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Children's Books

Ghetto Brother: Warrior to PeacemakerGhetto Brother: Warrior to Peacemaker

by Julian Voloj
Publication: NBM Publishing (May 1, 2015)

 

Gr 9 Up—A graphic novel that aims to condense Benjy Meléndez's experiences growing up in the South Bronx as the son of island-born Puerto Ricans in a very hostile New York City. It discusses Benjy's involvement in gang activities, the creation of the Ghetto Brothers gang, his auspicious role in brokering peace among gangs in the Bronx, and how he was part of a short period of peace that fomented the creation of Hip Hop and its culture. During this journey of shifting his gang into a group that worked against police injustice and for tenants' rights and bilingual education, he also discovers the complexity of his own ethnic and religious identity. The book truly summarizes a complicated story of a young boy "coming of age" politically, socially, and personally during a very important period of black and Puerto Rican community building and political activism in New York City. The text is accessible and not afraid to show the complexity of Benjy's struggles and the bleakness of life in the South Bronx during that period. In that sense, the illustrations are rough but consistent, suiting the grittiness of the neighborhood and of Benjy's own experiences well. VERDICT A coming-of-age story that will expand graphic novel collections with its incorporation of the historical oppression, community empowerment, and identities of marginalized communities in 1970s New York City. —Sujei Lugo, Boston Public Library, MA

 

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