Why I wrote Homeboyz…
As many know, I am an inner-city high school teacher in Los Angeles at Lynwood High. It goes without saying that I love my kids and love being an English teacher but Los Angeles is a city plagued by teen violence and many, many, many of my students live in a community that is poisoned by gangs, guns and drugs.
Students at our school have been shot. Murdered. Killed. And tragically, violent teenage death has become so common in urban America (especially when it comes to minorities killing other minorities; there are virtually no white students at my school) that when this sort of monstrosity happens, it doesn’t even make the newspapers.
Worse, it feels as if there is an entire segment of the media that profits off of selling young kids the idea that gangs are cool, sexy, fun and adventurous. They’re not. Gangs are violent, anti-social and deeply hurtful to many, many people – and no one gets hurt more so than the young kids who get caught up in these street gangs. Therefore, when I see major record companies and multi-media conglomerates “selling the gangsta lifestyle” to our nation’s kids in order to make a buck, I get angry and frustrated.
The fact is, becoming embroiled in gangs – real gangs, not wanna-be stuff but real gangs – ends up one of pretty much two ways for young people. Kids go to jail or kids go to the cemetery. Of course, in music videos and the such, it all looks like a pumpin’ party. But go visit Juvenile Hall or prison – I have, many times – and you will see that the reality is an entirely different story.
It was this idea that was the spark which inspired me to write Homeboyz. I wanted to do a book that stripped away the false romance, that peeled away the pretend glamour, that didn’t buy into the bullshit that gangs were a just a life of non-stop partying.
Homeboyz is raw. Homeboyz is gritty. Homeboyz is a tragedy.
And Homeboyz has also been my most popular book. It’s won awards, it’s turned on thousands of readers, it’s got people talking about turning it into a feature length movie.
But probably, the thing that is most rewarding to me is that Homeboyz has been “that” book, the one that teachers everywhere have given to kids who swear they don’t like to read.
I’ve got boatloads of emails from people all across the country telling me the same story over and over.
I’ve got this boy (it’s inevitably a boy) and he wouldn’t read a thing. But he read Homeboyz and loved it! It’s the first book he has ever read cover to cover.
That to me, is just flat out awesome! Homeboyz has achieved cult-like status in certain circles, a fact which makes me really proud.