Sunday, April 19, 2015

Deal Me In, Week 16: "Proper Library" by Carolyn Ferrell

The card this week:

The collection:

The story: "Proper Library" is an unusual little story about a black teenager nicknamed Lorrie. His real name is Lawrence Lincoln Jefferson Adams. When the story opens, we learn that he has been out of school for six months, mainly because he has fallen in love with a boy named Rakeem (who appears to be a very bad influence). But he also keeps himself busy during his time off, helping take care of his younger brothers and sisters and cousins, and teaching himself math out of the "Math 4" book. He finally decides he should go back to school, but the pull of Rakeem is strong. His family warns him not to pay any attention to Rakeem, and Lorrie's mantra throughout the story is "I keep moving," a phrase one gradually comes to realize is Lorrie's guard against Rakeem and everything else that would pull him back out of school and towards things and people that are not good for him.

The title of the story comes from Lorrie's efforts to learn as many words as possible for the City Wide Test, an achievement test that will let him finally progress to the next grade. One word he has trouble with is "library," always managing to pronounce it "liberry." Lorrie's constant poring over words to learn also seems to be symbolic of his efforts to break away from his past and "keep moving on" to better things. By the end of the story, Lorrie thinks he has figured out a way to reconcile his desire to be with Rakeem AND to continue his education, but we never find out if he is successful or not.

This was an interesting story, but it was one of those stories that I had to read carefully just to figure out what the heck was going on. It was otherwise pretty realistic and slightly depressing. I wanted to root for Lorrie's efforts to get his life back on track, but in the end it seemed as if his chances weren't that good.

The Deal Me In short story challenge is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.


  1. Beautiful playing card.

    I don't think I've every read this author before. I wonder if the boy + boy subject matter was considered 'scandalous' in 1994? Certainly more that it would be today.

    1. I can't imagine it was that scandalous even though it's now been 20 years since that story was written. Although, who knows? Plenty of the characters in the story were scandalized by Lorrie's behavior, so maybe that's a better gauge of the times.