Authors: Latoya Hunter
Latoya Hunter was born in 1978 in St. Ann, Jamaica. She moved to the Bronx, New York, in 1986 and attended Public School 94 and Junior High School 80, where she wrote this book. Latoya Hunter now lives with her family in Mt. Vernon, New York.
FIRST VINTAGE BOOKS EDITION, SEPTEMBER 1993
Copyright © 1992 by Latoya Hunter
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Originally published in hardcover by Crown Publishers, Inc., New York, in 1992.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The diary of Latoya Hunter: my first year in junior high / by Latoya Hunter. — 1st Vintage Books ed.
Originally published: New York: Crown, c1992.
1. Hunter, Latoya—Diaries—Juvenile literature. 2. Children of immigrants—New York (NY.)—Diaries—Juvenile literature. 3. West Indian Americans—New York (NY.)—Diaries—Juvenile literature. 4. Children’s writings, American—New York (NY.) 5. Education, Elementary—New York (N.Y.)—Juvenile literature. 6. Bronx (New York, NY.)—Biography—Juvenile literature. 7. New York (NY.)—Biography—Juvenile literature. I. Title.
974.7′ 1043′ 092—dc20
I dedicate this book to my family: Linneth, Linton, Rondah, Clifton, Anthony, and to the new additions: Devoy, Kevaughn, and Michelle. I would also like to dedicate this book to all my relatives in Canada and Jamaica, especially my grandparents. Thank you all for your support. And to Mr. Robert Pelka, thank you for believing in me.
The origin of this book stems from a
New York Times
article describing the graduation of the sixth-grade class from P.S. 94 in the Bronx. The class had several exceptional students, but its teacher, Robert Pelka, singled out Latoya Hunter for her “incredible writing talent.” On her final report card, he wrote simply, “The world is waiting for Latoya!”
I contacted Mr. Pelka and asked if he thought Latoya would like to keep a diary of her first year in junior high. He talked to his pupil and wrote back that she and her parents would be interested in meeting with me. An appointment was made; I arrived, accompanied by my twenty-three-year-old assistant, Laura Hildebrand, who would, I thought, have a much closer rapport with Latoya than I. (This turned out to be true, as you’ll see when you read the diary.)
Latoya was shy but self-possessed, obviously smart and equally obviously excited by the prospect of the diary. We commissioned two-weeks’ worth of work. She sent them, and we loved them; we signed a contract for the whole book. The diary was born.
Every word in this diary is Latoya’s. We have, occasionally, corrected syntax and spelling when they seemed mistakes of speed. The mistakes of vernacular, we’ve left alone. Keeping a diary over a ten-month span is arduous work even for a grown-up, and there were days when Latoya’s entries were obviously written more out of duty than passion. In some cases, I’ve left them as is, in others I’ve asked Latoya to expand and amplify. In that sense, and because, of course, Latoya knew she was writing for publication, this is not a “pure” work. Yet it seems to me remarkably honest nevertheless, and unquestionably it reveals the soul of an extraordinary young girl whom all of us who have worked with her have come to love.
t is hard to believe that this is the day I have anticipated and looked forward to for such a long time. The sun still rose in the East and set again in the West, the crisis in Iraq is still going strong and Oprah Winfrey still preached at 4:00 about other people’s business. This may sound funny but somewhere in the back of my mind I thought the world would stop for my first day of JH. The day proved me wrong and I’ve grown to realize that nothing will be quite as I dreamed them up.
My teachers are one of my biggest disappointments. In this crazy dream world of mine my teachers were cool and calm and bright and welcoming. They were really just normal people making their livings. Ms. Johnson is the science teacher. She is Australian-Chinese. I have never met a teacher who gave so many rules. Her rules for the year took up at least 3 pages of my notebook. All my other teachers are just average. They aren’t, or don’t seem to be nothing above or under that. Maybe during the year they’ll prove to be above, or hopefully not under. My other courses are math, English, French, social studies, and Home and Careers. There are none I’m really excited about.
Diary, there isn’t much of a welcoming committee at this school. However, there’s a day 8th & 9th graders set out to show freshmen how they feel about us. They call it Freshman Day. It may sound sweet but it’s not at all. What
they set out to do is terrorize us. They really seem to want to hurt us. It’s a tradition I guess. I hope with God’s help that I’ll be able to make it through without any broken bones.
Well, today I think I could say J.H.S. is almost like an earthly version of hell.
never thought I’d get desperate enough to say this but I envy you. You don’t have to live in this troubled world; all you do is hear about it. You don’t have to go to J.H. and watch the clock, praying for dismissal time to come. You also don’t have to go through a situation like sitting in a cafeteria watching others laughing and talking and you don’t know anyone. To sit there and eat the food that is just terrible because there’s nothing else to do.
You don’t do any of those things. All you do is listen to pathetic twelve-year-olds like me tell you about it.