Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Air Down Here: True Tales from a South Bronx Boyhood by Gil C. Alicea with Carmine DeSena

“The air in my neighborhood is harder. It’s more thicker, harder to breathe in, harder to see through.” So begins one of the only known texts published by a fourteen year old living in the South Bronx. I love the South Bronx. Not everyone feels the way I do, but you will probably fall in love with Gil C. Alicea after reading The Air Down Here: True Tales from a South Bronx Boyhood, co-written with Carmine DeSena. I first encountered this book while designing lessons for a class of high school seniors entitled Autobiography. While I often found myself wanting more from the hundred or so brief vignettes that fill the short 133 pages, the seniors I worked with usually appreciated the authors’ brevity, vernacular and humor. A single vignette frequently provided sufficient provocation for hours of writing and sharing and ultimately this text became a central one to the project of writing individual biographies. The short form and the accessible language make this book a potentially perfect fit for middle- and high-school aged New York City readers who are a little wary of committing to a 200 page book, yet searching for a true story they can relate to. Alicea hits topics as familiar as family, girls, school, cops and basketball and as serious as his mother’s terminal illness and poverty.

Alicea, Gil C. with Carmine DeSena. The Air Down Here: True Tales from a South Bronx Boyhood. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1995.

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