Award-winning Author of Fallen Angels, Walter Dean Meyers

Can you imagine growing up in Harlem?

"And behind all the other sounds there's always the sirens, bringing their bad news from far off and making you hold your breath until they pass so you know it ain't any of your people who's getting arrested or being taken to the hospital" (Dean Meyers 2).


Greg Harris is a seventeen year old living in Harlem, New York. He has had a good life, with his little brother Derek, his mom, and his dad. Even though he has a stable family, his dad can never hold down a job and comes home drunk most nights. Greg is known as Slam by his friends because of how good he is at basketball. SLAM! shows Greg starting a new school with higher standards in academics than his last school, Carter. At Latimer, he is expected to keep his grades up if he wants to continue playing basketball. Amidst all of his school work and his basketball life, he is trying to get his best friend, Mtisha, to be his girlfriend. Throughout the book the reader can see Greg go through trials in his love life, basketball life, academics, and his family. As Greg gets older and continues with his goal of joining the NBA, he has to decide which is more important, his relationships, academics, or basketball. SLAM! shows the determination of Greg to achieve his goals and the trials that one can see in Harlem while growing up.

Do you love basketball like these Harlem residents?

How the novel shows coming of age

As Greg grows up in Harlem and watches his close friend's and family member's lives start to go down the wrong path, he decides he doesn't want anything to do with it. He focuses on basketball and that teaches him to be disciplined and how to take responsibility for his actions. Greg and the coach show some conflict at the start of the season and it really shows in parts of the book. "'The coach don't like me or something,' I said. 'Tell him I said you need to get some game,' Ice said" (Dean Myers 58). He blames it all on the coach for why he isn't playing. He later in the book builds a better relationship with the coach as the season goes on. "'Here he is!' 'Here we are!' the coach said. 'Here we are!'" (Dean Myers 250). Another example of Greg coming of age is when Greg and his mother go to the hospital and see his grandma when she is sick. "'Grandma's sick,' he said. 'What's wrong with her?' 'She's sick,' he said" (Dean Myers 15). At a later point in the book, Greg realizes how important his grandma is to him, and that she might not be there for much longer. As Greg begins to grow up and realize this, he begins to be much nicer to her. "'Go in and say good-bye.' I said good-bye and kissed Grandma. She smoothed my hair back and gave me a real pretty smile. 'Be good to your mama, now,' she said (Dean Myers 149). As Greg grows up he begins to care more about his friends, family, and his coach. He realized that he needed to care more about these things because they help you in the long run and it helped make him a better, more caring person.

Public figures who live/lived in Harlem

Tupac Shakur- Rapper

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar- Professional basketball player

Malcolm X- Preacher

Sugar Ray Robinson- Boxer

These people grew up to affect the lives of others in a certain way, even though they grew up in Harlem, doesn't mean they couldn't achieve their goals, like Greg and making it to the NBA.

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Make Harlem Safe

Harlem is a dangerous place for anyone to grow up in. The least we can do is make the parks safer for kids or teens to be in.