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Dear Mr. Walter Dean Meyers,
The contest regulations for this contest stated how an author's material has affected you. Your book was about a struggling young African-American teen, dealing with pressure from his friends, coaches, and teachers. Slam encountered his dying grandmother, alcoholic and unemployed dad, and many other interesting characters throughout the book. I am a half-Asian American living in a sheltered and protected Dallas suburb, and have never had to deal with the issues that Slam had to encounter. Slam struggled with his grades, teachers, classmates, teammates, friends, drugs, and other issues. I have to deal with my tennis game and getting into a private high school. So how has your book affected me? Your book has affected me in two large ways; you showed me the difference between the hip-hop/African-American culture of the media and the hip-hop/African American culture of reality, and it showed me that the racial and stereotypical views that occurred yesterday still occur today, some that I am a part of and some that are directed towards me. The world that I see is Hip-Hop stars living in mansions; you talk about drug deals, pick-up games, and the homeless. Despite the fact that I know that these issues exist, I needed something that really told me that there are real problems in America, problems that are not just used by politicians when they are running for office, issues that are not just used by Dr. Dre in his rap lyrics. These issues exist in almost every major city in America, whether it is African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Caucasians; it does not matter what race, they exist. After reading your book Slam, I was impressed with the realism of the book and how even though the book was written in 1996, many of the same topics still go on today. I am not African-American, instead Asian-American and I believe that some of the realness of your book, particularly the prejudicial and stereotypical views are still present today. There are still many of the same things that you talked about in your book still present today including the drugs, the economical issues, and the narrow-minded views that certain people still hold today. I noticed that the African-American and "hip-hop" cultures have influenced me a lot through the shoes I wear, the clothes I wear, and the music that I listen to. And I feel that your book would open everyone’s views to the views that African-Americans have about other cultures, the influence that the cultures had on them and the United States, and I believe that it would influence them to change for the better.
The character, Slam, encountered comments from his school about the neighborhood he grew up in and the color of his skin. I believe that all minorities encounter that. I attend a Catholic school in a suburb of Dallas and am one of the four Asian-American kids in a class of nearly sixty and I have been a subject of some racial and stereotypical comments and have even participated in them myself. Slam was once insulted by his English teachers and I have been subjected to the narrow-minded comment that all Asians are smart and do well in school. That was one of the things that I liked about your book; I felt that you really did not hold back on some of the things that African-Americans encounter on a normal basis. Slam dreamed about a lifestyle, which has now been turned into a culture, the hip-hop culture. He dreamed about driving a Benz or Lexus making millions of dollars in the N.B.A. much like some of the current N.B.A. stars. I have been affected by the “hip-hop” culture I’ve seen the movies such as 8 Mile. I listen to music by various hip-hop artists. I wear Vice Carter’s basketball shoes even though I cannot play basketball to save my life. I wear “throw back” jerseys. I watch TV shows such as MTV’s Pimp My Ride, that can only exist thanks to the "hip-hop" culture, and I even use some of the words that have been put in Webster's thanks to the "hip-hop" culture such as: rollin', pimp, and ride. I believe that these changes have shifted people's views about the African-American culture.
Your book gave me many visions about the culture of African-Americans but it also sent me a message that all racism should be left behind as we enter a new age. I myself have mentioned a couple of prejudicial and/or stereotypical comments about certain people. Your book however has encouraged me to change. I myself live a nice lifestyle and do not have any medical problems. I live in a nice suburb much different then the inner-city lifestyle in which Slam takes place. Your book really opened my eyes as to how people live today and how they survive through so many hardships. That has encouraged my personality to change, for me to care more about the world in which I live and the people who inhabit it. Your book has really changed my outlook on the world that I live in and will change the many more young readers that will go on a similar journey of reading that I did.
Your book is one of the very few books that I have liked, yet cannot relate to. I myself am not an avid reader and therefore the books that I do read are about baseball, cars, and politics. None of them are about inner-city African American cultures or about basketball. But I loved this book that I found and it has influenced my personality greatly to understand more how lucky I am for all the luxuries that I have. Your book was real and you "told it like it was." You talked about the drugs, crime, and other hardships that occur, while writing to a young audience. An older author often wrote about many modern issues that socially were not publicly talked about. Mark Twain would talk about the social, moral and religious problems in this country much as you talked about economic, social, moral, and other problems that occur in society today. Your book has influenced me as a person, the African-American culture has influenced me as a person, and I thank you, and every other person that has helped me.
© The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. (Used by permission.)