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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Oba Saint Stanley Tookie Williams, the Author 

I haven't really delved into Oba Saint's books, other than hearing one of them read on John and Ken before his death. Scrappleface, however, let me know of a new book:

December 13, 2005
New Tookie Books Warn Kids About Lethal Injection
by Scott Ott

(2005-12-13) — A new series of books by Crips gang founder Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams, attempts to warn children of the dangers of lethal injection.

“Just as he did with his books against gang violence,” said an unnamed spokesman for the publisher, “in his new series Tookie taps his personal experience to discourage young people from pursuing the thrill and glamour of the lethal injection lifestyle....

The San Francisco Chronicle has printed excerpts from Oba Saint's real books:

"As a teenager, I didn't know the meaning of power. I thought that by using violence to scare people, I was proving that I had a lot of power. But when you use your power to make someone do something they don't want to do, or to hurt someone, you are abusing your power. The people you hurt will someday hurt you. They may call your parents to tell them the bad things you've done. They may call the police and have you arrested. They may even use a weapon on you."

"Gangs and the Abuse of Power,"

A book for elementary school children in the "Tookie Speaks Out Against Gang Violence" series
"Since I had big muscles and a big reputation, I thought no one could hurt me. But my big muscles and big reputation couldn't stop the bullets that a gang member fired at me one day. Doctors said I would never walk again. It took a long time, but I can walk now. I don't want you to get shot too. That's why I'm telling you my story. You can learn from my mistakes."

"Gangs and Weapons,"

A book for elementary school children in the "Tookie Speaks Out Against Gang Violence" series

Tookie wrote a total of eight books targeted for kids:

Gangs and Wanting to Belong
Gangs can be a family to kids who don't have one. Tookie informs kids of the danger of this and tells them where they can get support.

Gangs and Drugs
Gangs often deal drugs and abuse them. Little kids get involved early. Tookie gives an encouraging and helpful message that goes beyond "Just say no."

Gangs and Self-Esteem
Many kids join gangs to feel better about themselves. This book provides kids with other methods of self-empowerment.

Gangs and Weapons
Tookie started out on the streets of South Central LA with fists, then guns. Now he teaches kids the tragedy associated with weapons.

Gangs and Your Friends
Kids need to know that gang members are false friends. This book gives simple techniques to identify peer pressure and to make friends who help, not hurt.

Gangs and Your Neighborhood
Gangs take over neighborhoods. Wars between 'hoods are common. This book tells kids how to stay safe in their neighborhoods.

Gangs and the Abuse of Power
Gangs coerce young kids into doing things they don't want to do. Tookie tells how kids can avoid falling into a gang's power.

Gangs and Violence
Too many kids don't realize how destructive gangs are until it's too late. This book gives the very realistic picture needed.

Four of these books are available as a series from PowerKids Press:

"Tookie Speaks Out Against Gang Violence" - The Series
To order this complete series, click "add to cart".
Price $53.80

Gangs and Self-Esteem
Price $13.95
ISBN 0-8239-2344-4

Gangs and the Abuse of Power
Price $13.95
ISBN 0-8239-2346-0

Gangs and Violence
Price $13.95
ISBN 0-8239-2345-2

Gangs and Weapons
Price $13.95
ISBN 0-8239-2342-8

Amazon.com has received over 5,000 reviews of the book "Gangs and Violence," most from all of the people who were rescued from gangs by reading the book. Actually, I misspoke - there have only been four reviews of the book since 1997, two of which were written after Oba Saint's death. The two reviews written before his death are more pertinent to the books themselves:

Not Recommended for Educators, November 23, 1997

I am a gang and youth violence expert working with the San Diego County Office of Education, Safe Schools Unit. I have alerted many of our schools about the series of books by Stanley "Tookie" Williams. I do not recommend the purchase of this book. The content of the books are not appropriate for young people. The images of gangs are not accurate (Too much negative sterotyping). The book is written in a simplistic style that will quickly bore young students. Youth need to critically examine information not be talked down to. You may email me for alternate suggestions for gang prevention books for youth.
I disagree. I find it accurate and worthwhile., March 15, 2005
Reviewer: Matthew Atkinson "Mental health therapist" (Oklahoma) - See all my reviews

I also work with high-risk youth, and I purchased a complete set of Tookie's books. At first I was surprised that the book are written in such an elementary style--very simple and direct. I was afraid that the young people who would read them might feel "talked down to." But it hasn't been that way at all--they have found the books perfectly reasonable, often *because* they lack the educational skill to process a more complex treatment, to be honest. The books do not stereotype gang members (and since when would "too many negative stereotypes" be a bad thing? Should we give teens a book that offers POSITIVE stereotypes of gangs? Teens already get PLENTY of that from gangsta media). Tookie describes the mentality that makes a gang attractive, why power and control are so alluring, and how he has learned to overcome the seduction of aggressive power.

I am somewhat surprised that the Oba Saint supporters haven't loaded up the amazon.com review sheets with numerous glowing positive reviews of how these books changed lives. Similarly, I'm surprised that the Nobel Committee hasn't dropped in to offer a few comments. On the other hand, Nobel nominee Bill Handel hasn't dropped in either.

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