Parents' Guide to

When We Wuz Famous

By Denise Sullivan, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Gritty, moving tale of boy trying to escape his barrio past.

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Author Greg Takoudes' true-to-life teen scenarios should resonate with anyone who's been singled out on campus, particularly for racial and income-disparity differences. Takoudes brings personal experience as a scholarship student and working with Spanish Harlem youth to WHEN WE WUZ FAMOUS, based on the award-winning indie film Up With Me (2008), which he wrote and directed.

One ethnic slur ("spic") on the basketball court and the general taunts Francisco receives from his roomates may seem mild in comparison to the bullying some students receive on a daily basis. Yet the verbal wounds pack a punch, as does the culminating act of violence that underscores the tragedy of young lives wasted, a situation all too real, particularly in low-income areas and communities of color. The characters of Francisco, Reign, and Vincent are archetypal yet sympathetic, and readers will be moved by how tough it is for them to escape the confines of their neighborhood, even when opportunity knocks.

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