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Miles from Motown by Lisa Sukenic

Read Online Miles from Motown by Lisa Sukenic Young Adult Book

Overview: Twelve-year-old Georgia Johnson is sure she can win the “Spirit of Detroit Poetry Contest,” judged by her idol, Gwendolyn Brooks. After moving from her beloved Detroit neighborhood to an unfamiliar suburb on the outskirts of the city, Georgia lies to prevent becoming disqualified from the contest (which is for Detroit residents only) by using her aunt Birdie’s address. With her older brother deployed to Vietnam, and her family worried about when—or if—he’ll make it home, Georgia tries to settle into her new life. But she misses the old—her friend Ceci, the cracks in the sidewalk that used to catch her skates, the hide-and-seek tree, and the deli on the corner. She wonders if she’ll ever make new friends or feel like she belongs. To make matters worse, she must also find a way to intercept the contest finalist announcement that will be mailed to Aunt Birdie’s mailbox before her family uncovers her deception. During that summer, Georgia discovers her own resiliency in the face of upheaval and the power of truth when lies ring hollow.


Miles from Motown by Lisa Sukenic

Read Online Miles from Motown by Lisa Sukenic Book Chapter One

The last day of school

I can barely hear Mrs. Murphy
telling us to mail our poems for the city’s
“Spirit of Detroit” Poetry Contest.
The classroom ceiling fan spins
round and round,
the whir isn’t soft, it’s a fast
twirling sound, like the cards that
Ceci and I put on our bike spokes.

She passes out envelopes,
to write our addresses.
I pause, pencil to envelope,
and take a breath,
hold the pencil tight, and write
Georgia Johnson,
18983 Whitcomb, Detroit 48227
Aunt Birdie’s address, not mine.

I start to sweat, not because I am on the third floor
on a hot day in the middle of June at
Rutherford Elementary School.
I know the rules, even though Mrs. Murphy
reads them aloud again.
“All poets must live in Detroit to win.”
I am starting a lie,
but I don’t care.
My parents are making us move
to the suburbs. I keep asking why, but
they won’t tell me.

They are taking me too far from
who I know, too far to walk back here.
I want to stay stuck in time,
like a movie in slow motion.

Next year, my friends will go
to junior high in Detroit.
I won’t be in class with my best friend, Ceci
for the first time, ever.
Mrs. Murphy says, “Gwendolyn Brooks will choose
the winning poem and the winner will receive a letter in July.”

Her words sound distant,
like they are moving through water.
“Remember how we read Bronzeville, Boys and Girls and
learned to write like real poets?”
Mrs. Murphy places her hand on my shoulder,
“Especially you, Georgia.”
I don’t want to be called teacher’s pet, so I barely look up.
“Don’t forget to drop your entries in the mailbox.”
She’s telling us to have a
wonderful summer.
The word wonderful
and my life don’t mix.

The worst part is that when my older brother, Ty
comes back from Vietnam,
he will never live in
our old house again.

It is my last night here.
I’m awake, not wanting to go to sleep,
not wanting to go,
I write a poem instead.

I remember,
me flying in the air
Ty’s feet on my belly,
me balancing, steadying my arms,
out to the side,
my large wingspan, like a great blue heron,
I begin to lose my balance,
grab his strong hands,
that is what my
six-year-old self remembers.

Saturday, June 17

The moving truck

I hear the high-pitched squeak of
brakes from the moving truck. I already said
my good-byes to Ceci. She’s left for Flint
to stay with her Grandma. I need to
give Aunt Birdie my goodbye hug.
She’s gone back to her house to get something
for me, but I can’t wait.

I follow her across the alley between our houses,
stones crunching beneath my feet,
like quicksand, pulling me back.

I jump over a puddle
and reach the gate, remember the
tag games that my middle brother Jerome
and I played before he started acting
all teenage-like.

I look toward the alley,
grass growing between the two tire paths,
black-eyed Susan, dandelions
and Queen Anne’s Lace.

Aunt Birdie’s skirt flies up,
the flower patterns waving,
like a sailboat caught in the wind.

I hug hard, burying my head on her shoulder.
I look up and she smiles with the same laugh lines Mama has.

“You go now…you’re my brave girl. I’ll see you soon.”
I grab on tighter, don’t want to lose this hugging feeling.
She hands me a change purse that jingles with coins,
it’s lined with silky fabric, inside she has left
her phone number and address.
Gently, she pulls my fingers off her skirt like
she did when I was young and I wanted to stay
at her house longer.

I’ll try to pretend that the few miles
between here and there are small,
like an inch on a scale map and
I will be back to visit,
but it will never be the same. 


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