Rats In The Trees by Jess Mowry: all rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work by any means except short excerpts for use in reviews. The Kindle edition, to date, is the only legally authorized ebook or web-accessible edition of this work. If you find this book being offered anywhere else, either as a download or to be read online, it is there without the author's permission (aka STOLEN PROPERTY) and in violation of copyright law.
Foreward To The Anubis Editions
Rats In The Trees was my first book, written in 1989 and published by John Daniel & Company in 1990. It's a collection of interrelated stories about street kids in Oakland, California, though mostly about Robby, a 13-year-old boy from Fresno, California who runs away from an abusive foster home. Robby arrives in Oakland on a Greyhound bus, then, lost and alone in the city, he's befriended by a "gang" of 12 and 13-year-olds who call themselves The Animals.
The stories were originally "told stories" in what some might call the oral tradition for kids at a West Oakland youth center where I worked at the time, and when I began to write them down I tried keep that flavor.
While never intended as a documentary, the stories portray the conditions for many inner city kids during the late 1980's after "Reaganomics" and the beginning of George H. W. Bush's "kinder, gentler nation"... which was when crack-cocaine was starting to flood into poor black neighborhoods, as if designed to bring down the people, and especially to destroy kids.
The times of happy black music of the late 1970s and early '80s were ending. So was the striving for social-awareness and brotherhood which had bonded and strengthened black people during the 1960s and '70s. The break-dance era was over, and the brutal years of gangstuh rap, of hopeless despair and self-hatred fostering black-on-black crime, were beginning as if in retaliation for that brief interlude of relative peace.
Robby and The Animals were old enough to remember the days when African-Americans seemed united in a common cause for freedom, justice and empowerment; and like most black kids at the time they knew they were losing something, even if they might not have been able to give it a name.
Sadly, all the predictions made in Rats have come true, the ever-increasing dominance of guns, gangs, drugs and violence in U.S. inner cities, kids killing kids, and the shameful decline in the quality of public education. These days society is more concerned with shrinking kids' waistlines than expanding their minds.
It was also predicted in Rats that these things would move into white suburbia... as Chuck (a character in Rats) said: "Coming soon to a neighborhood near YOU!"
How many school shootings and massacres have there been since 1989?
Of course, much of the language and many expressions, as well as some attitudes toward certain types of people, have changed since then, or are at least masked by political-correctness -- except for anyone perceived as "obese," who are now societally-sanctioned targets for hate, discrimination and ridicule -- but judge for yourself if the U.S. has gotten kinder, gentler or any more enlightened since 1989.
Rats In The Trees received a PEN Josephine Miles Award in 1990, and was published in the U.K., Germany and Japan. It was also reprinted by Viking in the U.S.
The stories were originally "stand-alone" stories, and several, such as One Way and The Ship, were published on their own. In this edition I have done some editing where there were repetitive descriptions of characters and settings. The Kindle Special Edition also includes an extra story and additional material not available in print editions.