.

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Books by Walter Dean Myers / Poetry / Books from America

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