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The setting of Slam! is based on Myers's own upbringing in Harlem. Quotes that help illustrate the setting will be ones that bring the paradoxical nature of a Harlem-type environment to the fore. While the school, Slam's family's apartment, and the basketball court are critical elements of the setting, the paradoxical external environment—where kids can buy cold cuts and ambulances scream through the night stillness—is the hardest to develop.
The boys, Slam and Derek, live in a family neighborhood that is alive with family-run businesses, like Bill's bicycle shop, but is also alive with threats and dangers because of drive-by shootings, like the one early in the story on 141st Street. Glass breaks on the night air, shootings flare up at night and seem to be "over" for the work days, and seventeen-year-old boys fight. Some of the quotes showing the paradoxical setting of Slam's neighborhood include:
Family neighborhood: "[W]hen there's a real rain with the wind blowing sometimes you can hear it against the tin sign over Billy's bicycle shop."
Danger: "If there's a fight you hear the voices rising and catching. . . The sound of broken glass can cut through other noises. . . And behind all the other sounds there's always the sirens, bringing their bad news from far off."
Family neighborhood: "In the morning you hear the clang of the garbage trucks, then the low growl of the buses and you know the people who got work are starting off downtown to their jobs."
Danger at rest in the family neighborhood: "In the morning you don't hear any police sirens or ambulances. It's like all the shooting and chasing is over for the night and the neighborhood is getting ready for a new day."
Danger: "You can just be walking with somebody or going to the store and get shot because some dude don't know how to shoot straight."
This is a lower class neighborhood with a lot of unsavory people.
"When it's late at night you her the sound of car doors and people talking and boom boxes spilling out the latest tunes." (pg 2)
"The sound of broken glass can cut through other noises, even if it's just a bottle of wine someone dropped." (pg 2)
"..... there's always the sirens, bring 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." (pg 2-3)
"It's like all the shooting and chasing is over for the night and the neighborhood is getting ready for a new day." (pg 3)
"I'm seventeen and the streets mess with me and keep me nervous..." (pg 5)
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