Summer Reading: Strange Juice

If short stories are too long for you, I’m including a poem on my summer reading list. It’s “Strange Juice”, by Sapphire, the woman who wrote “Push”, the novel that became the movie “Precious”. I’m attaching it as a .pdf here, or you can read my spoilers below. Its a pretty gut wrenching poem, without the vague language that can make poetry so difficult to relate to. This one really carries you line by line and makes you keep reading.

Strange Juice

Let’s remember that I’m talking about the poem here, which may or may not reflect the actual murder of Latasha Harlins. I’m not talking about the actual people involved. Just the poem. In the poem, Latasha Harlins did not come across as a very sympathetic character. She steals and then hits the cashier woman when the woman tries to stop her. Racially baiting her the whole time. And she has the audacity to say “I don’t remember what I did/ wrong.”

In the poem Harlins says “I jus’ wanted some juice/ and now I’m dead./ Killed by a model minority/ success story.” Spending your days in a family run convenience store, yelled at by customers who don’t want you there, where you can’t communicate, who’s idea of the American Dream is that?

And then Saphhire lays down the bottom line: “A fifteen-year-old black girl/ equals zero in this white bitch’s book./ She sentences this yellow gunslinger/ to community service and probation.” Essentially, isn’t that what we, the Asian American community said about the murder of Vincent Chin? Two men racially taunted him, beat him to death with a baseball bat, and received 3 years of probation and a $3000 fine. $3000? Is that what a person’s life if worth if you’re not white?

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