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Mendel (Print) by Damone Bester is a Book Series Starter pick #comingofage #yalit #diverse #giveaway
Title: MENDEL (Print)
Author: Damone Bester
Genre: YA, Coming of age fiction
Mendel is an award-winning coming-of-age story about a senior at Chicago's legendary Mendel High who must learn how to forgive as he navigates life without his recently deceased mother. Things come to a head when the teen accidentally discovers that his mother’s dreams of becoming a collegiate track star were derailed due to getting pregnant with him. To honor his mother, he joins Mendel’s track team and excels, but before he can cash in on any scholarship offers, his father’s thuggish past catches up with them when a gun toting nemesis comes seeking revenge. The teen must decide between saving his own life or sacrificing it all to save his estranged father.
LOVE IS SACRIFICAL
David and I locked eyes.
“Day-yum!” David exclaimed slowly. “Vic finally got you back, huh?”
My heart was racing. I knew David’s reputation, yet maybe seeing me all busted up, he’d have some sympathy for me. God, I hope so. I couldn’t defend myself if I tried.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I ain’t gonna hurt you, dog. Besides, I know you ain’t rob my auntie. This was just Victor’s lame excuse to get revenge for you kicking his butt.”
Suddenly, car tires screeched to a halt. Running footsteps approached us. I heard a familiar voice that brought joyful tears to my eyes.
“BJ, BJ.” Keko called out.
I turned. He was at the alleyway entrance but seemed hesitant in approaching. Doesn’t he see my face? I thought. What was he waiting for? Take me to the hospital, man.
David rose quickly, throwing his hands back like Keko was the police.
“Eh, it wasn’t me,” David chuckled. “I found him like this.”
As David examined Keko’s worried expression, the snickering stopped. I could see his wheels turning. Mine began to turn also. Was this the first time David had seen my dad since he pulled that gun on him? And, why was Keko acting all skittish when before he just about placed his eyeball in David’s gun barrel. The oddness of it all made me uneasy.
Keko called my name again, gently, lovingly with a compassionate gaze to match. But still he wouldn’t come any closer. David took a couple of steps back, forehead wrinkled like a detective on the verge of uncovering a vital clue.
“Wait… Keko, what you doing here? How y’all know each other?” David questioned, pointing at me.
Again, I thought, that’s an odd question. I looked up at David, then at Keko, back to David.
David looked down at me, then back to Keko. The game of Russian Roulette head-swivel didn’t last long before David solved the mystery.
“Wait a minute. Is this… Is he your kid? ‘BJ’ stands for Brandon Jr., don’t it?”
Oh snap! I finally understood. David only knew me as Vanessa’s boyfriend, not as Keko’s son.
“David, we can talk about this.” Keko said calmly, now easing towards us carefully.
“This is the “abomination” you should’ve killed.”
Looking directly at Keko, David drew his gun from his waistband and pointed it… at me.
“David, put the gun down—"
“It’s bad enough you let your Queen get raped, but you raised the Vice Lord’s kid that did it? You even named him after you?”
“David, listen to me—”
“You’re right Keko. I can’t kill you—"
“But I can kill him.”
I began to hyperventilate. I pressed my back so firmly against the brick wall, I could feel the individual stones cutting into my lats. Even Monica could shoot a fly off my nose at that range.
David glared at me. I looked deeply into Vanessa’s cousin’s eyes. His brown pupils burned with anger, hatred, disgust and at that very moment, I wanted to know why young black men hated each other? What started it all? Did anybody truly know why, by in large, young men with the same socioeconomical background, same poverty struggles, same school systems, stereotyped with the same negative disdain and possessing the same skin color hated each other so much? And why did so many innocent people have to die because of it? Kids and elderly people hit by stray bullets. Gangs shooting into crowds of people hoping to hit their target but truly not caring if they don’t, as long as they hit someone. And, I was next.
How could David’s feelings about me change in a matter of moments. He had just “pardoned” me a minute ago. He even tried to befriend me in the cereal aisle a while back. Why didn’t I let him? I should have laughed at his stupid Lucky Charms joke. If I had, would he still want me six feet under? Would he still be standing three feet away from me with his gat pointed right at my face?
“Goodnight, Mendel Man,” David said, shaking his head, almost with a hint of remorse, as if the decision to pull the trigger was beyond his control.
“David, no! Don’t!” Keko yelled.
I looked over and saw my dad charging like a bull. My heart skipped. David’s resolve wasn’t rattled in the least. Keko got closer and closer. At the last second, David calmly swung his pistol in Keko’s direction. Yet, I knew Keko would not stop charging because that’s what bulls do.
David steadied his burner center-mast on the only father I’d ever known. Energy surged through my flesh. I bounced up like a pogo stick and threw myself between David and Keko.
Pop, pop, pop, pop.
What makes your featured book a must-read?
Even though it’s a fictional story, the high school was a real place. I attended Mendel on the Southside of Chicago. There’s a great of detail in this novel because I lived it! Mendel was a former Top 10 institution that has played a vital role in the lives of many young athletes, other notable Mendel attendees include NFL Coach Bill Callahan, Two-Time NFL Superbowl Champion, Howard Griffith, and MLB and Olympic Gold Medalist, Ernie Young. With themes of family, forgiveness and sacrifice, the book reminds readers that every challenge in life is an opportunity to develop into one’s true self and find one’s place in the world. At its core, Mendel is a story about how a young teen was able to triumph in the midst of incredible odds. I want readers to leave this book feeling they can overcome life's trials just as the main character did.
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Damone is an award-winning author, poet, aspiring screenwriter, and voiceover artist. He has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Illinois State University and has spent most of his profession in the Social Services sector. He currently lives in the Twin Cities area and enjoys fishing, bowling, basketball (watching, not playing), bean bags, and bragging about his nephew and nieces.
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