Bad Boy

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Book: Bad Boy by Walter Dean Myers Read Free Book Online
Authors: Walter Dean Myers
only a small part.
    My father’s depression lasted for an entire year. He turned to religion in a way that I had never seen before. He didn’t speak much, and never went out. Christmas came and went that year with me and Mamasitting in the living room with the Christmas tree and Dad sitting in the kitchen by himself. What I missed most about him was his offbeat sense of humor. Before Uncle Lee’s death my dad could find humor in almost any situation. Now there was nothing funny, nothing without the heavy shadow of his brother’s death.
    The term before, Mr. Lasher had recommended that I be put into a newly formed rapid advancement class, and I had taken the test to get in. Tests were always easy for me. I saw them as games, saw myself as being in a contest against a mythical adversary, and welcomed the challenge. Dorothy Dodson and Eric were also going to be in the class. The other kids came from all over the city, some from as far away as Brooklyn.
    We were going to do the seventh and eighth grades in one year and were then going to do the ninth grade the next year, making up any work we needed along the way. The school we were going to was Junior High School 43, now Adam Clayton Powell Academy, on 128th Street. The class initially consisted of fourteen girls and eleven boys, a small class for the time. I was officially going to be considered “smart.”
    I liked the rapid advancement class, also called SP. SP stood for Special Progress, and all the kids in the class were indeed smart. For most of the year we spent our time studying each other. None of us had beenaround that many other kids who were so smart. It was a class in which everyone got a ninety on every test, and an eighty was a source of derision. But I also noticed, for the first time, a sense of being alone. While part of the feeling was because of my home situation, there was more to it than that.
    In school we studied American history including, for the first time, slavery. Our discussion was the usual one for the time. Slavery, we were taught, was a distant and unfortunate period in American history and had led to the Civil War. In the history book there was an image of scantily clad Africans, their heads down, being marched off a boat under the watchful eyes of white men armed only with walking sticks. I was glad to get past the abbreviated reference to slavery. No one spoke the words, but I believe that every black kid in the class who, like me, thought that life was fundamentally fair must have felt on some level that those enslaved blacks had somehow deserved to be enslaved.
    Mama, despite her being half German, half Indian, knew a lot about slavery. She had heard stories about the cruelties of slavery from the older black people around Martinsburg, West Virginia.
    â€œThey dug a hole when they wanted to beat a pregnant woman,” Mama said. “They put her belly in the hole so they wouldn’t hurt the baby.”
    When we had passed the two pages on which slavery was mentioned in the textbook, I moved away from it mentally as well. I remember noticing that Robert E. Lee’s horse was named Traveller, the same name as my bicycle. The black kids in the class wanted to identify with the values we were being taught, and the concept of being slaves was a clear deflection of those values. The teachers didn’t seem to notice that the black kids weren’t comfortable with the textbook. They also didn’t seem to notice anything wrong in our music class when we we sang “My Old Kentucky Home,” the version with the “darkies” being gay.
    Ivanhoe , The Prince and the Pauper , and some poems by Kipling and Tennyson were among the things I read in school the first year in the special class. On my own I found Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn , and my sister Geraldine gave me a copy of Little Men . I didn’t like Ivanhoe , hated The Prince and the Pauper , tolerated the poems, and loved Tom Sawyer and

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