Monday, March 30, 2015

Sneak Preview: Ghetto Brother: Warrior to Peacemaker by Julian Voloj, Illustrated by Claudia Ahlering

In the last five years there has not been an obvious response to reader demand for another book “just like Yummy,” and that is set to change in May with the publication of Ghetto Brother.  The story of Benjamin Melendez’s founding of, and later departure from, the South Bronx-based gang builds a bit slowly while author Julian Voloj takes the time to lay the foundation for what is yet to come. The true history of the gang’s founding and its role in brokering a peace is all the more surprising in light of later revelations due to the care taken in the first part of the story.  Voloj does Melendez’s tale justice by prioritizing the narrative storytelling over factual minutia, and the black and white artwork by Claudia Aherling utilizes fine detail and watercolor to eschew a cartoonish-ness that might otherwise make this street-language-filled edition appeal to younger readers.  Themes of maturity, identity, and responsibility recommend this book to older teens. 

 Ghetto Brother depicts a fascinating slice of New York City/ South Bronx history that pairs well with Panther Baby and touches on Columbus’s arrival in the western hemisphere and the Spanish Inquisition.  Back matter includes eight pages of photographs and the author’s recounting of the “story behind the story,” where Voloj explains that the book is primarily based on interviews with former activists.  He goes on to list additional resources consulted and includes photos of Melendez himself during the years of his gang involvement as well as Melendez now, forty plus years later.--Jessica Fenster-Sparber

This review is of an advance reader’s copy provided by the publisher to the reviewer.  This title is scheduled for release in May.

Click here to see Melendez talking about GB's former storefront right in front of former Passages' site Summit(?!).  (around 2:26)
Julian Voloj and Benjamin Melendez will be signing books at MoCCA Fest 2015 on April 11th (both from 1:30-3pm, and Julian Voloj alone from 5 to 6pm) and 12th (Julian Voloj alone from 12-1pm, and both Julian Voloj and Benjamin Melendez from 3:30-5pm).   

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