Monday, February 18, 2008

Who Am I Without Him? by Sharon G. Flake

Flake, Sharon G. (2004). Who am I Without Him? Short Stories about girls and the boys in their lives. New York: Hyperion. 168 pages.

Summary and Evaluation: This book, a collection of ten short stories, presents in a variety of forms the challenges and joys of dating and relationships as a teenager. Erika, a scholarship student at a private school can't help but like white boys, but may be willing to go too far to get their attention. Asia is taunted so much for her skin disease that she's had to transfer schools, but finds her own way to cope. E wants to date Ona but finds that their class differences only bring problems to their relationships. Each story presents a different cast of characters and individual problems to face.

After reading the first story about the girl who desperately wants to be with a moderately abusive, cheating boyfriend for the sake of having one, I was worried that every character would have the same flaw. But as I progressed, I was pleased to find a variety of realistic and sympathetic characters. Some of the girls in the stories were attractive and dated a lot, but were not often the hero of the story. Other girls wanted boyfriends but were overlooked by boys because they weren't considered pretty enough. In one story a group of girls forbidden to date by their pastor set out to find boyfriends, but find themselves unprepared for the challenges they face. As I read, I found that I could identify each situation in some way (sometimes small) to real life events and attitudes. The stories focus on the inner city experience and have a strong African-American voice, but themes of love and respect for one's self are strong enough to give this book universal appeal.

Booktalk Hook: This would be an excellent book to have the group relate to their own lives. I would have a group imagine for a moment the type of guys/girls they are interested in or the type of person they are dating. Do they enjoy boys/girls that are responsible and or caring? Do they prefer guys/girls who are considered "bad?" How do you prefer this person to treat you? Then I would introduce a few of the male and female characters in the stories and relate some of the dilemmas they are involved in.

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