This past week, I have been reading When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds. From the first page, I was sucked into the story by the incredible voice and the authenticity of the writing. I knew I was going to be participating in this meme for the first time today, so I kept bookmarking passages I thought I might quote.
And then I found it.
Without hesitation, I pressed down my green sticky note scrawled with the words “Beautiful. Profound. Everyone needs to see this.”
The main charactor of the book, Ali, doesn’t have a relationship with his father. He’s been in and out of jail and he doesn’t come around very often. In a flashback, Ali remembers his mother taking him to Malloy’s house for a break. Malloy and Ali step into the house. The two enter his living room, which is really a gym filled with boxing equipment. Malloy begins peppering Ali with questions about his father.
“You don’t know?” he said, confused. “Well, let me ask you this, let’s pretend this punching bag is your father. What do you want to do to him?” He slowly released my fist. My nails were digging so deep into my palm that I thought I had broken the skin.
“Show me,” he said again, this time nudging my shoulder.
I turned to toward the punching bag, opened my fist, and wrapped my arms around it.
Malloy sat there in his chair, staring at six-year-old me, hugging a punching bag like it was a person. He nodded his head like I had passed some sort of test.
The main character of this story captivates me. He is upbeat and tender in an area of Brooklyn filled with crime and violence. Despite the odds, Ali has managed to stay true to himself.
As the book continues to unfold, I hope this remains.