Audiobook Review and Author Interview: G. Neri’s Ghetto Cowboy
Author: G. Neri
Audio Publisher: Brilliance audio
Release Date for Audio: August 2011
Author Website: gregneri.com
“Once again, G. Neri has done what he does best: taken a real-life scenario and turned it into compelling fiction. Cole’s authentic voice will resonate with readers—it grabbed me right from the start and wouldn’t let me go. An outstanding book!” - Coe Booth, author of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize Winner Tyrell
Audio-Bibliophile Sarah’s Take:
Why do I know ubercool author G. Neri? He plays ping-pong with my brother because their wives are good friends/fellow University of S. Florida sociology professors. Yup, that has got to be one of the most random reasons to know an author, but I’m going to up my coolness factor by calling G. Neri my “author friend” by extension.
Now that I’ve gotten to know and read G. (I call him Greg when we chat, but it sounds cooler if I refer to him by his author pseudonym “G.”), I find myself really drawn to his books. They are all so unique and appeal to a huge spectrum of readers. He has one YA novel Surf Mules, which is an excellent read about surfers in CA, then two graphic novels for a middle grade readers -one entitled Chess Rumble about urban kids playing chess, and then the numerous-award-winning, hooks-you-in-and-you-can’t-stop-reading, Yummy, the retelling of the true story of an 11 year old gangster who shot an innocent young girl accidentally, went on the run, and was killed by his own gang when the heat got too great. Yummy has won a Coretta Scott King honorable mention, a Cybil award for best graphic novel, and literally about 30 other awards.
His latest book, Ghetto Cowboy, is just as interesting, and while there is artwork in this one too, I didn’t see it-I listened to the outstanding audio version, read by J. D. Jackson (who also did a great audio version of Homeboyz by Alan Sitomer, another awesome book for reluctant readers).
While Ghetto Cowboy is technically a middle-grade novel, I found it fascinating as an adult reader. It’s the fictional story of a kid who learns that his dad is a cowboy on the streets of Philadelphia. This is based on fact, as there are actually, right now!, cowboys on horseback on the streets of Philadelphia (and L.A.-I’m sure Shannan has seen them already ☺). The goal of these modern day “ghetto cowboys” is to act as a crime deterrent and a positive outlet for kids (and thanks to the book I learned the word “cowboy” was originally a word for slaves who worked with cattle-so how could we think it came from John Wayne and the West?!).
The book is awesome-realistic while not too depressing or too sugar-coated, and I know kids and adults alike are going to want to learn more about the cowboys of Philadelphia and read more stories from my awesome “author friend.”
I give it 5 STACKS with earbuds.
G(reg) graciously answered my questions, but I also tell you that you MUST go to his website for all kinds of cool book trailers, videos about urban cowboys etc.
I think you lived in Philadelphia when you were growing up; what other connections do you have with the urban cowboys on the Philadelphia streets? Are there ways to support the program, as I assume it must be tough to maintain?
Actually, I did NOT grow up in Philly. It’s a common mistake though. I pride myself in capturing the places in my books and the biggest prop I get is when I am doing school visits in the Bronx or Chicago or someplace from one of my books and the kids are shocked that I’m not from there too. Means I did my research.
There are different urban horse groups, some more organized than others, but the Philly guys on Fletcher Street have struggled mightily to get attention and support—they just don’t have the organization really set up. But there are links on my cowboy page where one can find some of these places and perhaps help. http://gregneri.com/cowboy.html
What have been some of your favorite reader responses to your novels-especially from nonreaders who got turned on to reading through your books?
My favorites are hearing about boys who have never read a book in the lives, but have managed to somehow read one of mine. It’s a thrill and I’ve seen it happen in person too. The best story is of a tough kid here in Tampa who never read and was always getting in trouble. He heard me speak then picked up a copy of Chess Rumble. Since it was written in free-verse poetry, he started writing poems about his life. He’d never told anyone anything about his situation, but started expressing himself in words. He began checking out poetry books in the library and one day he asked the librarian about a guy he’d heard about who wrote some poetry named Shakespeare and did they have any of those books? From nothing to Shakespeare…pretty awesome.
What projects are you working on now and how do you balance working on new projects and maintaining your blog, email and other social media?
Balance? What’s that? No its always a struggle, especially with travel mixed in. I have slowed down considerably in the last few years, though it may not sound like it. I have managed to finish 2 picture book biographies that were long in the works, and am working on my epic southern novel called The White Tree. It’s an interracial love story set in the Deep South in the age of Obama. It’s my most challenging book by far, but I think it has potential to become something really special.